The United States is all-powerful and we have all come to accept this, but they have always at least pretended the rest of the world system could keep them in check if necessary. Their recent decision to detain members of the Taliban and al Qaeda in a camp in Cuba shakes off that silly, lingering pretence. They are not even trying to hide it. That’s scary.
They have offered nothing to settle the world’s discomfort on the issue of why they are holding the illegal combatants in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Instead, they have made their position clear: U.S. district courts have no jurisdiction over Guantanamo Bay. They foresaw an outcry about their actions and prepared, so that any such outcries would have no effect. What’s more, they are doing this openly, as if to say, “What are you (or the rest of the world) going to do about it?”
They are not giving the international community any say in how these people will be treated—from detainment to prosecution, the U.S. military is handling it all. You might think that allowing the Red Cross to go in and check the camp’s conditions would show the U.S. is at least attempting to placate the international community, but no one’s being placated, considering the Red Cross’ findings are not being made public. They are only releasing the details to the people who are ultimately the ones running the camp.
The U.S. government called the terrorist attacks an act of war, yet now are unwilling to admit these detainees are in fact prisoners of war. It’s easier to bypass human rights laws by changing their title, and only a small contingent of the population seems upset by the government’s actions. Former U.S. attorney-general Ramsey Clark and other civil-right activists have filed for a writ of habeas corpus meant to challenge the U.S. claim that these people are not prisoners of war, but that was easily postponed by the judge, who, like most everyone else, simply does not want to get involved. One of the reasons the U.S. government can get away with this is because the U.S. population is still reeling from the blow it took on September 11. They may not agree with the way their government is handling these prisoners, but they also are not about to look like a divided nation. As always in wartime, they are banding together. This means the press and the public ignore anything that might threaten that bond of a nation. CNN did not cover Bush’s use of a racially derogative word on TV, nor did they particularly emphasize the president’s “choking” incident, nor will they now question his authority on this issue.
The detainees, coincidentally, are not all of Afghan heritage. Some are from Britain, Sweden and other countries who have up until now supported the States in its campaign against terrorism. Now EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten warns that the mistreatment or execution of the prisoners would be “a way of losing international support and losing the moral high ground.”
The question is, will the U.S. even care? Up until now they have at least acknowledged the complaints of other countries on certain American policies, but there is no sign this time around that the U.S. is budging.
They will hold these illegal combatants until they can take them to their Made in U.S of A Military Tribunal, and whoever doesn’t agree with the results of those tribunals . . . well, they will probably keep quiet and accept whatever the U.S. decrees.