Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Carl Levin Wants to Build a "Guantanamo North"

I find this funny in a really sick way: via Matt Yglesias, Democratic Senator Carl Levin wants to build a "Guantanamo North" in his home state, Michigan. What I find funny about this is the way that the needs of the "war on terror" dovetail with Obama's stimulus package: for Democrats, it's a two-birds-with-one-stone situation. Plus, Michigan is in a lot of economic pain because its auto industry is dying, so maybe building new prisons can help plug the hole. The prison-industrial complex is one of America's biggest growth industries, after all.

Yglesias says that we don't really need another prison, but he's blind to the irony of prison-building as a solution to Guantanamo, and certainly doesn't oppose expanding the prison-industrial complex on principle.

On a more serious note, the idea of Guantanamo North is a reminder of the fact that while Obama has curbed some of the abuses that happened at Guantanamo--granting prisoners there habeas corpus rights and ending the use of torture--he is continuing many of the foundations of Bush's enemy-combatant detention policy. He is relying on military commissions rather than civilian courts to try "enemy combatants." He is continuing to deny US prisoners held on foreign soil (at Bagram prison, for instance) all legal rights, leaving them even worse off than Guantanamo detainees were under Bush and safeguarding Bush's end-run around the US judicial system. He has also pledged to continue to incarcerate an undisclosed number of Guantanamo prisoners even if they are never convicted of any crime:

The most tricky category, Mr Obama said, would be those detainees who could not be prosecuted but who posed a "clear danger to the American people".


"We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people," he said.

Yet he asserts that this policy will somehow be "defensible and lawful."

Finally, there are the individuals who are already facing Guantanamo-like conditions within the US, which suggests that even if all the Guantanamo prisoners were transferred to the civilian courts (which Obama isn't even proposing), they would still likely be the victims of serious miscarriages of justice.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia user Piotrus.
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