Thursday, May 28, 2009

Democrats Deny Funding to Close Guantanamo

This is really shameful. Supposedly, the reason that Democrats in the Senate are refusing to provide funds to close Guantanamo is because they're worried about dangerous terrorists being released into the US. Putting aside the fact that most prisoners in Guantanamo were never terrorists in the first place, this argument gets the burden of proof backwards. The United States imprisoned these people indefinitely without charging them with any crime, tortured and humiliated them, and denied them access to their lawyers and the Red Cross. The US is the victimizer here, not the victim. The government has a moral obligation to close Guantanamo and free all the prisoners as quickly as possible, and it's sheer hypocrisy to cast the people that it has brutalized for the past seven years as a danger to Americans, when in fact it's the American government that has been engaged in immoral and illegal actions against them. We should be begging for their forgiveness, not arguing about where to keep them locked up.

Once again (see also here and here), this demonstrates that the Democrats are no great opponents of injustice. To their credit, Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum and Atrios have ridiculed the Democrats' absurd fears that the prisoners will escape. However, the reasoning behind their criticisms leave something to be desired. None of them have questioned the underlying ideas behind the Democrats' arguments: that these people are "terrorists," that they are dangers to us rather than vice versa and that they are guilty until proven innocent.

Yglesias's argument is that "Closing the facility is important to rebuilding America’s international relationships." As with his argument that avoiding killing Afghan civilians is important because it hinders our policy objectives, he shows no interest in the fact that US policy is immoral, only what it means for US "national interests."

Kevin Drum also slams the Democrats, but comes to some pretty uninspiring conclusions:

I never expected Barack Obama to be anything other than pragmatic and center left. Still, I confess to feeling a little in the dumps lately over just how much he seems willing to bend and compromise on some key issues. But then I read things like this...

And I realize all over again just what Obama is up against. His own party won't support him against even the most transparent and insipid demagoguery coming from the conservative noise machine. The GOP's brain trust isn't offering even a hint of a substantive case that the U.S. Army can't safely keep a few dozen detainees behind bars in a military prison, but Dems are caving anyway. Because they're scared. And then they wonder why voters continue to think that a party that can be bitch slapped so easily might be viewed as weak on national security.

But that's the reality that Obama has to deal with. Under the circumstances, I guess he's not doing so badly after all.

Rather than concluding that the Democrats as a whole are a pro-war, anti-civil liberty party, his conclusion is that Obama's mis-steps aren't so bad. This is a great illustration of why it's dangerous to subordinate opposition to the war to the Democrats: when they inevitably refuse to repudiate war and injustice, there's no independent force to fight back, so you're left with no choice but to ultimately accept whatever it is the Democrats decide to do, no matter how awful it is.


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