Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gitmo: The Supreme Court Rules

Marc Valentine, my fellow policy-thinker as made his feelings known on the Guantanamo Bay habeas corpus ruling laid down by the Supreme Court this week. His opinion lines up with many Americans who are wondering why the supreme court decided to extend the rights of the US Constitution to enemy combatants at the US installation in Cuba.

I am going to take the opposing view on this one because the Supreme court was absolutely correct in it's view concerning the facility and the extension of habeas corpus. To understand the court's ruling we must understand essentially two points. The first concerns the nature of the US use of Guantanamo bay. The Supreme court ruled that because of our total control of the base that it is essentially US territory of purposes of the law. Therefore, the rules of our constitution are in play. Secondly, the status of the prisoners in question. The Bush administration explicitly sought to deny these men POW status under the Geneva Convention which would have given them special status in the eyes of constitutional law. They were instead held as enemy combatants. The court previously ruled these combatants needed to be given rights to legal processes if they weren't to be held under Article Four of the Geneva conventions. The Administration sought to give them legal protections in the form of military tribunals which the Supreme Court struck down as inadequate. The Republican congress of the time wrote a law that protected the tribunals and gave the administration the legal grounds to stand on to try these detainees as they saw fit. One of the rights not granted to them was the right of habeas corpus.

I completely agree that Gitmo must be counted as under our control and therefore falling within Constitutional boundaries. Why? Because otherwise the precedent we set is that the US can set whatever rules for capture and detention is pleases as long as it done outside the United States. US entities could capture and hold detainees without cause or due process for years all around the world without affording them any kind of rights. Guantanamo Bay was the operated in this way. The Supreme Court's ruling in that regard was utterly correct. If we establish a base or an active installation of any kind with any level of permanence somewhere in the world it is our responsibility to operate it under the conventions we would expect.

Secondarily, even in this unending war on terror that we have engaged in, rule of law holds some weight. The people we detain overseas must be given a legal status that holds water both here in the US and abroad or else all future actions we take in this War on Terror will be seen as unjust. The Supreme Court's ruling on aspect was also correct.

Thusly I support the decision. But I encourage debate on this one as I'm sure some of you out there don't agree with me. Head to the comments section and let us know your thoughts or email us at

A great debate on this subject was held last week on the Newshour.

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