Who cares about principles, anyway?

Guantanamo prosecutor shows he does; we should, too

Dillon Carroll spends his time studying history at Chico State University.

Last Tuesday, Oct. 21, the Pentagon dropped its charges against five detainees being held in Guantánamo Bay. This event occurred after the chief military prosecutor of suspected enemy combatants held in Guantánamo resigned in protest over evidence being withheld that was pertinent to the defense of these five detainees. But the detainees are being held indefinitely without a charge against them.

The question most Americans may be asking themselves after they read a story like this is why should I care?

Why should we care about the rights of suspected terrorists?

The American Revolution was based on what the Founding Fathers considered inherent rights of human beings everywhere. One of those rights was the rule of law.

In the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress asserted that King George III had “obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws establishing Judiciary powers.” In this monumental document the Founding Fathers also asserted that King George III “has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.”

These military tribunals in Guantánamo Bay are absolutely antithetical to what we consider inherent rights in the United States. No person—whether an American citizen or not—should be denied a fair and speedy trial by jury. This was one of the reasons the American Revolution was fought.

Whether these men deserve a fair and speedy trial is irrelevant. Every person in the United States of America has a right to these principles of liberty. This is an essential pillar of our justice system.

The Bush administration seems to believe that the ends justify the means. But do we ever win when we violate our own principles in the process? Is anybody a winner? Or are there only losers?

For law-abiding citizens of the United States, this blatant violation of the rule of law should not only sadden us, it should also deeply disturb us.

We should be saddened because the true goal of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be to convince these people that our way of life is better. We should be saddened because the America that stands for truth and justice no longer seems to care about the rule of law. We should be saddened because prior prisoners of war always assumed that they would be treated fairly by the United States, an assumption that we no longer honor.

We should be deeply disturbed because, as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Violating our own principles is a dangerous precedent that can lead only to negative consequences.