Monday, February 11, 2008

Modern Day Lynching

Here's something to think about. Out of the 5,000 or so estimated lynchings in America since the Civil War how much do you wanna bet that at least one guy who was lynched was guilty? Of course what he was guilty of, and whether it deserved lynching...well that's another story, but I bet that whatever they caught him for and said he did--he did. Does that make that person's lynching any more correct?

If you said no to that last question (and I hope you did) then I would agree. Sometimes, as a nation, the ends don't justify the means. If that was the case we'd be a pack of nihilists, traveling in death squads going willy nilly throughout communities shooting indiscriminately into crowds because, chances are, you're going to get a least a couple of 'bad guys'. Sure we know that it doesn't work all the time, but we maintain our Justice system because its the best way we know of to separate the guilty from the innocent, to appropriately punish those that are guilty, and to keep from becoming barbaric. In short, our Justice system keeps us civilized. And while I'm just as much a fan of The Punisher as the next guy (assuming the next guy isn't Jigsaw), I wouldn't want him to be my judge, jury, and executioner. He a bit too high strung for an impartial hearing.

That being the case I have some real issues with a military tribunal trying and executing the six suspected terrorists being held in Guantanamo Bay. That's not to say that I don't think they're guilty (for whatever that’s worth)--as I mentioned before, I bet one of those 5,000 lynched was guilty, but when someone is lynched their guilt becomes moot. Whatever pleasure the individual victim gets from the execution is overwhelmed by fear and doubt as their society descends into anarchy.

And yes, obviously there's big differences between a military tribunal and a lynching mob, the largest being that, for the former, there are some rules and organization. So is there in theocracies, and dictatorships. The Inquisition has some rules? Did that make it any less of a lynching?

The idea is that we hold our American Justice system to a much higher standard of equality and fairness. What I'm not talking about here is a literal lynching as much as a symbolic lynching, a political steamroller that's trampling over defendants' rights and our own search for truth.

Let's review some facts. Since the Supreme Court struck down the original mandate for the military tribunal system, the defendants are given more liberties, including the right to appeal to the US Supreme Court. However the trial will still be held at Camp X-ray and only select journalists and lawyers will be present. Also, much of the evidence gathered against these men came from such torture techniques as waterboarding. It would be inadmissible in any state of the union, so why do we hold this court to a lower standard? Because the defendants are 'evildoers'? Last I heard it's innocent until proven guilty, and I heard that idea is pretty good--so why do we exclude them from that criteria?

It's important to get this right the first time, and so far this is going wrong. In many issues affecting the so-called war on terror, the administration has tried to have their cake and eat it too. They couldn't just pull the dictatorship card out, and by allowing the Supreme Court to rule they've opened their selves up for appeal after appeal by the defendants. Furthermore, while I personally wouldn't care (if they were in a real court) if they are seeking capital punishment (though I'm against the death penalty), the international media is rallying against it. Finally though, the biggest issue, and what is likely to be the most controversial, is the use of the military tribunal and the conditions of camp X-Ray. For nearly a decade blacks were lynched in America and there wasn't a substantial blowback. It was all "somewhere else", much like Guantanamo is "over there", and I wouldn't expect there to be a different response. But in the following decades, as our fear and anger recedes, we will look back on this and realize that our rush to judgment and our willingness to bend our rules will cast doubt on these proceedings and represent a return to the darkest side of our humanity.

No comments:

LabPixies TV