Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gitmo - Goodbye

Guantanamo Bay, more than Mission Accomplished or smashed levees, is to me most emblematic of the Bush Administration. Gitmo is what brought us Abu Ghraib and extraordinary rendition and black sites and torture. It all comes when you suspend habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is, in short, the right of every imprisoned person to seek relief from their imprisonment. This is not an American thing. Habeas corpus has been the foundation of just about every civilized society for the past 800 years or so.

It means, in short, that you cannot be locked up without a reason and the person locking you up has to be able to defend that reason. If it's not around, then the party doing the imprisoning (in this case, the United States), can do pretty much whatever it wants. It can yank people out of their beds in the middle of the night, extradite them to far off lands and torture them. And then, lest they get mouthy about it, lock 'em up. Lock 'em up without any hope of leaving the prison, or understanding why they're there, or how to get out.

And we did that to a fifteen year old boy.

When I think of the Failed Bush Presidency (henceforth, FBP), I think of Gatsby:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

When I think of Guantanamo, and all the hell it wreaked, I think of Lear:

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport.

On Monday we were led by wanton boys. On Thursday, we're led by a grown-up. We're better than we were. But, man, there's a lot of work left to do.