It's Not Complicated

Again and again we’re told that closing Guantanamo is “complicated.” I don’t see what’s complicated about it. Flying a chunk of metal with people in it to the moon? That’s complicated. Following U.S. and international law? Not so much. Try the detainees in federal courts or release them. If they are tried and found guilty, then incarcerate them in the US. I’ll help build a special prison in my neighborhood. If they are found not guilty, then release them. I have a room for rent. The “complicated” rhetoric serves as a stalling tactic and a justification for the whole mess. I don’t buy it. As always, I’m open to being convinced by a logical argument, but the burden of proof is on those who claim it’s hard to follow the law.

Which brings me to Obama’s comments on investigating and prosecuting crimes committed by members of the Bush administration. Since when is  moving “forward” in tension with investigating and prosecuting people who broke the law? If we are going to move forward, then investigating and prosecuting crimes is exactly what we have to do. If we are going to move forward, Obama and Congress must commit this country to the rule of law.

As a New Yorker who saw the Towers fall, as an American who is ashamed that his tax dollars have gone towards murder and torture, and as a citizen of the world who wants his family and friends to be safe, happy and free, I am so, so very ready for those responsible for 9/11 to be held accountable, for those responsible for torture to be held accountable, and for a U.S. President to follow the law and uphold human rights. Is it really so hard to do the right thing?

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6 thoughts on “It's Not Complicated

  1. I am wondering if Obama is saying 'move forward', as a smoke screen, so Bush doesn't pardon himself and his minions before he leaves office. We can't move forward until accountability happens, and that means investigating. Good lord, years and millions were spent investigating a land deal. This is the torture of thousands and war-making based on material lies.

  2. I am wondering if Obama is saying ‘move forward’, as a smoke screen, so Bush doesn’t pardon himself and his minions before he leaves office. We can’t move forward until accountability happens, and that means investigating. Good lord, years and millions were spent investigating a land deal. This is the torture of thousands and war-making based on material lies.

  3. Today I received an e-mail from Amnesty International to "Hold Holder Accountable." Why hasn't Amnesty taken an even bolder step, that of holding Obama accountable?

    The very idea of appointing Eric Holder to the Attorney General's office should be enough to rile Amnesty's and other human rights activists' feathers. A brief history of whom Holder has represented exposes Barack Obama's farcical claim to uphold human rights. As reported in the Financial Times on November 19, 2008, questions have arisen concerning Mr. Holder's role as a private litigator "in getting big corporations off the hook, including Chiquita Brands International, which the Justice Department was investigating for paying protection money to right-wing death squads in Colombia."

    If Obama plans on installing in his cabinet those who actively defend human rights abusers, what hope is there of closing Guantanamo, or making any substantial commitment to human rights whatsoever?

    Moreover, why does Amnesty remain silent on this point?

  4. Today I received an e-mail from Amnesty International to “Hold Holder Accountable.” Why hasn’t Amnesty taken an even bolder step, that of holding Obama accountable?

    The very idea of appointing Eric Holder to the Attorney General’s office should be enough to rile Amnesty’s and other human rights activists’ feathers. A brief history of whom Holder has represented exposes Barack Obama’s farcical claim to uphold human rights. As reported in the Financial Times on November 19, 2008, questions have arisen concerning Mr. Holder’s role as a private litigator “in getting big corporations off the hook, including Chiquita Brands International, which the Justice Department was investigating for paying protection money to right-wing death squads in Colombia.”

    If Obama plans on installing in his cabinet those who actively defend human rights abusers, what hope is there of closing Guantanamo, or making any substantial commitment to human rights whatsoever?

    Moreover, why does Amnesty remain silent on this point?

  5. Mark, you raise a very good point regarding corporate accountability for human rights violations, and redress for those violations in US courts.

    Certainly, the Alien Tort Claims Act has been an important resource for holding corporate actors accountable for abuses that happen abroad, such as in extractives and agricultural industries, and Mr. Holder's record as an attorney representing the companies in such suits is not one to celebrate. However, a lawyer's job is to represent his/her client zealously and what we must find out is not whether he thought that was the best defense for his client at the time, but whether he, as an attorney general, tasked with a different set of responsibilities, would pursue the same perspective.

    AIUSA has, as part of a coalition, worked to protect the ATCA from previous attacks (successfully), and will continue to do so. Not all of this work is always highly publicized, so I thank you for raising the issue and providing this opportunity to talk about it.

    Generally, I also agree with you that we need to be as viligent as ever in our roles as watchdogs and advocates as to human rights protections and accountability for abuses with the whole of the incoming administration. And, with Zeke — I don't think it's that complicated either. In fact, we regularly demand much more from "corrupt" regimes around the world.

  6. Mark, you raise a very good point regarding corporate accountability for human rights violations, and redress for those violations in US courts.

    Certainly, the Alien Tort Claims Act has been an important resource for holding corporate actors accountable for abuses that happen abroad, such as in extractives and agricultural industries, and Mr. Holder’s record as an attorney representing the companies in such suits is not one to celebrate. However, a lawyer’s job is to represent his/her client zealously and what we must find out is not whether he thought that was the best defense for his client at the time, but whether he, as an attorney general, tasked with a different set of responsibilities, would pursue the same perspective.

    AIUSA has, as part of a coalition, worked to protect the ATCA from previous attacks (successfully), and will continue to do so. Not all of this work is always highly publicized, so I thank you for raising the issue and providing this opportunity to talk about it.

    Generally, I also agree with you that we need to be as viligent as ever in our roles as watchdogs and advocates as to human rights protections and accountability for abuses with the whole of the incoming administration. And, with Zeke — I don’t think it’s that complicated either. In fact, we regularly demand much more from “corrupt” regimes around the world.