Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Katherine Kersten on...Gitmo

You know what I've noticed about Katherine Kersten's articles? She rarely actually makes an argument. Instead, she relies on the words of a particular person to make a case for her, but never proceeds to look at the big picture. In this instance, she appeals to a Minnesota National Guardsman who served at Gitmo, but never witnessed nor took part in interrogations.

Kersten uses this Guardsman to make generalizations about the prisoners' quality of life at what is essentially an illegal - internationally and nationally - facility. Because the food is good, because they are allowed to exercise, because they are given copies of the Koran and arrows pointed toward Mecca, it must follow that these prisoners are treated fairly and justly, Kersten surmises. They are treated better, she continues, than they would be in their home countries.

All of that is fine and dandy, but Kersten never takes it a step farther. She ignores the legal limbo these individuals are being held in, she claims they are being held for their value to national intelligence yet most have been detained and isolated now for almost four years, and then makes the most unbelievable assertion that some detainees don't want to leave the base.

The problem with Gitmo is not the food or respect for religion or any of these on-the-surface, easy-to-explain-away conservative concoctions. (What does it say that Gitmo detainees are treated better than they would be in their home countries...that the facility is better than those in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Hardly something to brag about.) Rather, it is the prison itself and where it exists. These prisoners stand outside the criminal-justice system of the United States as well as outside the criminal-justice system of the international community. They are stuck with no advocates, no opportunity to defend themselves, and no ability to legitimately proclaim innocence. Are these detainees guilty of crimes against the U.S.? I don't doubt that the majority are. Is it right for the U.S. to hold them outside the rules that guard other international citizens accused of crimes against the U.S. as well as prisoners of war? No. It's not right, plain and simple.

That's why Katherine Kersten can't write an argument in favor of Gitmo that stands on its own merit. Because if she were to actually scratch the surface of the debate rather than attempting to use rhetorical tricks and logical fallacies she would have to admit the problems with it.


Ilya said...

Prisoners have it good, eh? They have food, time for exercise, and the Koran. What more does one need? (hint: freedom) Add a color TV and Gitmo is a veritable Holiday Inn.

Give me a break Kersten. You haven't done anything for a prisoner until you've freed him or her.

Anonymous said...

Kersten is quickly becoming that most annoying of columnists... The kind that find one person who doesn't fit the mold, and extrapolating out that there is no mold.

archduke f. ferdinand said...

Hegseth puts it like this: "Critics ask, 'How are we to win if we are conducting ourselves this way?' I think the opposite: If we're conducting ourselves this way, it's evidence that our cause is just."

Wait...what? Nice conclusion, Katherine. It's usually a great idea to end an argument by quoting someone else and then not explaining the quote. It really makes you seem like you've done any sort of critical thinking.

Pieper, you're enormously (yes, enormously) correct about the real issue at Gitmo. I don't entirely agree with Ilya, in that sometimes prisoners are prisoners for a reason; treating convicted criminals well is good enough. These people in Gitmo, however, have never been tried, and that's definitely a blemish on the US's idea of rule of law.

Furthermore, and this may be a stretch, maybe by showing Dick Durbin's comments on Al Jazeera won't show how divided the US is, but instead actually show that some people want to stand up against this sort of thing.

To be seemingly non-sequiturlicious, remember the episode of South Park where they were going to have a peace rally and a pro-troops rally at the same time? And then Cartman (I think) comes to the conclusion that America needs people to protest the war to show that we actually have humanity. What Dick Durbin did, no matter what people say, showed that there are actually people in the US who see that the rule of law isn't being upheld and that's not the type of ideological stand that we want to make.


PiedPiper said...

Here, here, Sir Archduke. (Although I must admit that I have not read Durbin's comments, but only know the gist of them through what's been said about them.) Columnists and commentators like Kersten have this ability to divert attention within a particular subject and twist it to the point of ridicule. Several conservatives have likened Gitmo to a vacation in the tropics for these detainees, and wonder incredulously why anyone would question their treatment. But all that they point to - the food, the weather, the "respect" for religion, etc. - is merely a mask for what's really behind it. So were FBI agents lying in classified reports that found instances of abuse at Gitmo (released through a FIOA request)? Can anyone doubt the legality of these prisoners' detention? It's a cruel farce, and most of America is apathetic to it at best.