Sunday, March 27, 2005

Rights Of The Accused

The fascinating lead story in today's New York Times details an effort within the Defense Department to revise the rules for military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. The military wants to shore up the rights of the accused by -- imagine this -- giving them full access to the evidence against them and the right to challenge that evidence, as well as barring confessions obtained by torture.
Opposing this change is the band of White House chicken-hawks led by our nefarious Vice President, Dick Cheney (was ever a man so aptly named? I feel compelled to ask the question every time I hear that moniker)
The military, perhaps cognizant of the protections afforded them under the Geneva conventions, has wisely determined it makes sense to safeguard the human rights of those detained by the U.S. This position makes both moral and common sense.
The chief opponent of this change is a man who had "other priorities" when it came to serving in the military during the Vietnam war. Why should Dick care about the treatment of prisoners? He's never run the risk of being one, never had to face the fear of capture and abuse by a foreign military.
It would be an insult to Franz Kafka to describe as Kafka-esque a process that keeps defendants in the dark about the charges against them, and denies them the right to present a defense. Perhaps a better term would be Saddam Hussein-esque, in deference to the world leader whose policies seem most in line with Mr. Cheney's thoughts.
Mr. Cheney seems determined to lower the moral standing of the United States to the level of Saddam's Iraq. We need to be grateful that we have in the military some leaders who recognize the dangerous path on which this sets our country.
I'm not known as a fan of military action, but I think it is important right now to stand up and applaud the moral stance of the military team proposing these rule changes. They are led by Maj. Gen. John D. Altenburg Jr., Ret., and they deserve our support and gratitude for the simple yet profound act of promoting fairness and human rights in the treatment of those accused of being enemies of the state.