Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lawyers, guns and money

A bit of background: Since 2001 there have been several military prisons throughout the world where hundreds of suspected terrorists are held.

OK, so terrorists are bad, they kill people, they should go to jail. Most of us can agree to that.
Of course, being an American, I was brought up to believe that there is a certain system of justice involved. Terrorism is a crime, so catch the criminal, try him and send him to jail. We have this "Constitution" thing that talks about all that.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the way things are working right now. Suspects have been rounded up and thrown into chain-link cages and kept there for years without even being officially charged with anything, let alone being tried as criminals.

Yeah, I think that's kind of repulsive. There are lots of reports, essays, documentaries and the like that discuss how the people in charge of this are behaving badly and violating the US justice system and basic human rights, etc. I'm not going into detail, you can find it all over the Internet.

Let me, just once, make my stance on this clear, and move on to my point: There are bad guys out there. I would like to see the bad guys caught and locked up. I would also like to see all this done properly and legally, with some sense of ethics and honor on the part of my own government. I don't want to feel like we're the bad guys. Do it right, get it?

So, on to Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba (you know, Cuba, where US citizens aren't allowed to go?) There are around 500 prisoners there, many have been held for five years without being charged of anything specific, or granted the right to a trial or legal representation or anything that your basic child-molesting serial killer would get.

There have been lawyers from prominent firms in the US volunteering their time to represent the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay prisons who have actually been given the right to trial. This is not because they support terrorism, this is because they support the American Ideal that everyone who is charged in the US justice system should be given a fair trial.

We have rules, we have standards, we do things a certain way. And, dear Reader, if any of you are inclined at this point to say "Well, they wouldn't do the same for us." let me point out that we are supposed to be the good guys, which means doing the right thing even if others don't.
Last week, Charles D. Stimson, who will hereafter be referred to as "Stimpy" had a bit to say about this. Stimpy is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs. He publicly attacked these lawyers who have volunteered their time and knowledge.

He named the firms to which these attorneys belong, and suggested that corporate clients stop dealing with them. He claims that their work is somehow undermining America and damaging their business interests. After naming about a dozen of the top law firms in the country, I mean, Stimpy was quoted as saying:

"I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.'s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.'s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out."

Do you notice how Stimpy used the term "alleged terrorist" there, in reference to all those individuals who have not yet been proven guilty, or in many cases even formally charged? Yeah, me neither.

Sorry for ranting today, but I find this whole thing, and Stimson's comments in particularly, nauseating. Most of all, I'm ashamed for my country.

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