Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 03.15.04


American Gulag

What do pre-war Iraq, San Salvador, the United States, Syria. and Nazi Germany have in common?

They all have had an abysmal record of human rights abuses, including snatching up their alleged enemies and throwing them in a jail or prison camp without trial or representation.

Our American gulag at Guantanamo is a glaring testament to the hypocrisy the world sees in America every day.

Why hasn't the media been all over this story?

Where are the Woodward and Bernsteins of the new millennium?

Why does the mainstream media cower like whipped dogs in the face of this assault on our liberty?

Even the worst killers in the history of mankind received lawyers and trials at Nuremburg after WWII. Fiends like Adolph Eichmann were not just thrown in a cell and left to rot.

The high-ranking Nazi was put in the dock, given a trial, and then hanged like the poisonous scum that he was. But he got to defend himself.

Even the former USSR tried prisoners and gave them a sentence before transporting them to Siberia.

The prisoners at Guantanamo are living in a limbo world -- they aren't prisoners of war, and they aren't criminals. What are they then?

If they are terrorists then they must be charged and found guilty of a crime.

By exposing the hypocrisy of our American system of justice they are doing much more damage to the USA than they ever could have done with weapons on a desert battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Their allies and facilitators in this assassination of our American values are in the Bush Administration.

They've taken us back to our pre-WWII shame when Japanese-Americans were marched into prison camps without being charged with a crime and sentenced to an indefinite period of detention.

Finally, after two years at Guantanamo and without any official explanation, five British citizens were released to the custody of the British police. It took twenty-four hours for Her Majesty's Government to release them.

Obviously, there was no evidence or any wrong doing.

Two of the men, according to them, were taken from private homes in Pakistan, thrown in the trunk of a car, and spirited off to Cuba.

And why, of the 660 political prisoners languishing in who-knows-what conditions, were only the British subjects released?

French citizens and German citizens remain. Perhaps if they had knuckled under to Bush's invasion plans their people would be at home as well.

Apparently Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Britain and George Bush's lapdog in this grisly mess, has been pressured by members of Parliament and by British voters to use his influence to have their citizens released from this unlawful custody.

It is a very unfortunate reminder of the time when Jesse Jackson traveled to Kuwait in 1991 to win the release of hundreds of foreign nationals from the clutches of Sadaam Hussein.

Emissaries who flock to the White House to plead with our American dictator have not had as much luck. Dozens of parents are in Washington right now. They are begging the American government for a trial for their sons.

"If they are guilty of something, then punish them," one distraught father was quoted as saying.

We better wake up and smell the burning of our constitutional rights before it is too late.

More Patriot Acts against American citizens, more constitutional amendments to deny rights to certain individuals, and the arrogant flouting of standards set by international law are reducing this country to a closed society, a banana republic unconcerned with the give and take of rational debate either at home or abroad.

American citizens don't want these prisoners to be released. We want them to have representation and a trial like any other person in custody.

If they are found to have Al-Quaeda connections, then sentence them.

If they are no longer a threat to this country or if they are innocents swept up in the heat of battle, then release them.

Any other policy puts the USA in very bad company.