THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 275, June 13, 2004

"The Sovereign in this country is the people themselves"

An Open Letter to George W. Bush
Detention, treatment, and trial of alleged terrorists

by Bill St. Clair
bill@billstclair.com

Special to TLE

12 June, 2004

Mr. President:

The photographs of torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison have shocked the world. They shocked you as well, as you clearly expressed by saying, "Such practices do not reflect our values." I agree. Such practices appear to be more widespread than one prison in Iraq, however. Prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay have also told stories of torture, deprivation, and humiliation to which no human being should ever be subjected, certainly not at the hands of the United States, the world's moral leader. And more horrific accounts surface every day.

Initially, I was willing to consider these to be isolated instances, the responsibility of a handful of prison guards. But I have concluded that you are at least partially responsible, though not intentionally.

On November 13, 2001, you issued an Executive Order titled "Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism". Your administration has also treated some U.S. citizens apprehended in the U.S. as "enemy combatants", detaining them secretly without charges, denying Writs of Habeas Corpus. Though you were careful in your Executive Order to specify that suspected terrorists should be treated humanely, the spirit of these policies, heard loud and clear by the men and women in the field, is to create a new class of non-persons with no rights.

Mr. President, these practices turn the Sixth Amendment on its head. They deny the fundamental rights of the accused to a speedy trial by an impartial jury, to be informed of the charges against them, and to confront witnesses. Such practices do not reflect our values.

Torturing a man, dishonoring his religion, degrading his humanity, is a horrible crime, inexcusable, unjustifiable, Satan's work. I hope that you do not want yourself or America to be associated with this in any way. I hope that you immediately make it crystal clear that all prisoners of war will henceforth be treated in accord with the Geneva Conventions and that all suspected criminals apprehended within the United States, alleged terrorist or not, citizen or not, will be afforded their usual Sixth Amendment rights.

Before being informed of your unintentional complicity in the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, you were only morally responsible for them; the matter was between you and your conscience. If you do not now make rapid changes in the U.S. policy for handling suspected terrorists, and these atrocities recur, you will be criminally responsible.

Sincerely,
Bill St. Clair



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