As a candidate for president, Barack Obama promised to undo the injustices of the Bush administration. He pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and ensure that those detained in Bush’s “War on Terror” were allowed to see their days in court.
As president, Obama’s pledges have fallen flat, and he is beginning to look like George W. However, under the Obama administration instead of forcing prisoners to wallow in Guantanamo Bay prison without rights, the prisoners are now stuck in palaces like Bagram prison in Afghanistan.
Recently, the Obama administration argued in federal court that these detainees at Bagram prison had no legal rights in the American courts. The three-judge appeals court, in a unanimous decision, agreed with the administration’s lawyers, ruling that enemy combatants in foreign war zones do not deserve the same human rights as U.S. Citizens. But the refusal to afford due process to detainees is a violation of both the United States Constitution and the international Geneva Convention.
The decision allows detainees to be arrested anywhere in the world, and then shipped to Bagram prison in Afghanistan, where they can be held indefinitely with no right to a lawyer or a trial.
In 2008, the Supreme Court found that detainees had the right to petition their imprisonment. Soon after, the Bush administration began importing suspected terrorists to Bagram prison, following the same procedures ruled unconstitutional at Guantanamo Bay — no lawyers, no appeals, no justice. The Bush administration claimed that the detainees couldn’t be afforded due process because they were enemy combatants, a term used to describe people who take up arms in a conflict but are not part of national army or resistance force.
The adoption of this reasoning is straight out of the Bush administration’s playbook on indefinite detentions of suspected terrorists. Barack Obama was elected on a platform of rejecting this logic, and his victory shows that the American people agree.
The injustices at the Bagram prison may soon become Obama’s Guantanamo. Such encampments are an embarrassment to a nation built of laws and justice and a call to arms for al-Qaeda and anti-western extremists.
One of Obama’s first promises as president was to shut down Guantanamo Bay within a year. The one-year anniversary of this claim passed months ago and Guantanamo is still open. Obama’s administration now must distance itself from the mistakes of the Bush administration. If these alleged terrorists are guilty of a crime, they will be found guilty in a courtroom, just like criminals in the United States are. President Barack Obama should embrace his campaign’s promise to end denial of due process to suspected terrorists and disavow the Bush administration’s unconstitutional policies.