Sunday, April 12, 2009

Obama Hurts America & American Ideals

The Washington Post notes that Obama's DOJ appealed a court order by District Court Judge Bates. The order requires that military detainees in an American-operated military base in Afghanistan receive access to the U.S. federal courts. For the following reasons, it is extremely disappointing that the Obama DOJ appealed this order.

Obama's decisions to close Gitmo and engage the world in diplomacy have made significant improvements to our reputation and moral status in the world. This recent headway is at least partly responsible for Obama's impressively convincing China & Russia to sign a joint statement condemning the North Korean missile launch. These facts are proof that a more humanitarian, diplomatic approach to governing is effective and makes us safe.

Nonetheless, by appealing this order, Obama has rejected the humanitarian approach. Instead, Obama has opted to run roughshod over foreign countries by ignoring their citizens' interest in freedom from non-substantiated and potentially capricious arrests. That is, Obama has opted to engage in the Bush-era tactics that are so unpopular and controversial abroad. Just as Bush made us less safe by angering the entire world with such actions, Obama has made us less safe. Thus, Obama should be condemned for appealing this order.

But leaving these practical arguments aside, there are moral and ethical reasons why Obama's decision is extremely disappointing.

Detainees' ability to access the federal court system should not be contingent upon their constitutional right -- if any -- to do so. Instead, America should recognize the importance of adherence to basic notions of justice, human dignity, and fair-play.

There is a reason that the drafters of the Bill of Rights created the Fourth Amendment and the Due Process Clause: Too often, those in power abuse their power, and innocent peoples can be swept up in the government's machinery. Such abuses violate America's core principles. America was created, in part, as a rebuke of Star Cambers (definition here), sham trials, and police abuses. When we created this country, we made the fundamental choice that interests in human dignity, such as the freedom from arbitrary seizures, are more important than whatever safety can be wrought from arrests without due process.

And Obama has violated these basic notions. He has endorsed actions where America can pick alleged terrorists off the street, place them in so-called Black Sites, and detain them indefinitely, without ever offering proof of their guilt, and without ever entertaining evidence of innocence. The potential for abuse is obvious and overwhelming. In fact, such tactics by Bush resulted in the detention of many, many innocent people -- dentions that robbed innocents of nearly a decade of their life!

By appealing this court order, Obama has opted to continue Bush's mistakes. He has decided that the above-referenced interests in human dignity do not apply to non-Americans. This sort of attitude -- which was pushed by Bush -- is precisely why Obama has taken it upon himself to make efforts to improve America's moral status in the world. Yet, Obama is now repeating the same mistakes!

Mr. Obama, America is better than this! Please, drop this appeal.

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