Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. military base on the island of Cuba, is a detainment camp in a permanent state of exception, for while the United States have “complete jurisdiction” over the base, the ultimate sovereignty is reserved to Cuba, a country that has no diplomatic relations with the USA and, by the terms of the 1903 agreement, cannot evict the U.S. military without their consent.
According to the U.S. government, conventional American legal norms do not apply to what is technically foreign soil, and enemy combatants can be held prisoners incommunicado until the end of the ongoing war that, in the words of Vice-president Dick Cheney, may well last for generations. Critics have argued that the need to find a proper balance between security and freedom does not justify violations of humanitarian law.
These very same questions have been debated for centuries. Alexander Hamilton once remarked in Federalist 8 (1787) that “safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property…a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort…to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights.”
Indeed, during WWI and WWII, the
The Bush Administration’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as illustrated by the August 2002 memo issued by the office of legal counsel of the justice department, which proclaimed that “the President enjoys complete discretion in the exercise of his Commander-in-Chief authority and in conducting operations against hostile forces”, is the logical continuation of this approach to the issue of national security.
The war on terror has already caused a number of patent violations of the writ of habeas corpus, one of the fundamental rights defined by the U.S. Constitution, and of other constitutional guarantees such as due process of law, trial by jury, and right to counsel. Under such conditions, the process of moral inversion, whereby what is normally judged to be deplorable becomes not only provisionally acceptable but desirable, is more likely to set in. The controversy surrounding the
Numerous allegations of torture and mistreatment have attracted the attention of international human rights organizations and several cases have been presented to the U.S. Supreme Court for its consideration. On June 29,
Some have pointed out that the fact that the June 29 ruling was generally described as “extraordinary”, rather than simply pertinent and opportune, reflects the nonessential role of international human rights and legal standards in