July 25, 2014

Tales from a Tsaddaqim Wannabe

A few months ago, I was reading the book by Amy Sherman that encourages Christians to be the tsaddaqim in their communities.  I wrote about it here.  After one reading session, as I was praying, I felt God calling me to pray for the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.  I wasn't sure why, other than the fact that Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies.  So I prayed that those who were truly innocent would be released and that those who were imprisoned would experience God as their Savior even as they lived behind bars.  Then it occurred to me that some of these men had spent over ten years in prison and I started wondering why they were still in prison rather than going through the trial process that each of us would go through if we committed a crime (I can be quite dense at times).  It turns out, that the US has set up Guantanamo Naval Station and some other territories as land that we control that is not covered by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  That started me on another reading project, Guantanamo, An American History by Jonathon M. Hansen

Here are some interesting facts from the book:
  • Guantanamo Bay and Cuba were always considered key property for the US because it allowed us to control the Gulf Coast and Carribean.  It goes back to President Jefferson, though even some English leaders during colonial times saw it as an advantageous port.
  • The colonists became angry that Parliament and King George thought that we were unfit to rule ourselves and yet, around 100 years after that, we made the same presumption when Cuba finally started the process of throwing off its colonial parent, Spain.
  • The idea that Guantanamo Bay naval station could be outside the laws of the Constitution was initially presented during the Haitian Boat people refugees crisis in Carter's administration.  Yes, a Democrat, made that decision.  That idea was initially fought by the people who were trying to help the Haitians gain citizenship but was ultimately defeated.  Former Presidents Reagan (R), H.W. Bush (R), and Clinton (D) all supported and promoted the extra-legal status, but G.W. Bush (R) was the first one to take FULL advantage of it after 9/11 as a place to hold suspected terrorists without the need for silly things like trials.
  • In the 2004 Supreme Court agreed that U.S. citizens being held in Guantanamo could pursue their rights, at least the right of habeus corpus and that foreign nationals could be tried in U.S. Courts, rather than only in military tribunals.
The fact seems particularly ironic, that our government, regardless of which political party is in power, has our service men and women who are sworn to protect a Constitutional government and the fundamental freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights are denying other people those rights.  In fact, in 2013, President Obama declared that 46 prisoners would remain in Guantanamo indefinitely without a hope for trial.  Though five of those were probably released earlier this year.

Sure, most of these men are not U.S. citizens and sure, they may or may not have ties to Al Qaeda, which would make them enemies of the U.S. I am not in favor of just releasing them.  But I do believe that they deserve to have the same legal rights and privileges of U.S. citizens for several reasons:
  1. The best way to promote a Constitutional type of government is to be liberal in guarding the freedoms of ALL people, whether we agree with them or not or whether or not they are citizens residing in the United States.  Any nation can remove liberty.  It takes an especially strong nation to preserve it at all costs.
  2. Ben Franklin said that "Those who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."  I would add that those who are willing to deny essential liberty to others to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
  3. It is the height of  hubris to believe that what happens to others cannot happen to us.  If the President, can change the rules without going through Congress to change the laws as the Constitution states, then we, the people will be subject to the whim of every President, which means that someday, maybe foreign nationals will be detained without due process because of some new rule created by the new President.  That, by the way, is tyranny.  And once we give tyranny a foothold, at some point in time, we will become victims of it.
  4. This last reason is most important for me as a Christian:  God hates injustice because justice is part of His character.  Micah 6:8 says this:  
"He has told you, O man, what is good;

    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness (or mercy)
    and to walk humbly with your God?

So for the time being, I will continue to pray for the detainees at Guantanamo, that God's justice will prevail, that Jesus Christ will be their protector and that they will have their day in court.