Saturday, May 23, 2009

What it means to have a justice system

The NYT was agonizing yesterday about Barack Obama and his continuation of Dubya's shameful Gitmo policies, most recently on the matter of indefinite detention. It's an extraordinary article, not least because it really belongs on the editorial page. 'The reason to have a criminal justice system at all, [critics] say, is to trust it to decide who is guilty and who is not. “If they cannot be convicted, then you release them,” said Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. “That’s what it means to have a justice system.”'

Say again? More than three million German soldiers were captured and imprisoned by the United States during World War II. How many of them were brought to trial? A handful (and of that handful, the dangerous ones were shot). Offhand I can't find how many were in prison camps in the US, but one website puts our total PW population at 450,000, including Italians, and more than a thousand died here. Among other feats, the PWs built the breathtaking road up Mt Lemmon outside Tucson, Arizona, and they did much to make up for the shortage of farm labor all over the country. They weren't guilty of anything, they weren't brought to trial, they weren't convicted, and they weren't released until some time after hostilities ended. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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