Civil libertarians have hailed a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court stating that President Bush has overstepped his authority. Bush set up rules himself for the trials of suspected terrorists held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay.
While this Supreme Court decision gives defendants a better chance at trials that are fair and open, it ironically makes it less likely that prisoners will receive a trial at all.
The Supreme Court decision does not address the issue of indefinitely detaining prisoners without trial. The prisoners are regarded as prisoners of war who can be held indefinitely while hostilities continue.
However, the "war on terrorism" is not a war in the sense that the framers of our Constitution understood the concept of war. It is used as a blanket term for a variety of loosely connected military and espionage activities. There is no declaration of war on terrorism by Congress, a requirement under the Constitution for our country to be in a state of war.
Since there will likely be people who advocate terror against the U.S. for an indefinite period of time in the future, there will never be an end to the "war on terrorism." In theory, there will never be a need to release prisoners of war on terrorism.
People being held as prisoners by the U.S. need to have their situations resolved. Either they need to be convicted of some overt act recognized as criminal under international conventions or they need to be released.
There are prisoners at Guantanamo who have been held without trial for six years.
This administration's desire to try prisoners (albeit by rules prejudicial against defendants) seems to have more to do with the administration's desire to get out from under a controversial and unresolved situation than a desire for justice.
We not only regard foreigners as unworthy of due process of law, the administration has taken the position that foreign prisoners are not entitled to the protections against cruel treatment that citizens of our country are, even denying that the controlled drowning of a prisoner during questioning is torture.
We rightly denounce the violence exhibited by fanatics in other countries toward anyone different from themselves, but we have sacrificed much of the moral high ground on this issue.
Do we serve as a beacon of justice and freedom for the rest of the world? It doesn't seem so anymore.