The Conservative View on Guantanamo


Captives upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday a federal judge--ironically the same one who'd ruled earlier that Guantanamo prisoners weren't entitled to civil review--ruled that five men held there for seven years be released. There was insufficient evidence that they were involved in any crime. In fact, that's maybe too charitable. If you read the details, it seems like the Government had nothing more than a hunch and an uncorroborated accusation.

Think for a minute about what this means: five human beings were held in prison for seven years without much recourse. Think about what that means to them and their families. I hate that that happened and feel very bad about it.

The real shame is that it didn't have to happen. We have 200 years of legal precedent in this country that has given us a justice system that while far from perfect is designed to prevent this kind of abuse and we refused to use it.

I titled this post "The Conservative View" because I think that conservatism would take two positions that would have argued against what has happened on Guantanamo:

  1. Conservatives should fight against government intervention in human lives where ever possible. A conservative position would argue for, not against basic human rights.
  2. A conservative position would argue for following existing, well understood rulesets and not using ad hoc procedures.

In the case of Guantanamo, we've done neither. We've allowed government to intrude into the lives of humans without following established due process procedures to ensure that that intrusion is warranted.

Note that this doesn't mean we should be soft on terror, security, crime, or anything else. It does mean that a position consistent with basic conservative philosophy would argue for human rights and due process--not against it.