With the Dem. National Convention ending, the presidential campaign is warming up, with the usual slinging back and forth between the major candidates. A lot of talk has been around the major changes which Kerry would make if he becomes president - things like health care, Iraq, etc. Something that was a huge issue last year, but has been forgotten by the media whores (grin) is the legal proceedings involving enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay. Here's a pretty interesting (if long) article on this topic from slate.com.
The article actually tackles two issues: The actual legal proceedings involving the enemy combatants and the Dept. of Justice as well as the latest about the Abu Ghraib torture. The stories are not well weaved together, but the connections are really around how these issues are being tackled in and out of the judicial system. Also, the author makes some big-ish leaps in connecting things together. Regardless, some things are enlightening.
The most interesting thing about this is the author's connection between these proceedings and the amount of respect America gets in the world. In my opinion, the amount of disdain that America gets in Europe and the rest of the world is not predicated just on how this stuff turns out. It's not just based on how Iraq or the War of Terror turns out either. Regardless of what happens to these torturers, to the enemy combatants, to Iraqis, or to Queda, people will still hate what America is.
That being said, I find it really important to recognize that our judicial (both civilian and military) can really help to contribute towards showing that America is a just nation. That we, as Americans, believe in doing the "right" thing. The DoJ is doing everything legally possible to stretch out the plight of the people in Guantanamo Bay. The DoJ is not simply stretching out the timelines, but making it near impossible for these people to defend themselves (either in a court of law or outside of the civilian court system). While that's perfectly legal, wouldn't it be great to see justice in Guantanamo that is just as swift as it apparently is when "high value Queda targets" are captured? Wouldn't it also be nice to see some recognition that torturing prisoners can be the fault of more than just a few nutcases?
So back to my original point (and to the title of this post). Would a President Kerry ensure these things are done? The last paragraph of this article mentions that this would not likely change. And I tend to agree. Partly because the wheels are already in motion on this and it's hard to completely change directions at these lower levels without replacing every individual involved in the prosecution. Partly because Kerry might be too afraid of backlash to ease up on this "justice".
But at the least, there needs to be a clear recognition that if we are to stand proud and say that we are a just nation, we not only need to get our allies to agree with us before going to war, we not only need to convince ourselves of our rightness. We need to do these seemingly little things. We have a reputation in this world. Extremists on both sides will argue that our reputation is good or bad. Pragmatists in this world need to show that regardless of our current reputation, we must do many small things to improve it.