Published on Wednesday, November 26, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
Kafka and Uighurs at
“There is no right to due process for an alien who is not here,” insisted the 44th Solicitor General of the
Garre claimed that U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina had exceeded his authority on Oct. 7, 2008 in ordering that 17 men held in
“Aliens have no rights,” Garre kept repeating. And they REALLY have no rights, he seemed to be saying, if they are “not physically in the
And that, of course, was precisely the reason former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his clever band of Mafia lawyers wanted to keep such “aliens” offshore in the prison created at the
Never mind that the detainees had been deemed NON-enemy-combatants; never mind that the U.S. government had already conceded that, despite initial suspicions that they were terrorists, the U.S. government could adduce no evidence to support that accusation.
Never mind that they had been unlawfully incarcerated for almost seven years. Garre spoke of “unlimited Executive power” in these matters. He kept insisting, “We have the authority to detain them.” Garre added that the Justice Department had tried hard to find a country willing to accept them but failed.
The unfounded suspicion of terrorism, for which the
You see, these prisoners are Uighurs, a Turkic people of Central Asia, five million of whom live in
An ancient and gifted people, Uighurs (WEE’-gurz) created a “Uighur empire” that stretched from the Caspian Sea to
Compared to Europeans of the time, Uighurs were considerably more advanced. Documents show, for example, that a Uighur farmer could write down a contract, using legal terminology. Some western scholars contend that acupuncture was not a Chinese, but rather a Uighur discovery. Famine and civil war brought down the Uighur empire in the middle of the 9th century, and they were then overrun by other central Asian peoples.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
So how did Uighurs get to
After “interviewing” them extensively, by late 2003
Some American judges have agreed with the two senior U.N. investigators, who have said that, under international law, the
It was not until almost three years later that Judge Ricardo Urbina, on Oct. 7, 2008 took the bull by the horns and ordered the 17 Uighurs brought to the
On Monday morning a three-judge appeals court met to hear arguments as to whether or not Urbina’s decision should be overturned. Judge Judith W. Rogers, appointed by President Bill Clinton, had objected strongly to the stay, pointing out, “The government can point to no evidence of dangerousness” from the Uighurs. On Monday, she subjected Barre to strong questioning. Her colleagues Karen Henderson and A. Raymond Randolph, both appointed by President George H. W. Bush, seemed much more sympathetic to the government’s position that the Uighurs should not set foot in the
It was the tone of the Solicitor General’s argument that hit me strongest. Here is an unmitigated tragedy for which the
There has been no information on what the three-judge panel that met on Monday will eventually decide, or when. It may take weeks, we were told.
Meanwhile? For the Uighurs, more languishing in
Aliens Have No Unalienable Rights?
I thought the Declaration of
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
Where does it say “except for Uighur aliens?”
When we were a younger country and much closer to our roots,
My grandparents were aliens—but fortunate ones. They could go to
"…Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Maybe we need to pause this Thanksgiving. The Uighur prisoners should be at table with us, not in confinement watching DVDs. What has happened to us? Have we lost our soul?
“You shall not violate the rights of the alien.” (Deuteronomy 24:17)
My friend and mentor, Dean Brackley, S.J., distilled the Bible, long before he left for
“It all depends on who you think God is, and how God feels when little people get pushed around.”
Yes, there is still much to celebrate this Thanksgiving.
A new president-elect, a lawyer with a sense of justice—and a new beginning. A person who not only claims to be, but also seems, so far, to be what he claims—a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, who was tough on hypocrisy: “How terrible for you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites…” (Matthew 23: 13ff)
What we can be grateful for is a Constitution that provides for a change in government on a periodic basis, so that even when a president is allowed by cowardly politicians to ignore that precious gift of our Founders and amass king-like power, he can be dethroned by vote of the people.
We can be thankful for Barack Obama’s pledge to close the
As the National Lawyers Guild has urged, Obama must ensure that all prisoners at Guantanamo are released, repatriated, resettled, or (if there is probable cause to believe any have committed a crime) brought to trial, in strict accordance with international and national law, and the principles of fundamental justice regarding criminal proceedings.
I would add the suggestion that we as a country make an open apology and ask the rest of the world for forgiveness for our straying so far from the ideals upon which our country was founded. Then there can be true thanksgiving for real closure, and an end to a particularly disgraceful chapter in our country’s history.
And then we shall ALL be set free—not only the Uighurs.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city
This article first appeared on Consortiumnews.com .
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs