Scott Tibbs
blog post
June 15th, 2005

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Close Gitmo?

Some on the Left are calling for the prison at Guantanamo Bay to be closed. Rich Lowry comments on the story in National Review. Lowry points out that some of the detainees would likely have been released if afforded full rights under the U.S. Constitution, and would resume being a threat to our security.

First, I think the concerns over the way prisoners are being treated are overblown. Claims that guards are desecrating the Koran, for example, have been debunked and (as I pointed out last week) it is the detainees who were doing the actual desecration. Calling Gitmo a "gulag" is ridiculous hyperbole.

However, I am concerned about the idea of holding people without a trial and without the protections normally observed under the Constitution. I do understand that we are in a war, so some allowances must be made for national security purposes when dealing with enemy combatants. However, since this is a war on terrorism, this war could go on for decades. At what point does this policy run its course?

I think the most important thing to remember here is that the Constitution does not grant rights. Instead, the Constitution places limits on government. It is assumed that the rights protected by the Constitution exist regardless of whether government recognizes those rights or not. The purpose of the Constitution is to place limits on government so government does not violate the rights we already have. If those rights exist independent of government, citizenship does not matter.

I think, for now, the detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay should remain open. However, we must continue the conversation about what exactly we are going to do with these "enemy combatants". We need to develop a long-term strategy that respects the limits set by the Constitution while making sure national security is not unduly compromised.