Monday, June 11, 2007

Some Small Hope

In the context of Captain Keith Allred's decision to dismiss the case against Salim Hamdan (one of the more infamous Gitmo detainees), Scott Horton of Harper's draws some interesting historical parallels
I think for instance of Edmund Burke’s Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, a minor masterpiece which is not read and appreciated as it should be today. And reading Judge Allred’s opinion, for some strange reason, I kept hearing the words of Edmund Burke in the background, growing louder and louder with each subsequent paragraph.

The Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol is a simple document – the transmission to two law-enforcement officers of his constituency of an act that the government of Lord North has put to Parliament. The act suspended the great writ of habeas corpus - not for the good burghers of Bristol, of course, but only for a group of murderous insurrectionists who then stood in open and bloody revolt against their lawful sovereign. And the act went further, namely, it provided that these miserable wretches, whose insolence and defiance now extended to the seas, could be labeled pirates at the King’s discretion, and thus robbed of the right to be tried in courts. They would be dealt with in a summary fashion by the King’s military. And the act also provided that these miscreants could be transported across the ocean to England and held there to await their summary disposition – a step which justified the suspension of habeas corpus, since otherwise an English court might demand an accounting for their brutal treatment and incarceration.


Let the Great Writ stand, said Burke, and from this point be suspicious when the Government employs the label “pirate” to shorten the rights of those it sees as enemies. These words reflect the sum and the spirit of the rulings out of Guantánamo. They reflect the spirit of liberty.

Oh yes. Exactly who were those vermin insurgents who by Lord North’s design were to be stripped of habeas corpus, subjected to military trials with no rights and held in the crudest and most abusive conditions? They were the Americans, and the conflict was our Revolution.
We urge you to read the article entire, but thought it germane to draw eyes to these salient points.

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