Two recent events shed light on the absurdity of maintaining the U.S. terrorist prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. One involved a federal trial in New York, and the other was the death of a 48-year-old ex-Taliban commander, Awal Gul, who suffered an apparent heart attack last week after a workout in the cellblock.
Gul, a citizen of Afghanistan, had been held for more than eight years without charge. He was one of 48 so-called ``indefinite detainees'' within the inmate population whom the Obama administration does not intend to either repatriate or put on trial.
The military command called him ``an admitted Taliban recruiter and commander of a military base in Jalalabad'' who had met several times with Osama bin Laden. His lawyers say otherwise. They contend that he quit the Taliban well before 9/11 because he was disgusted with its corruption and acts of abuse. We'll never know. Gul never set foot in a courtroom to have the facts and evidence examined and his case fairly adjudicated.
For Awal Gul, detention at Guantánamo was not ``indefinite'' but rather a life sentence carried out without benefit of judge and jury. He never knew a moment of freedom from the time he was captured in Afghanistan on Christmas Day, 2001, until the day he died.
Now there are only 47 ``indefinite detainees'' left, which raises a pertinent question:
Is the detention facility at Guantánamo supposed to remain open until every last one of these inmates conveniently drops dead, however many years or decades that may take?
Ridiculous, yet it appears to be what Congress wants. Lawmakers have foiled efforts to transfer detainees to federal prisons on the mainland or allow trials in federal courts. The politics of fear -- or rather, fear-mongering -- keeps legislators from tackling this admittedly tough problem with the seriousness it deserves and in a manner that safeguards U.S. citizens and also honors the U.S. Constitution.
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