If we believe that justice works, we have no reason to be afraid. If we are afraid that justice does not work when applied without prejudice, we need to learn to control our fears. This is no time for right wing sissies to come along with their hands shaking, muttering that America can't be safe unless we throw away our Constitution and the system of justice that it has established.
In the aftermath of the long-delayed Supreme Court decision to reassert the right of all people held prisoner by the United States government to have the ancient protection of habeas corpus, there has been a lot of hand-wringing among right wing pundits about whether the USA is strong enough to handle this level of freedom. Can we deal with a society where people are not thrown into prison at the whim of political elites, they ask, with anxious wrinkles crossing their foreheads.
The short answer is: Of course we can handle it, if we, the citizens of the USA, can avoid the temptation to buck and run. The structures of American democracy are not so limp and wimpy as right wingers seem to think.
Beyond that short answer, it’s important to understand what these right wing pundits are really concerned about. They purport to be worried about the nature of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other secret torture prisons run by George W. Bush. More honestly, these right wingers are concerned by the very idea of justice, applied equally and fairly. They worry their meek little hearts about whether a fair system of justice will protect them from the people they fear.
They ask, Should the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay be allowed to have access to lawyers? However, their question really amounts to this: Should we restrict prisoners’ access to lawyers, period?
The essence of the law under the United States Constitution, which applies everywhere that the United States government has authority, is that all people, no matter what they are accused of, should have equal protection under the law. That means that if we restrict some prisoners’ access to lawyers, we are declaring that our system has the right to restrict access to lawyers for any class of prisoners, if they should happen to offend us. If we make that choice, we are choosing to upend the Constitution, and to make our legal system unbalanced and unjust.
For that reason, no, the prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay should not have their access to lawyers restricted. If we believe that justice works, we have no reason to be afraid. If we are afraid that justice does not work when applied without prejudice, we need to learn to control our fears. This is no time for right wing sissies to come along with their hands shaking, muttering that America can’t be safe unless we throw away our Constitution and the system of justice that it has established.
Get some backbone. Support justice, especially for the people you think are guilty of terrible things. If they really are guilty, a fair system of justice will find them guilty.