I don’t mean to start this column as some cliché quasi-jingoist, but let me say this: We live and study in one of the greatest countries in the world. We covet, above all else, “liberty and justice for all.”

Part of this involves the rights of the accused. Everyone living in this country is afforded the right to a trial and the presumption of innocence if they are suspected of wrongdoing. We afford these rights to all people in this country, whether they are citizens or merely visitors, because – as Thomas Jefferson once put it – they are “inalienable rights endowed by our Creator.”

But 90 miles south of Florida in a small U.S. detention center, those inalienable rights Mr. Jefferson so eloquently defined are being deprived in a manner that would shock him and his fellow founders were they alive today.

As in so many legal debates, the heart of the issue comes down to the definition of a term. In this matter, it is the definition of those who have been captured by U.S. forces during the global war on terror and sent to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. When someone is captured as a prisoner of war he or she is subject to certain rights under the Geneva Conventions; President Bush and his administration, however, have defined those captured as “enemy combatants” who, according to one executive order, “shall not be privileged to seek any remedy . directly or indirectly . in any court of the United States.”

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected this policy, ruling in 2008 in Boumediene v. Bush that the more than 265 detainees in Guantánamo Bay have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in court, essentially granting the right of habeas corpus to the enemy combatants detained. What the ruling failed to provide, however, was a framework in which to implement this decision. The court left that up to Congress to arrange.

The Bush administration has been quite vocal in its opposition to this ruling, citing most notably national security concerns. They believe that an actual trial for these prisoners may divert resources on the battlefield. If a soldier captures a prisoner on the battlefield, the soldier may be taken from the field in order to complete a deposition or, even worse, testify in open court. According to the Department of Defense, this may deter soldiers from executing their duties to the fullest extent in fear that they may have to testify in court.

This argument borders on ridiculous. When making these captures, a soldier acts like a police officer; according to Boumediene, he should expect to testify as to why he made the detainment. The argument that a soldier will not capture someone threatening his life because of the possible paperwork involved seems illogical at best.

This country strives to establish legitimate judicial systems worldwide. We dedicate government resources to teaching other nations how to run fair trials for all, and we allowed the Iraqis to try and convict their number-one enemy of the state, Saddam Hussein, so as to allow them some autonomy – but when we capture our own adversaries, our priorities suddenly change. We suspend the very standards that we are trying so desperately to promote.

In the early stages of the American independence movement, a group of British soldiers was put on trial following the 1770 Boston Massacre. Bostonians were eager to put these men to death as quickly as possible, but in the interest of ensuring justice, a lawyer by the name of John Adams defended these men in court. He went on to write, “It was . of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country.”

Too often we confuse fair treatment of our enemies with a lack of patriotism. I believe that those who ensure justice for their enemies are in fact the most patriotic, for they place their trust in a system they believe is right instead of fearing its uncertainty. If the more than 265 detainees have committed legitimate offenses according to the rule of law, then we have the duty to try them in court and allow justice to take its course and render the ultimate decision. Perhaps in that way we can hold our heads up high and practice what we preach.

Tim Swenson is a junior in the College, a cadet in Army ROTC and a GUSA senator. He can be reached at swensonthehoya.com. Closing Arguments appears every other Tuesday.

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