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No One Cares About Child Soldiers if They're in Guantanamo

In many ways, Guantanamo is not the exception, but far closer to the rule of our criminal justice system.

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It is no coincidence that most of the American intellectuals who have pointed out these domestic precursors to the Global War on Terror -- journalists like Margaret Kimberley and Bob Herbert, and law professor James Forman, Jr. -- are African American.  Black Americans, whose overall incarceration rate today is probably higher than that of Soviet citizens at the peak of the gulag, have had ample reasons over the centuries, and now as much as ever, to doubt the fundamental fairness of American justice.  When advocates compare the military tribunals unfavorably to “the Cadillac version of justice” that U.S. citizens supposedly get (which was how one Gitmo defense attorney described America’s domestic courts), it is simply baffling to those aware of how our system actually works.

In fact, the ho-hum familiarity of much of the War on Terror’s nastiness may help explain why so many Americans view what’s gone on at Gitmo with a shrug, and often respond to the liberal shock and horror with exasperation.  This has been going on right here for decades, where have you been?

Prosecuting a 15-year-old for “murder” with the help of a little torture and some threats of rape may not be the kind of thing we want to show German journalists.  They’ll just get upset.  They lack the context.  But we Americans really have no right to claim that we’re shocked, shocked.  We got used to this kind of thing a long time ago.  The prosecution of former child soldier Omar Khadr has been nothing, in other words, if not all-American.

Chase Madar is a lawyer in New York. He reviews and reports for the London Review of Books, Le Monde Diplomatique, the American Conservative Magazine and CounterPunch.

 
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