The UK authorities manage to put their suspects away for 20 years each at the end of a 3-year investigation by following the rule of law and convincing a jury of peers who spent a record 27 days in deliberation. No-one doubts the truth of the verdicts, the propriety of the process, or the seriousness of the charges; justice seems to have been done and shown to be done. Those convicted are shown to be the evil, credulous, fools they really are, yet were given every chance in an open court to prove their innocence. If there is a war of ideas going on here, this is a propaganda victory for the open societies of the West.
In comparison when it comes to Guantanamo the US ends up looking like a banana republic, where western prisoners whose imprisonment ends up embarrassing allies get off scot free, while the browner, poorer, more unfortunate ones rot hopelessly. The rule of law and of due process are rejected as inconvenient in preference for a series of show trials which would have appalled Stalin in their obvious incompetence and unfairness. The evidentary basis behind the charges is ususally torture-based, the accused presented as deadly, ruthless trained killers, while everyone knows they are more likely the hapless victims of local vendettas, “sold” to the US for a reward. It is the authorities who end up looking like bumbling, confused, evil, credulous fools. The enemies of the West are handed a priceless recruiting tool, while putative allies are repulsed by the hypocrisy and stupidity.
I am struck by how much each approach has differed in effectiveness, yet I’ve not seen this mentioned anywhere. Tragically there probably are dangerous men in Guantanamo who have committed or are capable of committing dangerous crimes. But we’ll never really know. It turns out that in the UK some of the convicted men associated with some of the 7/7 bombers, but this was withheld from disclosure in the interests of giving the accused a fair trial — can you imagine the US authorities acting with the same restraint? It would be splashed all over a White House press briefing in an instant.
It’s an incredible juxtaposition. It would make me proud to be British, had not my discovery of Spinozan philosophy shown me how trivial such sentiments are.