Sunday’s Washington Post carried an article about the suicide of former Peruvian President Alan García, who Peruvian officials had charged with official corruption while he was in office. The article posited the possibility that García committed suicide because under Peru’s judicial system, he would have faced up to three years in pretrial detention without actually being indicted, which the Post said was “a term unthinkable in many democracies, even for suspects facing overwhelming evidence of the most heinous crimes.”
What the Post did not point out is that indefinite detention without a trial is not unthinkable in the United States. Instead, thanks to the Pentagon and the CIA, indefinite detention has now become a core feature of America’s criminal-justice system. As the Post implies, it is also a hallmark of tyranny.
Among the potential acts of tyranny with which our American ancestors were most concerned was the power of the federal government to keep people in jail indefinitely without a trial. That was why the Constitution, which called into existence a government of limited powers, did not delegate such a power to federal officials. It’s also why the American people enacted the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments, which expressly guaranty the rights of trial by jury, a speedy and public trial, bail, and protection from cruel and unusual punishments.
The Pentagon and the CIA destroyed those rights with the establishment of their prison, torture program, and “judicial” center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Today, there are people at Gitmo who have been languishing for more than a decade, denied the benefits of trial by jury, a speedy and public trial, and bail.
This shouldn’t surprise us. In the long sordid history of the U.S. national-security establishment and its infamous regime-change operations in foreign countries, it has always stood for installing dictatorships into power, preferably military ones. By their very nature, military establishments almost always lean conservative, viewing procedural protections as nothing more than “technicalities” that permit guilty people to go free. Thus, the last thing that military regimes are going to do is honor and respect the principles enunciated in the U.S. Bill of Rights.
An example was the U.S.-inspired coup in Chile in 1973, where the regime of military Gen. Augusto Pinochet had his national-security state forces round up some 50,000 people, incarcerate them, rape them, torture them, and murder or disappear around 3,000 of them. No trial by jury. No bail. Fearful of the power of the Chilean national security establishment, the Chilean federal courts went silent, as did the Chilean legislature.
The same thing happened in the CIA’s coup in Guatemala some 20 years before that. The CIA succeeded in ousting the democratically elected president of the country, Jacobo Arbenz, and installed a brutal military general in his stead, who proceeded to round up, torture, and kill people without a trial.
We saw it with Iran, when a CIA coup in 1953 ousted the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, and restored the brutal tyranny of the Shah. While the Shah wasn’t a military general, his U.S.-supported rule was every bit as tyrannical as that of any military general. Indefinite detention and torture, without the benefit of a trial, were hallmarks of his brutal rule, which came to an end in 1979 when the Iranian people revolted against it.
We see it today in the military dictatorship in Egypt with indefinite detention and torture, without trial, and all fully supported by the Pentagon, the CIA, and most of the rest of the federal government.
Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that the Pentagon and the CIA established this same type of system in Cuba, where the ruling leftist communist regime, ironically enough, engages in indefinite detention and torture without trial as well. In fact, don’t forget that that is why our ancestors demanded that the Bill of Rights be enacted — they were certain that federal officials would do the tyrannical acts proscribed by the Amendments. What the Pentagon and the CIA have done in Cuba is a confirmation of the concerns that motivated Americans to enact the Bill of Rights.
One irony in all this, of course, is that U.S. military officials and CIA officials take an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. But it’s obvious that the oath is nothing more than a lie. After all, the reason that the Pentagon and the CIA established their prison and torture center in Cuba was precisely to avoid the provisions of the Constitution. Their very aim was to establish a Constitution-free zone, one in which they could keep people jailed forever and torture them to their heart’s content and never have to bring them to trial.
It’s a sad and pathetic legacy of the decision after World War II to convert the U.S. government from a limited-government republic to a national-security state, a type of governmental structure that is inherent to totalitarian regimes, one in which government officials wield tyrannical powers. That’s why it’s not enough to close the Pentagon’s and CIA’s imperialist prison and torture center in Cuba. To restore freedom and justice to our land, it’s also necessary to restore a limited-government republic to ensure that this type of dark tyranny never afflicts our nation again.