Lee Wrights: Gitmo’s Gotta Go

by R. Lee Wrights

BURNET, Texas (Feb. 4) – The Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, perhaps better known by its nickname “Gitmo,” is an affront to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the legacy of our national heritage. It should be closed now, and all the people detained there returned to the place where they were seized. In this I wholeheartedly endorse the view of my friend and fellow veteran R. J. Harris who says that Guantanamo is a stain on the U.S. and the U.S. military. Like R.J., I’m ashamed of our leadership for allowing it. The prison facility at Guantanamo Bay does more than just blur the line between the good guys and the bad guys; it erases the line entirely.

Those who fought to establish American freedom and independence were intimately familiar with a despotic government that rendered the military “independent of and superior to the Civil power,” which deprived people “of the benefits of Trial by Jury,” or which transported them “beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences.” That was one of the causes of the American Revolution.

Yet our modern-day leaders, Democrats and Republicans, perpetrate the despotic concept that the president has the right to seize people — even American citizens — anywhere in the world when he alone deems them a threat to our nation and to literally toss them in prison and throw away the key. What is even more disturbing is that President Obama, like his predecessor, is surrounded by legal sycophants who claim that by their distorted interpretation of the law “when the president does it, it is not illegal.”

Forget that this gulag is set on a military base built on land seized from another nation. Overlook the practice of denying detainees their basic rights. Ignore the accusations of torture and mistreatment. Even if you disregard all these things, the very fact that Gitmo exists is an insult to everything our Founding Fathers stood for, to everything millions of Americans have fought and died for throughout our history.

The Guantanamo prison violates every moral, legal and ethical standard America purports to proclaim to the world as examples to emulate. It’s the ultimate in hypocrisy for American officials and diplomats to lecture other nations on “human rights” and “democracy” when the United States incarcerates hundreds of people without providing any evidence of their guilt, without giving them legal counsel or even the facade of a fair trial.

Ironically, while the president’s political lawyers conjure up convoluted justifications for these illegal actions, some military lawyers have put their careers in jeopardy by speaking out against this miscarriage of justice. “Gitmo now takes its place among the world’s most notorious and evil prisons, right up there with Devil’s Island and the Siberian gulag,” said Donna Lorraine Barlett, an Army attorney for 27 years. She was assigned to defend a detainee held for nearly ten years, mostly in seclusion. Barlett took the job, even though she was about to retire, thinking she could bring attention to what she called the “the festering (but largely invisible) national wound that is Gitmo.”

Instead, she said she faced “an entrenched bureaucracy operating at a glacier’s pace, hamstrung by political infighting, red tape, and inefficiency. I can’t even send my client a letter without it being held up for weeks and, now, read by government officials who laughably, inexplicably, still assert some national security interest in our communications.”

Guantanamo is “an assault on constitutional government,” writes Army Maj. Todd E. Pierce in an article published on Law.com. Major Pierce is a 30-year veteran of active duty and reserve service. He volunteered to defend detainees because he was shocked by the legal theory underpinning Guantanamo and the military commissions, and by the notion that the president could ignore or disregard the Constitution and the Geneva Convention, which is part of U.S. law under that Constitution.

“Guantanamo and the military commissions are metastasizing into our whole legal system,” the major said. “We have used the vague and overbroad charge of ‘material support for terrorism’ as cause to investigate anti-war groups in Chicago and Minneapolis, predictably chilling speech and dissent.” He speculates that some critics suggest that the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act would allow military detention of dissidents.

Before that happens, we must close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. It is a disgrace and a blot on America. Gitmo brings upon America a shame as great as that which the federal government brought on us when it forced more than 100 thousand Americans into “relocation camps” during World War II merely because of their ancestry.

Some have said that they deplore the abuses committed at Guantanamo, yet assert that such a facility serves a function and must exist somewhere. But I say, the very fact that Gitmo exists at all is a disgrace to our nation and dishonors everything we stand for, every sacrifice made by every patriot for the cause of Liberty and Freedom.

The unalienable rights that are the birthright of every person must never be denied or restricted by any U.S. government action, regardless of the circumstances. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are not optional rules to guide government, to be followed or ignored at will, nor are they burdens or hindrances during a crisis or in war. On the contrary, it is during times of greatest strain and stress, of greatest danger, that they are the most needed and of the greatest use.

R. Lee Wrights

R.  Lee Wrights, 53, a libertarian writer and political activist, is seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.

Lee Wrights for President
Contact: Brian Irving, press secretary



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21 thoughts on “Lee Wrights: Gitmo’s Gotta Go

  1. Ad Hoc

    Wrights and Harris have the correct position on this.

    Hopefully they will convince Gary Johnson on the issue as they continue to debate him leading up to the convention.

  2. Starchild

    The damning quotes from the two long-time Army lawyers and veterans speak volumes. Lee’s campaign did a good job putting this one together.

  3. Concerned Citizen

    Yes, give trials to the Americans held, but why release the foreigners? They have no rights. Regardless of why, they likely want to harm Americans. We must protect our people. We shouldn’t go to any trouble protecting any one else.


    Just for arguments sake, what is the libertarian position on what do with enemy combatants captured on the battlefields in a war that shows no sign of ending? In Civil War, there were prisoner exchanges (at least for a time); by WWII German prisoners were brought all the way to America where they were put to work in agriculture until the war ended.

  5. Rob Banks

    If it’s a war, they should be held as POWs and given the rights given to POWs under international law.

    Since no war has been declared, it’s probably more proper to treat them as criminal suspects and give them civilian trials.

  6. Thomas L. Knapp


    “Just for arguments sake, what is the libertarian position on what do with enemy combatants captured on the battlefields in a war that shows no sign of ending?”

    Rob Banks answers correctly @8, so I’ll just address myself to the question-begging part of the question.

    Your question assumes that the Gitmo detainees are/were “enemy combatants.”

    In point of fact, it turned out that the vast majority were not.

    Early in the Afghan war, the US forces offered substantial bounties — in the $25k range — for “turning in Taliban.”

    Not surprisingly every 17-year-old goatherd in Afghanistan who’d got caught feeling up the village chief’s daughter, etc., got turned in for those bounties.

    Hundreds of entirely innocent individuals were kept in cages at Gitmo for years before being turned loose. It’s not hard to guess how those people, and their families, and their friends, and their countrymen, feel about that and what effects it may have on their future sympathies and actions.

    One of the major roles of due process is to prevent things like that from happening.

  7. George Phillies

    What is a Libertarian position on people captured on the battlefield?

    We signed a treaty on this.

    All detained persons are either (i) prisoners of war, and are treated as prisoners of war, or (2) are civilians who must be protected.

    What about “illegal combatants”? Fortunately for the people who are claiming that there is such a thing as “illegal combatants”, we have a first amendment, so the people claiming that there is such a thing as an “illegal combatant” cannot — and as a libertarian I vigorously support the “cannot” — be hanged for sedition.

  8. R. Lee Wrights

    RE: @4

    Foreigners have no rights? Ever heard the term “human rights?” Do you dare to suppose that only Americans are human? All rights are human rights and are bestowed upon every man/woman at birth, no matter where he/she is born.

    Americans do not have rights because we have a constitution, we have a constitution because of rights we have always had.

  9. CORRY

    Look at H.R.3702 – Due Process Guarantee Act all it says is only Americans get due process.It pretty much says if you aren’t a USA citizen then you aren’t human and we can do what we want with you.

  10. Concerned Citizen

    Wrights, with all this talk about human rights you sound like Jimmy Carter. When did libertarians become internationalists? The US government should be in the business only of protecting American citizens.

  11. paulie

    Well, many of us have been all over the world for both business and pleasure, and would prefer to continue to have human rights when we travel abroad, which we won’t if foreigners don’t have human rights when here.

  12. Ad Hoc

    No, you’re not, if the other country says you have no rights they can do whatever they want, using the same specious logic you employ.

    The US government is party to international treaties that recognize human rights and treaties are the supreme law of the land in the US.

  13. Concerned Citizen

    Power is all that matters. Our passports are legit because we are more powerful than any other nation.

  14. paulie

    You think it would protect Americans abroad if the US started violating international treaties and ignoring the human rights of foreigners in the US completely (not just in limited circumstances)? Not so much. The US is not going to go to war with dozens of countries if Kazakhstan boils you in oil and Malaysians cut off your scalp and eat your brains while you watch, etc.

    I wouldn’t want to live in that kind of world.

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