Saturday, April 12, 2008

Two Conspiracies to Torture the Innocents

Texas officials showed a touching solicitude for the rule of law when they explained why it took them four years to break up a conspiracy to rape teenage girls. The local sheriff had an informer inside the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which the Boston Globe describes as a "renegade Mormon splinter group." He did nothing. When a terrified 16-year-old girl finally took the risk to call the authorities, "State troopers put into action the plan they had on the shelf to enter the 1,700-acre compound, and 416 children, most of them girls, were swept into state custody because of suspicions that they were being sexually and physically abused."

Yesterday, state and local law enforcement authorities defended their decision to leave the sect alone for four years after it moved in.

"We are aware that this group is capable of" sexually abusing girls, Sheriff David Doran said. "But there again, this is the United States. We are going to respect them. We're not going to violate their civil rights until we get an outcry."

Oh, really?

For more than four years, men have been held and tortured at Guantanamo Bay and at secret locations. They are not the prisoners of Warren Jeffs. The cult leader who keeps them locked up, another Texan, sits in the White House.

The Bush administration has repeatedly claimed that it can imprison these men forever and do anything it wants to them, without answering to any outside authority. Courts have rebuffed that claim. The administration has responded aggressively, using political blackmail to get a fearful Congress to ratify the power of the executive to be judge, jury, and torturer.

Why does the legal system of the United States of America swing into action against Bush's prisoners and let the polygamists' prisoners languish in rape camp? It's not because the people at Guantanamo are terrorists and the people in San Angelo, Texas are not. The best estimate is that two-thirds of the people imprisoned at Guantanamo don't belong there. They were picked up by mistake or fingered by personal enemies. And what do you call a scheme of violence and intimidation that makes teenage girls submit to "spiritual" marriages with much older men besides terrorism and torture?

Are the men in Guantanamo more open to imprisonment because they are foreign and Muslim? Are the girls in San Angelo less worthy of protection because they are young and female?

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