Each year, the U.S. State Department, as required by law, issues a "Human Rights Report" which details abuses by other countries. To call it an exercise in hypocrisy is to understate the case: it is almost impossible to find any tyrannical power denounced by the State Department which the U.S. Government (and its closest allies) do not regularly exercise itself. Indeed, it's often impossible to imagine how the authors of these reports can refrain from cackling mischievously over the glaring ironies of what they are denouncing (my all-time favorite example is discussed in the update here).
In 2010, the State Department included a long section on the oppressive detention practices of China. The "principal human rights problems" of the tyrannical Chinese government include "a lack of due process in judicial proceedings" and "the use of administrative detention." Indeed, "arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems. The law grants police broad administrative detention powers and the ability to detain individuals for extended periods without formal arrest or criminal charges." Can one even find the words to condemn these Chinese monsters?Time"s Tony Karon today writes about the case of Khader Adnan, a 33-year-old Palestinian baker currently imprisoned without charges by the Israeli government on accusations that he is a spokesman for Islamic Jihad. To protest his due-process-free imprisonment and that of thousands of other Palestinians, Adnan has been on a sustained hunger strike and is now close to death.
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Of course, the U.S. has its own system of indefinite detention now firmly in place. Both within war zones and outside of them, the Obama administration continues to hold hundreds of prisoners who have never been charged with any crime even as they have remained captive for many years. Put another way, both the U.S. and its closest client state have completely normalized exactly the type of arbitrary, due-process-free imprisonment the U.S. has long condemned as the defining attribute of despotism. And, of course, the U.S. Congress just enacted, and President Obama just signed, a law that expressly permits indefinite detention.
Worse, these countries have normalized this practice not merely in terms of government policy, but also the expectations of their own citizens. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found widespread support across the American ideological spectrum for maintaining Guantanamo, where more than 150 prisoners are still held without any charges of any kind, while Dana today writes that "to date, Mr Adnan's hunger strike has stirred little debate in the Israeli press about the legitimacy of administrative detention" (this is the seventh time Adnan has been imprisoned without charges). The hallmark of the Supremely Authoritarian Citizen -- dutifully reciting unproven Government accusations as Truth to justify due-process-free punishment (he's a Terrorist!) -- is now extremely commonplace in the citizenries of both countries.