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Compare North Korea’s Judicial System to Gitmo

Kenneth Bae

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on three Americans who are being held by North Korea against their will and who want to return home. The North Korean authorities refuse to let them leave the country. While one of the men, Kenneth Bae, was sentenced to 15 fears for the anti-state crime of proselytizing with the aim of toppling the government, the other two men, Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller, still don’t know the charges against them.

Question: How is the North Korean judicial system any different in principle from the judicial system established by the Pentagon and the CIA at their prison camp in Cuba?

North Korea is ruled by a communist regime. That’s how communist regimes behave. They jail people without charges or on bogus charges. They also torture people with impunity.

For some 45 years anticommunism was the driving force behind the U.S. national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto our constitutional order after World War II, to oppose America’s World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union. U.S. officials told deferential Americans that it was necessary to fundamentally alter America’s governmental structure with a gigantic standing army, an empire of foreign military bases, foreign aid to dictatorships, invasions of Korea and Vietnam, and a super-secret intelligence force (i.e., the CIA) in order to prevent America from going communist.

Interestingly, during the Cold War the U.S. national-security establishment went after members of the U.S. Communist Party for the same crime that North Koreans have convicted Kenneth Bae of — conspiring to topple the government.

What is more interesting, however, is how that national-security apparatus — i.e., the Pentagon and the CIA — adopted communist methods in the purported attempt to protect America from communism. That’s what U.S. assassinations, torture, support of brutal dictatorships, medical experiments on unsuspecting Americans, coups, invasions, embargoes, and regime-change operations were all about. The argument was that in order to defeat the communists in the Cold War, it was necessary for the United States to adopt communist methods.

What is most interesting is that the national-security apparatus, which, again, was supposedly brought into existence to wage the Cold War, failed to go out of existence when the Cold War ended and, even worse, the apparatus continued embracing its communist methods under the rubric of the “war on terrorism.”

Thus it is that the American people still live under a government that wields and exercises the power to assassinate, torture, detain, kidnap, and execute people — all without a genuine trial and due process of law. In fact, it’s ironic that the Pentagon’s prison camp and judicial system are located at Guantanamo Bay, given that Gitmo is situated in Cuba, which has long been ruled by a communist regime, one that the Pentagon and CIA remain steadfastly obsessed about, as reflected by the ongoing Cold War embargo against Cuba and the never-ending U.S. attempts at regime change there.

The inmates at Guantanamo are treated no differently from the way suspects are treated in North Korea. As most everyone knows, some of the prisoners at Gitmo have been there for 12 years, without charges, trials, or even the semblance of due process of law. If they were ever to be given trials, the proceedings would be kangaroo in nature, in that the outcomes of the trials would be preordained by the president and Pentagon officials. Much of the trials would be in secret and evidence acquired by torture and hearsay evidence could be used to buttress the preordained verdict, just like in North Korea. Meanwhile, prisoners at Gitmo have been brutally tortured and have no hope of ever securing justice. It’s not surprising that many of them have gone on hunger strikes in the hopes of killing themselves.

That’s the way the judicial system in communist countries operates. That’s also the way things operate at the U.S. national-security establishment’s judicial system at Guantanamo Bay.

What a disgrace. It’s just one example among many of what America’s embrace of the Cold War — and the national-security state apparatus that came with it — did, and continues to do, to our nation.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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