Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Going Home

A spot of good news (sorta kinda): Salim Ahmed Hamdan will soon be going home. From today's Washington Post:

The U.S. military has decided to transfer Osama bin Laden's former driver from custody at Guantanamo Bay to his home in Yemen, ending the seven-year saga of a man the Bush administration considered a dangerous terrorist but whom a military jury found to be a low-level aide.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan is expected to arrive within 48 hours in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, where he will serve out the rest of his military commission sentence, which is set to expire Dec. 27, two government officials said. The Pentagon's decision to send Hamdan home narrowly avoids what could have been a sticky diplomatic situation, as Bush administration officials had long contended they could hold Hamdan indefinitely.

A couple of things struck me by this news. The first is that the decision was made by "the U.S. military," i.e., "the Pentagon," and not by the President of the United States or by civilian administration officials. Is that who is running the show? Yes, Mr. Hamdan was held and tried by the military, but only after the civilian Congress gave them the authority to do so, as the civilian Supreme Court demanded.

The second has to do with the ongoing assertion that this country can detain individuals indefinitely without charge. That assertion, like the concept of the Unitary President, will have to be stomped into nothingness if we are ever going to return to our constitutional way of life. Apparently the Pentagon isn't going to give up without a fight.

Hamdan's attorneys were poised to fight the assertion that their client could be held indefinitely, a case that probably would have brought Hamdan back to the Supreme Court to challenge his detention. Instead, he will serve out the remaining month of his sentence in a Yemeni prison before being released to his wife and two young children, one of whom has never met him. Hamdan is about 40.

"Legally, we absolutely have a right to hold enemy combatants, but politically is he the guy we want to fight all the way to the Supreme Court about?" said a defense official familiar with the release negotiations. "I think we came to the conclusion that, no, he wasn't. This is a win for everyone."

"Legally"? "We absolutely have a right"?

Pardon me, but this isn't Argentina or the Soviet Union in the mid-Twentieth Century. In its earlier holdings involving Hamdan and Boumediene, the Supreme Court made it clear that habeas corpus is still an "absolute" right in this nation. The Global War On Terror is merely a politically palatable euphemism, and not a statement of fact.

What is fact is that the Pentagon didn't want to risk another slap-down by the Court, nor did it want to risk a showdown with the new President, who has already made it clear that Guantanamo Bay is going to be closed and the detainees brought to American soil.

Morons, but very, very dangerous ones.

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Blogger ProblemWithCaring said...

I just pray that Obama has the cajones to deal with this and not punt these sensitive decisions to Pentagon brass who wouldn't know Constitutional Law from a hole in their ass.

Hey, when Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, he had the balls to make the call himself. Yes, it was 150 years ago and you could eat a slave and not be prosecuted for war crimes then, but still...

1:56 PM  

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