Thursday, August 07, 2008

Our Ms. Brooks: Worth It?

Yesterday Salim Ahmed Hamdan was convicted of several counts of providing material support to terrorists, but acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy by the Military Commission at Guantanamo Bay. The sentencing phase has already begun, but it won't make much difference: Hamdan will be held forever as a threat to our nation's security, so even with time served he won't be released if he is sentenced to even ten years at the Gitmo Gulag.

In her column in today's Los Angeles Times, Rosa Brooks takes a look at this extraordinary "judicial proceeding" and comes to the conclusion that the whole commission system is bogus.

After 6 1/2 years -- after detaining hundreds of people at Guantanamo, after trying interrogation techniques adapted from the Chinese and the KGB, after countless protests from the International Committee for the Red Cross, after alienating close allies and creating a cause celebre for our enemies -- have the military commissions really been worth it? ...

Wednesday's conviction of Hamdan may not even survive appeal. Hamdan was convicted of the "war crime" of providing "material support" for terrorism. But there's no international law precedent for viewing the provision of material support for terrorism as a "war crime." That fact will allow Hamdan's defense team to argue, on appeal, that the military commissions didn't properly have jurisdiction over those charges. (Hamdan was acquitted of conspiracy charges, but those charges will likely be faced by other detainees, and will confront a similar challenge).

None of this bodes well for the ability of military commissions to successfully try the few bigger fish at Guantanamo, such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who probably did play a key role in planning the 9/11 attacks. And the irony is that while the military commissions have been tied up in knots, obsessed with small fry, the federal courts have been humming along, trying and convicting dozens of genuinely dangerous terrorists, including 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe-bomber Richard Reid.

Of course the federal courts have efficiently tried terrorists brought before them and they even accorded the defendants the right to know the specific charges against them and to confront their accusers, just as the civilian authorities and the civilian courts secured and tried the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center attack. It's what justice is all about.

The military commissions, however, are not about justice, nor were they ever intended to be. They were cobbled together only after the US Supreme Court made it clear to the administration that it could not hold the hundreds of men at Gitmo indefinitely and without formal charges. The military commissions, with their "first we try them, then we hang them" mentality, are a token nod toward the Supreme Court.

And all of this has been done in our name and in the name of national security. Just how secure can we be knowing that our government kidnaps people, tortures them, detains them forever, and makes a mockery of the most basic of human rights?


166 days.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The judge in the first WTC bombing case was none other than (uber zionist) michael mukasey, our current crime-boss of the the DoJ. IMHO, the blind sheik/preacher/whatever, was railroaded. I'm mistrustful of anything mukasey has been involved with, including passing through his mother's vagina.

7:29 AM  

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