A Good Start on Fixing Gitmo
The Pentagon has just decided that it will give detainees everywhere, including those held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, protections under the Geneva Conventions, the Financial Times and New York Times reported this morning. This is huge news. It means that the Administration has decided that it no longer can defend the legal position it announced in 2002 that suspected terrorists can be treated differently from prisoners of war. And it means that the Supreme Court's big terror law ruling last month already has shaped government policy for the better.
In some ways, the decision, confirmed by White House officials this morning, simply returns U.S. policy about the law of war back to the where it was before the terror attacks of 9/11. But it does so at a time when the world community has been putting significant political pressure on the U.S. to re-commit itself to the letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions in light of White House efforts to recast the war on terror as a "new paradigm" of warfare not covered by existing international treaties. The move also presages the possibility of a compromise by the executive and legislative branches that would authorize military commissions for Gitmo detainees that comport with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And of course that would be huge news as well.
By taking the initiative and fixing a problem that had become a growing concern-- even before five Justices formally and officially recognized it as such-- the Administration dramatically improves both its political position abroad and its legal position at home. It helps ensure that our soldiers all over the world will receive the protections of the Conventions. Moreover, it creates momentum this week for the hearings that are scheduled to take place in Congress on the issue of how precisely the Gitmo detainees ought to have their so-called "day in court." Although this move came late, years late for many, it is welcome news that it came at all.
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