Finally, Light At The End of the Island

I'm sure there are persistent critics of President Bush's policies who will declare today's stunning news about high-level terror detainees to be just "politics as usual." Those critics are wrong. Whatever motivated the White House to bring in from the cold 14 high-level terror detainees, including the infamous Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, and prepare them for trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is largely irrelevant. What is important is that the men now are measurably closer to facing justice under American law. This is an absolutely good thing. Good for us as a nation and more importantly good for the tens of thousands of 9/11 victims and survivors who already have waited nearly five years to get their "day in court" against someone who actually had something to do with the worst crime in American history.

The White House's trifecta-- bringing the terror big-shots in from those secret CIA prisons, transferring them to Gitmo, and compromising on the rules that would be used at their military tribunals-- immediately changes the legal and political dynamic in this area of the war on terrorism. It puts Congress on the defensive and under the gun to promptly accept the Administration's tribunal procedures-- despite their still-obvious shortcomings-- or risk being tarred as the only branch of government that is standing in the way of seeing men like Binalshibh and Mohammed prosecuted. And if the Congress does strike a deal with the White House over tribunal procedures, the fact that the men already are at Gitmo and ready to be prosecuted, makes it more likely that the Supreme Court, finally, will accede to the wishes of the other two branches. Maybe trifecta is the wrong word. Maybe "triple bank shot" is more like it.

Although military officials Wednesday afternoon were talking about trials starting as early as January 2007, the fact is that the men won't be prosecuted soon. Even if Congress makes the deal the terms will be reviewed by the federal courts and that will take some time. And there is still strong opposition in the Senate to the Administration's reluctance to allow the defendants broader access to classified material that might help in their own defense. But by any calculation we are closer today to seeing some sort of resolution to the Gitmo mess than we were yesterday. The detainees deserved to be tried fairly-- and the White House clearly is moving in the right direction. The victims of 9/11 deserve to have those trials take place quickly-- and that's now at least a possibility. And the rest of us deserve to know that our political leaders have the brains and the courage to recognize their errors and move to fix them. You can check that off the list, too, on this day of great movement and promise for an issue that has seen far too little of either lately.

By Andrew Cohen |  September 6, 2006; 3:38 PM ET
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You certainly are easy to please! Now, because the administration has eased up a little bit in flaunting justice, Congress is "on the defensive" and should act quickly to rubber-stamp whatever new version of a kangaroo court the administration proposes? Now that's what I call negotiating!

I believe that your analysis here is the only time that I have ever heard anyone say that the Bush administration has been willing (or able) to recognize their errors and move to fix them.

I suggest that you try this whole argument again, but seriously next time.

Posted by: JimPreston | September 6, 2006 06:36 PM

"Whatever motivated the White House to bring in from the cold 14 high-level terror detainees, including the infamous Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, and prepare them for trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is largely irrelevant."


...really?

What if it was a statement that the entire program is illegal?

Made by a Supreme Court Justice?

In spite of years of comments to the contrary from King George and his trusted advisors?

But still, you may have a point. As long as he is not prosecuted for his long-running illegal activities, and none of his subordinates are prosecuted (if in fact they aren't granted blanket immunity by Congress), it might very well be "irrelevant", at least in a legal sense. Still you see that he is playing the "blame game". He's blaming these men for their status, saying that we had to torture them in some far-off cave in Bulgaria because they were really evil terrorists intent on doing great harm to the US.

Well, that may be true. But still we have no idea if it actually is true or not. We have to take the President at his word, yet again, in spite of a long history of lies. And that is in no way, shape or form "irrelevant". It gets to the core issue of where we stand as a country, on the issues of truth and justice, law and order.

And at this point it seems that we're perfectly happy to sweep those issues under the rug and do whatever we feel like we need to do for our own protection, legal or not. And that puts us at *BEST* even with the terrorists.

That's not insignificant at all.

It is saying that this is war, and in war, all is fair. Regardless of whether you are a terrorist, or the President of the United States. Every word that Bush utters to try to explain or rationalize these secret prisons and this global capture and hold strategy is undermining his very status as the leader of the Free World, and indeed, our countrys' status as a bastion of freedom, law and order.

He is making us look like a bunch of international terrorists. And he just doesn't get it.

Quoting Stalin (in the sense of why we have to round up our enemies and ship them off to the Lubyanka for interrogation and then off to Siberia) is just not going to get you very far when you babble about "democracy", "human rights", "freedom" and "justice". It just does not work. The harder he tries, the more he demonstrates that he is out of touch with those very concepts, and all he really cares about is protecting Americans.

Then you have to wonder about why he is so worried about that now when he clearly wasn't worried about it before 9/11. Exactly what sort of domestic political advantage did bin Laden place in his hands, through that attack? And how has that morphed into an international tool for the repression of political opposition?

We'll never know, really. Because all the info has to come through the very same government that has been "rendering" people into these secret prisons, for years. And now, is training and exchanging methods with other governments that are more openly totalitarian and "anti-freedom" than our own government, which clearly talks the talk of the Founding Fathers but walks the walk of the Gestapo and KGB.

Posted by: cc | September 6, 2006 06:37 PM

...to sit here and listen to our President describe these people as "freedom-haters" while he kowtows to China, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Israel and God knows what other repressive countries in the hypocritical name of "defending freedom" is just a joke. One would hope that the Founding Fathers wouldn't have anything to *do* with the leaders of these countries. Even Reagan must be spinning in his grave.

This man has twisted every principle that this nation stands for. But he has done it and gotten away with it because our country as a whole has rejected the principles on which it was founded. And embraced old ones, yet again. Greed, power, self-righteousness and vengefulness. He is constantly twisting the facts to his own advantage, both political and financial, and Congress, following their Fearless Leader off the edge of the cliff, is too afraid to reject these philosophies to embody the philosophies of the Founding Fathers and impeach that clueless bastard. They are, for the most part, almost completely morally corrupt, mainly by their desire to maintain power at all costs. When ethically they shouldn't even *be* in Congress.

We'll just have to see if the American people are as corrupt as they are, or if the last 6 years are just a fluke or some reaction to the moral flaws of Bill Clinton. But certainly there's no way in hell that one can compare a lascivious nature to the outright rape of the notion of truth, justice and law and order that has occured under the Bush administration and this Republican-led Congress since the end of Clintons' term as President. This is a national disgrace, but worse, we really don't know if it will get better, or even worse!
We really don't know if the fear of gay marriage is sufficient to keep this trend going another 2 years, 4 years, 6 years or more. One can only hope that the American public will stop looking at the leaves on one tree, and see the entire forest dying around them.


Posted by: cc | September 6, 2006 06:52 PM

...one really should wonder, since Al Gore lost the election by a handful of votes in a few districts in one state...if he had been elected, and 9/11 probably would still have happened, maybe, possibly, let's assume so...if he had done what GW has done in terms of pursuing terrorists (ignoring Iraq) and protecting the country through this rendition program and external "interrogations", and the Republicans had still taken and maintained control of both houses of Congress...one has to wonder if Gore would have been impeached anyway, and how long ago. To just see that the only reason he is still in office and not in JAIL is because he is a Republican president and we have a Republican-controlled Congress.

Sooner or later the jihadists are going to realize, their fight is not necessarily with the West, or even with the USA. It's with the Republican party. Which is corrupt to the core, and has been so since Reagan was elected. The leaders in Iran are laughing their heads off, they've known that since Day 1 of the Iran-Contra scandal. And they are thinking, right now, that we are getting exactly what we deserve, and just how much of a joke "democracy" really is, especially as practiced in the US.

...to think of all those "volunteer" soldiers now on their third, maybe their fourth tour in Iraq, on some mission rejected unanimously by the UN, legally unable to refuse yet another tour, with our "all-volunteer" military stretched past the breaking point yet our President refuses to concede to Reality, instead continuing to spend Americas' wealth to prop up his personal political position. What an f-ing JOKE this country is, in so many ways.


...no, but it's all "irrelevant". Really. Let them rot in those CIA prisons. CIA being another term for "Coercional Institute of America".

Only in the US would we even be talking about using coerced confessions into the military tribunals of a "free country", with a straight face. At least, in Moscow, such a statement would get the snicker that it deserves.

Posted by: cc | September 6, 2006 07:00 PM

"Triple bank shot?" Who are you, and does the WP actually PAY you to write such rivel?
Are you Richard Cohen's cousin?

Posted by: Chris | September 6, 2006 09:59 PM

"Whatever motivated the White House to bring in from the cold 14 high-level terror detainees, including the infamous Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, and prepare them for trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is largely irrelevant."

Really? A deeply cynical effort by this Administration, consistent with everything it's done in the past five years, to manipulate issues of national security for the obvious purpose of influencing the upcoming elections? After it resisted bipartisan efforts to authorize military tribunals in 2002 and 2003? And in clear defiance of the advice of leading JAG lawyers? All that's irrelevant?

What purpose do you think you're serving when you write drivel like this?


Posted by: Robert | September 6, 2006 10:22 PM

2 days after Catie Couric's new role... and we have this...? This does not help her, this makes it harder for her to work and gain attention. Catie Couric is an accessable, powerful, openly Liberal lady, and... I do think that the republican media does not want her to gain fame in her new digs. Sorry, bench-conferance dude,I do not think that this was an entirely pure deal. Although... I do not think that the Gov't would take innocents away to the 'Bay, I do think that this was a timed capture to hinder K.C. and The View... sorry, Mr. Cohen, I do not think you are seing the full picture on this issue. You are entirely correct on the horse issue, though !

Posted by: Light @ The End of The Lie, Man | September 6, 2006 11:00 PM

"...and really truly especially when the commenter calls me unprincipled and tries to compare me with religious conservatives."

Since when was being conservative and religious an insulst? Why?

Is conservatism wrong?

Is religion wrong?

You react like someone has called you an obscenity. Sounds more to me like you are biased and anti-religious like most of your extremist ilk who argue for tolerance but are themselve intolerant of religion and any other view or philosophy with which they disagree.

People who believe in democracy, but find it inappropriate for non-Western cultures where the people may embrance view antithetical to ours.

So I think the "unprincipled" sticks to you.

Posted by: Constitutionalist | September 7, 2006 05:43 AM

Andrew Cohen is a very sweet guy. He just wants to put a positive spin on this administration's policies, or as the song put it, "accentuate the positive." My only gripe is with the name of this blog. It should be, Bench Conference, by Pollyanna.

Posted by: Dave, Freeport, IL | September 7, 2006 07:43 AM

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