Saying No to the Gitmo Deal-- For Now

As faithful readers know, I've been a big proponent of a deal between the White House and the Congress that would put back on track the processing of terror detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A deal. But not any deal. And the deal that Republican Senators and the White House came up with last week simply isn't good enough or, more precisely, doesn't adequately solve the many problems that have surfaced since President Bush authorized our forces to take off the gloves when it comes to handling detainees. I am all about compromise. But the compromise has to be a meaningful one and not one that simply delays for another day the resolution of the conflict.

For example, there ought to be more discussion of the provision in the deal that would preclude judicial review for the detainees. Such review may be cumbersome but so far it's proved to be invaluable. Without it, the courts would never have been able to call out the White House on its old plan to try the detainees before military commissions. Also, Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans ought to push the dealmakers for a better explanation of the proposed language that would be added to federal law. Does it simply paper over the differences between the Bush Administration and the Congress when it comes to the treatment of detainees? Is it a wink-and-a-nod solution that will not stop our military personnel from torturing suspects?

Another component of the proposed deal that makes me queasy is the immunity that would be given to interrogators who break the law when questioning suspects, a sinister development which our own military officials have said has occurred since the war on terror was unleashed. I'm not sure that protecting our people who cross the line is the right message to send to them or the rest of the world.

So what would I do? Well, we've waited five years for a solution to this problem. We can wait a little while longer. I vote for putting this deal on hold until the next term of Congress, when the legisilative body will (presumably) be more in synch with popular sentiment. Then the newly-constituted Senate and newly-constituted House of Representatives can build upon this proposed compromise, tweak it where it needs to be tweaked, and perhaps come out with a new set of rules that, finally, offer clarity and certainty over conduct and policy that begs for both.

By Andrew Cohen |  September 25, 2006; 12:00 PM ET
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Frankly I disagree with your stance because ultimately this is an issue of International Law that can and likely will be judged one day outside of the United States.

Since I have no deep knowledge of international law, I am doubtless here on thin ice, but my observations have been that any nation can attempt to bring to "justice" any individual for war crimes and crimes against humanity who happens to wander into their territory. Even if the person has committed atrotcities in their own country and already been pardoned as part of mass plea bargins and amnesties, such as the Argentine and Chliean societies established. (Again please correct me here if I have misread the record.)

Treaties are a very shoddy protection indeed, just ask all those Rowandese who were so well protected by the UN and the anti-genocide treaty.

Posted by: Constitutionalist | September 25, 2006 03:57 PM

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