The Gang That Couldn't Try Right
What do you get when you combine a stubborn White House with an arrogant Pentagon, an ineffectual Congress and a distracted and deferential Supreme Court? Six years (and counting) of missed opportunities, false starts, backward steps and inertia in the effort to prosecute hundreds of terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay. You've heard of the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight? We are burdened by the Gang That Couldn't Try Right.
Newsweek this week is offering up an interesting piece that unfortunately highlights only some of the chaos and "dysfunction" that has marked the government's effort to try terrorism suspects captured after Sept. 11. The piece focuses on some of the practical problems of prosecuting men who are allegedly part-soldier, part-terrorist and part-criminal. But the real shame of the military commissions at Guantanamo is not that these practical problems still exist; It's that the White House and Pentagon have made the problems worse by insisting on unrealistic and unfair rules governing the process.
The complete story is more infuriating than what Newsweek offers. Sure, the detainees present military lawyers with new challenges-- for example, how to deal with classified information at trial or what to do with detainees who were "interrogated" in a manner that would make their "confessions" inadmissible in our civilian courts. But the White House, the Pentagon and Congress have refused to compromise with the Supreme Court to reach an accord on what the rules could and should look like. The hapless Military Commissions Act of 2006 is only the latest example of this half-hearted push to do things right.
And, sure, there are good military officials strugging within the confines of a massive bureaucracy to do the right thing. But there are also, alas, too many cases like the one Newsweek profiles-- the case of leading war-crime prosecutor Col. Morris Davis, who quit last week after losing a turf battle with a superior officer over tribunal rules. Remember JAG lawyer Charles Swift? He was as good as it gets at the Pentagon, and yet, when he won a case before the Supreme Court on behalf of a detainee, it was curtains for his career. Who wins and who loses when that happens?
There is simply no excuse for the government's continued failure to develop a legally-sound, constitutionally-valid and workable tribunal process for the detainees. Too many good and brave military lawyers have being castigated and forced out because they failed or refused to go along with a sleazy strategy that put success (convictions) ahead of minimal fairness. Too many venal politicians, bureaucrats and wonks have tried to have their cake and eat it too; tried to manipulate military law and due-process principles to push ahead with self-defeating rules.
The story of the Guantanamo Bay detainees-- the story of their six years of waiting-- is a colossal failure of creativity and imagination and concern. And you just know that it never would be tolerated, legally or politically, if the people it affected most were anything other than who they are.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: ulterior | October 8, 2007 10:14 AM
Posted by: H R Coursen | October 8, 2007 10:18 AM
Posted by: Paul H. | October 8, 2007 01:23 PM
Posted by: Tony | October 9, 2007 08:19 AM
Posted by: gyrotyro | October 9, 2007 10:32 AM
Posted by: Samson | October 9, 2007 12:40 PM
Posted by: Singing Senator | October 9, 2007 12:44 PM
Posted by: CRix | October 10, 2007 03:00 PM
Posted by: | October 11, 2007 01:47 PM