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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bush v. al Qaeda

Admit it, are you the least bit surprised the long-delayed military tribunals involving six Guantanamo detainees are expected to begin this year and take some of the spotlight off the presidential race -- and the candidates running for and against the Bush administration.

As the lawyers like to say, let's stipulate the people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are bad guys. And if proven guilty of their crimes, they would deserve a penalty similiar to being strapped into a building where a full-loaded drone aircraft crashes. And let's also stipulate that I don't believe in the death penalty or torture.

But I will take the White House denial that it had nothing to do with the timing of the trials with a shaker or two of salt. The Bush-Cheney axis has controlled every scintilla of the GWOT from the decision to hold people as enemy combatants to the effort to move the trials to the military and away from the rules of the legal system we are ostensibly fighting to defend.

You must also admit it will be some great theater. No, there won't be Jack Nicholson thundering "you can't handle the truth" at Tom Cruise and likable Commander Harmon Rabb Jr. won't be asking the questions either.

But on the one side, the government will be arguing they have masterminds of the 9-11 conspiracy (forget the fact the real mastermind is still prowling around Pakistan and Afghanistan). The crimes they are accused of are truly heinous. The evidence must be compelling or they would bring them to trial. Right?

Just when John McCain supporters might be thinking they will get free publicity during the trials, along will come a defense to put the interrogators on trial. Illegal wiretapping, torture, the tribunals themselves.

Bush will respond it's all part of the process of defending the homeland.
“Six and a half years ago, our country faced the worst attack in our history,” Mr. Bush said late last week, speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference. “I understood immediately that we would have to act boldly to protect the American people. So we’ve gone on the offense against these extremists. We’re staying on the offense, and we will not relent until we bring them to justice.”
Others beg to differ:
“I wish they had as coherent a strategy for fighting the war on terror as they do for politicizing the war on terror,” Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said on Monday.
And how will the defense make that point?

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said the strategy for the military attorneys assigned to defend the men, and any civilians who volunteer to help, would be clear: Focus on the government's harsh treatment of them to call into question the validity of the prosecution's evidence.

"By hook or by crook, you would try to get evidence of improper interrogation techniques, or coercive interrogation techniques, on the record - not just in front of the trier-of-fact, but before the court of public opinion," said Fidell, who has been a critic of the administration's detainee policy.

In the end, the American people will decide -- not just in the court of public opinion but also at the ballot box. No Oscars or Emmys. Just a Constitution, the biggest prize of them all.

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