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Rationale for Gitmo Prosecution Decision Explained: It’s Bush’s Fault

Morgen on November 13, 2009 at 11:48 am

The White House announced earlier today that they are bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11, and 4 other Guantanamo detainees, to New York to face prosecution. Andy McCarthy at National Review has a great take on the likely agenda behind Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to hold such an unnecessary, and dangerous, criminal show trial for what can only be described as an act of war against our nation. It’s puzzling to say the least, especially when in parallel with this announcement, the Attorney General also announced that military tribunals will be held for 5 other Gitmo detainees, including the mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing in Yemen.

If you are wondering what sort of thinking went into the distinction between the two groups of detainees, the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) – a close ally of the White House – released an illuminating report earlier this week which seems to have foretold this announcement. In a report entitled “Getting Back on Track to Close Guantanamo“, here is one of 4 key recommendations by the Center: 

Prosecute 9/11 conspirators in federal court and limit military commissions to battlefield crimes. The prosecution of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators is the most important of all cases at Guantanamo. U.S. federal criminal courts can handle this prosecution, and it will demonstrate meaningful change, setting the tone for broader U.S. detention policy. It is in the United States’ strategic interest to refrain from seeking the death penalty no matter which forum it chooses, thus denying martyrdom to the 9/11 conspirators. Military commissions remain tainted by Bush-era mistakes, and must be limited – if used at all – to battlefield crimes in order to gain a measure of legitimacy.

Except for the decision to seek the death penalty for Mohammed and crew, the Attorney General has followed this recommendation down to the detail. The report goes on to provide some additional elaboration on the “blame Bush” rationale for limiting the use of military courts:

President Obama inherited more when he took office than just the 240 detainees who remained imprisoned at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay. He also inherited the legacy of a disastrous detention regime. The Bush administration created a prison camp specifically designed to exist outside the reach of the law. It did so because what it intended to do was transparently illegal: torture, indenite detention, and show trials that made a mockery of justice. Guantanamo became a symbol of American hypocrisy that did measureable damage to American security. Closing Guantanamo and changing U.S. detention policy is not an elective choice; it is a national security imperative.

Whatever the forthcoming spin is from the White House, there can be no doubt that this is the basis for the Attorney General’s decision on the use of civilian versus military courts. And it’s a disgrace, especially given the lengths that the Bush Administration went through to deal with the complex legal issues involved with Guantanamo, and the more than humane treatment of every last terrorist detained there. And whatever your position is on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, there is no denying that the policies of the prior Administration saved lives and protected us against any further domestic attacks. Unless your focus is on siding with our foreign critics and outright enemies, this is the legacy of the Bush years which matters most.

What’s even worse than the knee-jerk “blame Bush” mentality is the hypocrisy, as the Obama Administration has done virtually nothing in practice to deviate from more recent Bush era policies related to detainees and the prosecution of the War on Terror. Sure, they announced the closure of Guantanamo by January 2010. But as the central thesis of the CAP report makes crystal clear, this has been an abject failure on the part of the Administration, and they are virtually no closer to resolving these issues than they were when they started. Will there be any botched policy from this White House that isn’t blamed on an “inherited” problem? Somehow I doubt it.  

With each and every decision (and non-decision) reached by this Administration, it should be increasingly clear to all Americans exactly what sort of person we elected to the White House. A feckless, over-analytical egomaniac who seems incapable of accepting responsibility for anything. 2012 can’t come quickly enough.

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Category: Crime & the Law, Politics |

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