Guilty, Whether Guilty or Not

Kudos to the New York Times for this editorial today blasting Bush and Sen. Lindsay Graham for the military commissions bill.

One of the many problems with the new law is that it will only make it harder than it already is to separate the real terrorists from the far larger group of inmates at Guantánamo Bay who were bit players in the Taliban or innocent bystanders. Mr. Graham and other supporters of this dreadful legislation seem to have forgotten that American justice does not merely deliver swift punishment to the guilty. It also protects the innocent.

What does the new law provide?

The new law leaves this mockery of justice stronger. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 makes it virtually impossible to contest a status tribunal's decision. It prohibits claims of habeas corpus -- the ancient right of prisoners in just societies to have their detentions reviewed -- or any case based directly or indirectly on the Geneva Conventions. Even if an appeal got to the single appeals court now authorized to hear it, the administration would very likely argue that it cannot be heard without jeopardizing secrets, as it has done repeatedly.

The new law dangerously expands the definition of illegal enemy combatant and allows Mr. Bush -- and the secretary of defense -- to give to anyone they choose the authority to designate a prisoner as an illegal combatant. It also allows Mr. Bush to go on squirreling prisoners away at secret C.I.A. camps where none of the rules apply.

As to Bush's "just trust me" meme:

Mr. Bush wants Americans to trust him to apply these powers only to truly dangerous men. Even if our system were based on that sort of personal power and not the rule of law, it would be hard to trust the judgment of a president and an administration whose records are so bad. The United States has yet to acknowledge that it kidnapped an innocent Canadian citizen and sent him to be abused in a Syrian prison. In another case, a German citizen has accused the United States of grabbing him off the streets of Macedonia, drugging him and sending him to Afghanistan, where he was brutally treated. Then there is the Ethiopian living in London who said he was grabbed by American agents and brutalized by Moroccan torturers until he confessed to plotting with Jose Padilla to set off a "dirty bomb." Mr. Padilla was never charged with the crime. The Ethiopian remains at Guantánamo Bay.

And my favorite point of all:

Republicans who support the new law like to point out that it only covers foreigners. But Americans have never believed that human rights are just for Americans. Our nation is outraged when an authoritarian government jails an American, or one of its own citizens, on trumped-up charges and brings him or her before a phony court. Surely that is not the model we want to follow in our nation's prisons.

If this is what it takes to make the New York Times wake up as to how we treat prisoners, at home and abroad, whether American or not, I'm all for new awakening. Until we redefine our notions of crime, punishment and conditions of confinement, there will be more of the same, not just to "enemy combatents" but to those born and raised in Peoria.

I only hope their voice is loud enough to be heard, with only 24 days to go .

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  • Re: Guilty, Whether Guilty or Not (none / 0) (#3)
    by Running With Scissors on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 06:54:08 AM EST
    definition of illegal enemy combatant
    The op ed autor repeatedly uses the terms legal and illegal. The MCA defines lawful and unlawful enemy combatants, not legal and illegal. Here is the act that will be signed Tuesday. MCA 2006 Regards RwS

    Re: Guilty, Whether Guilty or Not (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 08:42:46 AM EST
    You could be the next Jose Padilla. That is all.

    Re: Guilty, Whether Guilty or Not (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 08:42:46 AM EST
    what is ridiculous is the lack of "enemy combatants" why have we placed soldiers in a category they don't belong? this is a war crime. just because they don't appear the same as other soldiers, they don't fit the "bill" but, that doesn't diminish who they are. seems anything based on a past reality is mutable to this admin, they just change the rules to fit we need to win against the philosophy that is bent upon ending the world as we know it, and usher in an era they don't even understand

    Re: Guilty, Whether Guilty or Not (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 08:51:45 AM EST
    this is legislation for a completely desperate administration. consider: they've spent the past five years telling us to be scared sh*tless of the terrorists within and without. they've actually convicted few. simply put, taking out the normal rules of evidence, habeas corpus, etc, they can claim all kinds of successful terrorist convictions, and no one will know, because it's all kept secret, under the blanket "national security" heading. what success comrades! i honestly don't think even orwell would believe it.

    Re: Guilty, Whether Guilty or Not (none / 0) (#6)
    by Edger on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 09:14:14 AM EST
    Mr. Bush wants Americans to trust him to apply these powers only to truly dangerous men.
    Everyone, everywhere, is truly dangerous to Bush, in Bush's eyes. And since he is the president everyone, everywhere, is "Guilty, Whether Guilty or Not", because he says so. There is no longer any need for laws, courts, trials, or for a justice system, because Bush says so.
    When the Master governs, the people
    are hardly aware that he exists.
    Next best is a leader who is loved.
    Next, one who is feared.
    The worst is one who is despised.
    If you don't trust the people,
    you make them untrustworthy. -- Lao-tzu (abt.551-479 BCE)

    Re: Guilty, Whether Guilty or Not (none / 0) (#7)
    by Punchy on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 12:35:24 PM EST
    I could be wrong, but from what I've read, the second-to-last draft of the bill made it apply only to foreigners. At the last minute, WH lawyers struck that part out to include all and any American. I could be wrong on this, but I don't think so.

    Re: Guilty, Whether Guilty or Not (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 04:23:27 PM EST
    Punchy, it doesn't matter whether there's a specific protection for US citizens or not. Imagine that you're a high profile opponent of Bush, his policies, or just the GOP generally. High profile meaning, not only are you speaking out, but people are listening. So you disappear. Even though you're a US citizen. Once you're imprisoned, you have no acces to the outside world. Your friends and family won't know what happened to you, where you are, or even who took you. What can you do? Nothing. Not a goddamn thing.