Obama and the Revival of Flawed Military Commissions

The ACLU tells President Obama that reviving the military commissions is like putting lipstick on a pig:

"These military commissions are inherently illegitimate, unconstitutional and incapable of delivering outcomes we can trust. Tweaking the rules of these failed tribunals so that they provide ‘more due process' is absurd; there is no such thing as ‘due process light.' If the administration's proposed rules really bring these proceedings in line with constitutional requirements, there is no reason not to use our tried and true justice system. If they don't, these tribunals have no place in our democracy.


"Despite the administration's efforts to improve the system, the only explanation for reviving it would be to accommodate the damage that has already been done by the Bush administration's policies of torture, illegal detention and denial of fair trials. As unfortunate as it is to inherit that legacy, to accommodate those policies is essentially to ratify them.

"In this case, President Obama would do well to remember his own infamous words during his presidential campaign: you can't put lipstick on a pig."

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    Oh no! (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by jbindc on Fri May 15, 2009 at 03:02:34 PM EST
    Not the pig again! (Even though she looks fabulous!)

    Glenn Greenwald has an excellent (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Anne on Fri May 15, 2009 at 03:35:11 PM EST
    and long post today on this issue, which makes me wonder who, exactly, Obama is listening to, as more than a few of the people quoted on the subject of why military commissions are the wrong way to go are now members of his administration.

    In his most recent update to the post, he says/asks the following:

    UPDATE III: Obama's just-issued statement announcing his support for military commissions is here.  I said most of what I think is worth saying about this, but I'll just add the following:

    (1) Can anyone reconcile Obama's statement today with his August, 2008 statement that we should prosecute accused terrorists "through our courts and our Uniform Code of Military Justice," or with the above-excerpted criticisms of Bush's military commissions?; (2) Obama doesn't even bother to argue any reasons why we cannot try accused terrorists in our already-extant court system; (3) for those who want to claim that Bush's torture prevents obtaining convictions in a real court, Obama is purporting to bar the use of evidence obtained via torture, so how would his military commissions address that problem any better than real courts would?; (4) during the Bush era, civilian courts had a far better record of convicting accused terrorists than military commissions did, including convictions of Jose Padilla, Ali al-Marri, Richard Reid, John Walker Lindh, and Zacharais Moussoui, at least three of whom (Padilla, al-Marri and Lindh) were severely mistreated; if we could convict them in real courts, why can't we convict the other accused terrorists who are actually guilty? (5) if the state is willing to accord due process only when it is guaranteed that it can win, but then creates a new system of diminished due process whenever it believes it cannot win, the guarantee of due process, for rather obvious reasons, becomes completely illusory ("we'll give due process as long as we're sure we can win, and if we can't, we'll give you something less").

    It's hard to reconcile Obama's latest policy with what he has said in the recent past - it might even be impossible.

    One thing I'm pretty definite about: no one ought to ever refer to him again as a constitutional lawyer, or perhaps if they do, it should be put in quotation marks.

    Obama is acting like Bush (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by AX10 on Fri May 15, 2009 at 03:36:56 PM EST
    on Consitutional matters.

    Isn't it well settled by now (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Steve M on Fri May 15, 2009 at 03:39:50 PM EST
    that only "regularly constituted tribunals" can comport with Geneva?  Which is to say, tribunals organized under a special set of rules are automatically illegitimate, no matter how hard we may try to make those rules fairer.

    Or does Obama now accept that the Military Commissions Act was an effective abrogation of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld?  I didn't think that was the standard view from our side of the aisle.

    Obama was elected... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Salo on Fri May 15, 2009 at 03:06:57 PM EST
    ... to keep the system going.  Time to grow up about him.  His main legacy will be:

    1. Three frustrating summer offensives in Afghanistan.

    2. Stabilizing the Bankster system with tax money that mysteriously ends up in stock options for Bank executives.

    3. A really great book titled:  "It's Great To be the President" about being the first black President and how he tried very hard to do something about healthcare but failed.

    Like lipstick on a pig (none / 0) (#6)
    by nellre on Fri May 15, 2009 at 04:00:18 PM EST
    I like pigs.
    How about polish a turd... that's one of my favorites.

    Yup, pigs deserve a lot more respect. (none / 0) (#8)
    by nycstray on Fri May 15, 2009 at 05:03:00 PM EST
    I actually think it would be easier to put lipstick on a pig than on my dog, lol!~ Not that I would ever do that.

    I'm looking forward to 2012... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Fri May 15, 2009 at 05:02:07 PM EST
    when we all get fooled again.

    We're the pig, Obama is the lipstick.

    The Lunatics are in charge (none / 0) (#9)
    by SOS on Fri May 15, 2009 at 05:55:11 PM EST
    of the Asylum. Isn't it obvious?

    Make them prisoners of war (none / 0) (#10)
    by diogenes on Fri May 15, 2009 at 06:45:37 PM EST
    Prisoners of war aren't entitled to trials at all.  Lots of people posting here had been calling for Geneva rules to apply at Gitmo for a long time.  If Geneva is applied then there's no torture and the prisoners are never released.

    well, yeah, (none / 0) (#14)
    by cpinva on Fri May 15, 2009 at 11:32:25 PM EST
    Make them prisoners of war

    except for a couple of minor details:

    1. congress hasn't actually declared war on anyone., and

    2.most of the detainees weren't captured in actual combat. since terrorists generally don't wear uniforms, proving these people were combatants will be somewhat problematic.

    the iraqi soldiers captured during the invasion were treated as POW's, then released at the end of formal hostilities, not so the bulk of the current detainees.

    basically, the bush administration created a clusterf*ck, for someone else to clean up. that's more or less what happens, when you're totally clueless.


    So you're saying that (none / 0) (#16)
    by diogenes on Sat May 16, 2009 at 08:05:45 AM EST
    So you're saying that GITMO detainees did not and do not have Geneva Convention rights.  I guess that you would call them "unlawful enemy combatants".  

    minor details (none / 0) (#17)
    by diogenes on Sat May 16, 2009 at 08:08:18 AM EST
    So how would you characterize Viet Cong guerillas captured in 1969 (no declaration of war, no uniforms)?  Were they tried in federal courts in the US?

    in fairness to the pig, (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Fri May 15, 2009 at 07:48:02 PM EST
    it has no choice in the matter.

    Make them Cuba's problem. (none / 0) (#15)
    by Ben Masel on Sat May 16, 2009 at 03:18:16 AM EST
    Withdraw all US personnel from Guantanamo, and let the Cuban justice system decide what to do with the detainees.