President Bush is trying to use his final eleven months in office to guarantee that someone — anyone — will be convicted in his controversial military commission tribunal system. After millions of dollars, international scorn, and years of litigation, the Administration wants to try six detainees in the system. Some are reportedly victims of torture. Having destroyed evidence of the torture, it appears that the subjects could also be terminated — the military indicated it will seek the death penalty and Bush himself is the ultimate appellate “decider.”
The military commission tribunals have long been viewed as one of the great blunders of the Bush Administration. Hundreds of detainees have been released — many of whom were found to have been held without cause. No one has stood trial, let alone faced sentencing. Millions have been spent on litigation and the Bush courts have been denounced domestically and internationally as a bad joke, including criticism by conservatives like William Safire and others. The great irony is that if Bush had simply allowed the federal courts to handle the cases, all of these men would have been convicted years ago and could have faced the death penalty.
This has never been about national security. Only a handful of individuals would be tried under the system after paying these prohibitive costs. It is about power. Various extreme voices in the Administration like Viet Dinh and John Yoo sought to use 9-11 to expand executive power. They sought to establish precedent that the President could unilaterally strip citizens and non-citizens of their rights and hold them indefinitely. In the military commission system, they sought to establish that a president could create his own legal system and execute people on his own authority.
Now it is essential that someone be prosecuted under this system, so that Bush can claim some benefit from the high cost borne by the country. It is doubtful that anyone will be executed in his administration. For a prior column, click here
The six examples chosen for this exercise include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, and Walid bin Attash. Of course, Mohammed al-Qahtani is only the latest “20th hijacker” identified by the Bush Administration. (Click here). This seems to be the pursuit of yet additional trophy terrorists after refusing to subject their cases to a real court of law. (Click here and here)/
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