Damned judges…

A federal district judge in Washington halted the process of military commissions deciding the fates of at least four of the perpetual prisoners now in illegal confinement in the American gulag at Guantanimo Bay, Cuba.
“Unless and until a competent tribunal determines that petitioner is not entitled to protections afforded prisoners of war under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention … of Aug. 12, 1949, he may not be tried by military commission for the offenses with which he is charged,” U.S. District Judge James Robertson said in his ruling.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, 34, of Yemen, was lucky enough to have a defense lawyer who managed to get a federal judge to halt the proceedings, before the military kangaroo kourt decided to send Hamdan (reputedly OBL’s driver) to his fate. Thank God we still have judges with enough integrity to actually follow the law…
Here’s the thing: if you put the Bill of Rights to a vote right now before the American people, it might well lose. As I alluded to recently, Americans are downright mean: they are much more interested in inflicting punishment on someone else than they would be on protecting even their own rights. It is, of course, why we HAVE a constitution and courts to enforce them that transcend any individual democratic decision… it’s our constitution and tradition of protected freedoms that make this country great, not the fact that in some respects our republic resembles a democracy.
Which takes us back to an analytical point. This will be useful if Democrats ever expect to win another presidential election.
As of July of this year, George W. Bush was dead. Finished. It became John Kerry’s race to lose. Which, of course, he did. Why?
Because John Kerry weighted himself with a fantasy: that he could overcome the electorate’s traditional suspicion of Democrats on national security issues by simply pretending he was a militaristic tough guy (“John Kerry reporting for duty.”) The deft response to Karl Rove was to take on that image directly– with probable lies, of course, and dishonoring every man and woman that ever served our country in the process– but then, it worked didn’t it (and besides– Americans are mean; they respect viciousness far more than honor).
More to the point, Kerry ignored the reason Bush was dead in the water: Abu Ghraib. And collaterally, Gitmo. The American people were, for a time, actually outraged that torture (and more importantly, useless gratuitous torture of innocent people including children) was being done in the name of this country. Indeed, I would say the American people were (dare I say it) ashamed.
So, enter John Kerry with the perfect opportunity to bring in his past. No, not the sixteen months or so he was a naval officer in the Vietnam theater, and not the period after that when he protested the war. No, no. BOTH PERIODS. Kerry could have spoken of (get this): dishonor. Not the dishonor of George W. Bush’s desertion from the National Guard– no one cared about that. The dishonor of our president having ordered torture, and then standing by while that order, originally intended for OBL and AQ bigwigs, got morphed for women and children picked up at random off the streets of Baghdad. Kerry should have, on a daily basis, shown the pictures, and demanded an apology from the President himself… and more importantly, someone to be held accountable (i.e., firing Rumsfeld, for example).
Here’s the fundamental point: Abu Ghraib was not an opportunity for political points: Abu Ghraib is (hopefully) a one-off outrage. Something to be apologized for. The President made being American something dirty. In short: IT WAS WRONG. Just as holding people arbitrarily, even if apparently for our safety, in violation of treaties, laws and our constitution, IS WRONG.
This wasn’t a matter of risking swing voters in Franklin County, Ohio or Orange County, Florida… this was a matter of RIGHT AND WRONG, things that no HUMAN BEING should stand for, let alone an American, let alone an American seeking the presidency. WRONG. Not inconvenient, or ugly, or inexpedient… WRONG.
But neither Senators Kerry nor Edwards dared even mention these outrages. Any wonder 58 or 9 million people seemed unconcerned with them too?