Who says the Show Trial Must Go On?

Clearly not Dick Cheney’s “Woman in HavanaGuantanamo,” convening authority Susan Crawford, who, as the official responsible for bringing show trials military commission hearings for made-up political reasons violations of the laws of war, has now decided to drop charges against five detainees (Binyam Mohammad, Noor Uthman Muhammed, Sufyiam Barhoumi, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi, and Jabran Said Bin al Qahtani) on the apparent basis of prosecutorial misconduct and political intervention as recently raised by former GTMO prosecutor (until he resigned) Lt. Col. Darrell Vandeveld.
Well, well, well. It was seemingly these commission hearings that were supposed to justify the whole GTMO enterprise, and yet, now it seems the Bushmen probably can’t even get another one in before the election. Only two commissions have gone to completion: one involved the guilty plea of David Hicks, who is now out of jail in Australia, and the other involved a guilty verdict of Salim Hamdan, who is scheduled to be released at the end of the year (although the Bush Administration continues to insist it has the right to hold him past his sentence, everyone else in the universe be damned).
The GTMO census, of course, is well under 300 these days, perhaps even only around 250 or so, with an acknowledgement that “as many as 80” detainees “should be charged with war crimes” (seemingly an incredible shrinking number), another number, maybe 50, 60, 80, 100 or who knows, “cleared for release,” whatever that means because they have been held for years and may well be held further forever, and with some remaining intermediate number as neither warranting charge nor release! But we have always been led to believe that the worst of the worst of the worst were those charged… and yet, somehow, despite getting to make up all the rules itself, the Bush Administration has yet to pull off more commissions than either Hicks or Hamdan.
BTW, let me follow up on those two men, because they are microcosms of everything wrong with the entire conduct of the “war on terror.” Their attorneys Josh Dratel and Neal Katyal also happen to be the very first Guantanamo lawyers we I interviewed.
The problem with the Bush Administration’s approach has been a problem with George W. Bush the man (and in this case, I use that word “man” extremely loosely). In high school, my “interscholastic sport” happened to be… math. But I played, damn it… [I made all-county my senior year, btw.] In college, my sport was rowing (albeit just for a year, and I only competed against Princeton… but still.) For Dubya, his high school and college sport was… cheerleading. And not the modern kind that’s really an amazing combination of gymnastics and modern dance… no, the other kind of cheerleading. Yeah. That kind.
What this means is that Dubya, unlike his father, who played varsity baseball (instead of shouting through a megaphone about it), is and has always been concerned with the show aspect of things… why his entire governance has been about “cheerleading”…” support our troops… or else”. Why the Tinkerbell theory– if you say bad things about the President’s conduct of the war in Iraq… somehow our soldiers will weaken their resolve and we will lose… and this horses*** became “conventional wisdom.”
In short, we are led by morons, especially the moron in chief, albeit a moron with Ivy League degrees and a reasonably high i.q. (probably much higher than Cheney’s, btw). So what. He’s a moron. And so is Cheney. And so, we come to the war on terror. David Hicks. John Walker Lindh. Westerners, who did what every intelligence service in the world, including our own, was unable to ever do: walk right in to al Qaeda training camps, and get up close and personal right next to al Qaeda leadership. In short, as the “war on terror” got going, Lindh and Hicks were probably the most important intelligence assets this country had. So what did we do? Exactly: we vilified
them, and went for the easy, cheap publicity stunt of parading them in front of the world and accusing them of terrorism and treason just to show the morons back home that “we were winning” (whiile actually letting OBL and AQ leadership escape), rather than, of course, playing them as the intel assets they were. We did not make sure that we actually won the God damned war instead of just having something to make political points about. And so we invest trillions and flush our Constitution down the toilet spying on our own citizens for the razzly dazzly technological angle, when… we ignore the human angle that literally came up and hit us on the head. Is it any wonder that over seven years past 9-11, and we are not one inch closer to capturing OBL, and we are still bogged down hopelessly (and pointlessly) in both Iraq and Afghanistan?
What use intel assets as… intel assets? Noooooo… Instead, Lindh sits in a super-max going insane for 20 years, so Ashcroft could take credit for a scalp, and Hicks languished at GTMO for over 6 years, for no good reason. And as useful as those two men might have been for intel purposes, Hamdan actually cooperated. Hamdan was on OBL’s personal staff (albeit as a mechanic and some time chauffeur), but could certainly provide key details of AQ. So… use him as an intel asset? Noooo… again, screw the intel value: Hamdan was just too valuable to put on trial for political points!
Fast forward to the present… at GTMO, which both candidates have promised to close down, an irrelevant Bush Administration now drops a bunch of irrelevant show trials because of not-so-irrelevant prosecutorial misconduct. And yet, hundreds still languish there (God knows how many languish in Afghanistan and elsewhere)… even as the already irrelevant Bush Administration begins to take its rightful place in the dustbin of history.
Only, as this episode demonstrates, not fast enough. Deep sigh.