And so the
Soviet show trials Guantanamo military commissions proceed, with their buttoned-down motto being “expect the unexpected”… after the Pentagon went through the trouble of lotterying off seats for families of 9-11 victims at the show trial commission hearing of KSM and a total of 5 of the alleged masterminds of the 9-11 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammad and the other defendants offered to plead guilty.
KSM and the others are isolated from all the other prisoners, but despite being so bad that he and some others were admittedly waterboarded (the only actual acknowledged torture committed by the United States), it appears that they alone were permitted to (1) confer with each other, and (2) fire their counsel, and (3) speak themselves in open court, in this case, to purportedly offer their plea. A guilty finding on all charges carries (mass murder in this case) carry the death penalty. As you know from our interview with Buz Eisenberg, ordinary prisoners can’t meet with their lawyers more than one at a time, and must be shackled to the floor doing so.
The judge, Col. Steven Henley, who was courageous enough to have previously kicked off head prosecutor Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann from prosecutions because of his biased and inappropriate conduct, ordered further hearings with respect to the confessions, specifically, to ascertain just how “voluntary” these pleas are. Frankly, my answer is “it’s already over, geniuses.” Anything these guys say from here on in is tainted by the fact that Bush and Cheney and Tenet and Rumsfeld and the other war criminals running our country for the last eight years couldn’t keep their pants on and simply question prisoners the way American law requires prisoners to be questioned: within the laws of the United States, and of civilized conduct. Oh no: we had to “take the gloves off” and “go to the dark side if you will” (with thanks to the late Tim Russert for not following that one up.)
And so, what we have is a freaking mess: it may look like we have ideologically extreme men who want to seek their final martyrdom on George W. Bush’s watch. God knows, everyone would like justice done to the perps of 9-11. But… is taking confessions based on torture… justice? Not in any civilized place or context. KSM famously confessed his actions to Yosri Fouda an Al-Jazeera journalist well before his capture. He could well be tried, and found guilty, on this alone. The difference? He talked to Fouda before being tortured by the United States government. Does that make any difference? WTF do you think?
Judge Henley, newly assigned to this case, has, in other cases thus far, been deliberate, careful, and above all, fair. In the end, he may well accept that it is possible that despite years of torture, the “high value” alleged terrorists before him could still make free and voluntary confessions and/or guilty pleas, and accept their pleas. Or he might find that it is not possible. I don’t envy him the task.
The problem is, and has always been, that we owed the 9-11 victims something more than a botched war in Afghanistan that allowed OBL and Zawahiri to escape, a botched war in Iraq that has taken our military to the breaking point, the dismemberment of our moral standing in the world with GTMO, extraordinary renditions, waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, etc., and now this. We owed these people our best efforts to bring their murders to justice.
Somehow… this all just doesn’t seem to be that.
And so the