Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hamdan Verdict


Did I mention how startled I was by the verdict? Some have said that this is an indictment of the whole notion of holding some of the people that they have as enemy combatants. Others have said that this vindicates Bush's tribunal idea. Hmmmm.....

First of all, this jury was incredible. It was a jury of military officers, handpicked, presumably, to convict as completely as possible. Sure, the defense was able to kick some off for bias, but whatever, the whole venire was suspect, far as I could tell. And yet, they parsed through the evidence and came up with a very measured verdict and sentence. Let's face it, Hamdan was more than just a simple mechanic or driver, but he was clearly not completely in league with these guys. This jury hit that nail on the head.

Secondly, the Judge. Previous Judges have been removed for being too fair, and yet this guy seemed pretty fair. I don't know all of the details of the rulings, and there was clearly a lot of confidential evidence that we don't know about, but really, I could live with a judge like this once in a while. He actually kept out some of the government's evidence of statements that were coerced. Who would've thunk that after the last 6 years of what we've been hearing how coerced evidence would be allowed.

Now, this clearly does have some level of vindication for the tribunal system in there, but remember, this is only one case. Other cases will have different juries, different judges, and different amounts of evidence. I have to assume that the evidence against Hamdan is roughly par for the course on most of these guys, clearly excepting the high level people that they have in there. Consider the number who have been released already, and the number in which the government is now seeking to augment their record against now that they can file habeus corpus petitions (that means that the government is now scrambling to create a record with some legitimate evidence that a suspect has actually done something wrong, in marked contrast with what has passed for sufficient evidence now in front of these review panels that rubber stamp absolute bullshit). So, it would appear that many of these coming tribunals (if they involved lower level people like Hamdan, and not upper level people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - alleged 9/11 mastermind). But, they've mostly only set tribunals for the big fish now, the smaller (more populous) cases are going through the habeus process. If some of them went through tribunals (and there is talk that a filing of a case against one of these people ends their rights to a habeus petition, because they haven't exhausted their remedies yet), who knows what kind of a jury they could get that perhaps would convict - to state a variation of the old line - a ham sandwich if pressed by the government.

So, this does not prove that we have a good system. Rather, it proves that a really bad system appeared to have worked right in this instance.

Let's not forget, though, that hundreds have been released from Guantanamo, with the understanding by the US government in many of these cases that they should never have been detained. Many more were minor little players in a civil war in Afghanistan, with no ax to grind for or against the US (imagine if we were to start looking to other localized conflicts for foreign participants and arrested them - think of the Lincoln Brigade of American fighters in the Spanish Civil War, Jews who go to Israel and join the Israeli Army to help them against the Arabs, American Arabs who went to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets, and the list goes on).

In other words, the Khalid Sheik Mohammeds appear to be the minority in Guantanamo, and for this, we need to ruin our reputation as a land of justice? Or, as Mitt Romeny said, open a few more Guantanamos?!

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