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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Justice is the Old Way

It may be that George W. Bush is the King Midas of crap. Everything he touches turns into the stuff. From gas prices to the environment to the world's opinion of the United States, Bush has left pretty much everything much, much worse than he found it. You've really got to wonder if any terrorist could've done as much lasting damage.

A big part of the problem is Bush's apparent belief that every damned thing the country has ever done was done incorrectly. In the invasion of Iraq, Bush -- listening to deluded visionary Donald Rumsfeld -- decided that sending an overwhelming force (as Colin Powell had recommended) was the wrong way to go. That had been done to death, apparently. All the cool kids were invading with a light force. Fast and lithe and, above all, cheap.

As a result, US forces rolled into a town, chased off all the insurgents and militias, then rolled off in a triumphant cloud of desert dust. And, of course, as soon as we rolled off, the militias and insurgents would come right back. Worse, ammo dumps and armories were cleared of Iraqi military, then left unprotected. The insurgents then came in and armed themselves with all the rifles and RPGs and mortars. IEDs that still kill people on the roads of Iraq are made from abandoned artillery shells and mortar rounds. In short, the "plan" -- such as it was -- was such a stupid, stupid idea that anyone capable of learning to play checkers should've known it would lead to disaster.

But the non-disastrous way of doing things was the old way. Never mind that the old way worked, never mind that the new way was idiotic beyond words, everything anyone had done before the neocons showed up was wrong, wrong, wrong. Everything had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Like the first Chinese emperor Chin, the neocons believed that history began with them.

So it's no surprise that our treatment of detainees would be entirely retooled. Where the Geneva Conventions were a primary consideration for prisoners, those international laws were now deemed "quaint." It was now a new world, led by great men -- Ubermenschen, really. And these men were so great that anything that wasn't actually their idea was wrong.

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Worse, as these visionaries follow this line of so-called reasoning, no one can correct them. You have to belong to the club to be right. Even the Supreme Court, in restoring rights of Habeas Corpus to detainees, isn't allowed to have input. The Bush administration will pretend to comply, but slow the progress of compliance to a dead stop with foot-dragging and procrastination.

McClatchy Newspapers:

A federal judge handling the appeals of more than 200 Guantanamo detainees vowed Tuesday to hold lawyers' "feet to the fire" to insure that the cases are handled as quickly as possible.

In the first hearing held since a Supreme Court decision gave the detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in court, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said he recognized the unprecedented nature of the proceedings.

But he warned both government and defense attorneys that he would be "suspicious" of any requests for delays because the detainees' constitutional rights were at stake.

Addressing Justice Department lawyers directly, he told them to prioritize the lawsuits over all other cases.

"We have to have a prompt resolution to these matters," the judge told them, "The Supreme Court has spoken."

Yesterday, Justice Department lawyers said they'd cleared 54 detainees for release. Judge Hogan asked whether they could be released "without delay" and was told, "[T]hat's the issue the executive branch is struggling with."

"Maybe we can assist them," Hogan said.

Of course, if you can't slow down your own lawyers, you can slow down the lawyers for the defense. In another piece, McClatchy reports, "The U.S. government is blocking the American Civil Liberties Union from paying attorneys representing suspected terrorists held here, insisting that the ACLU must first receive a license from the U.S. Treasury Department before making the payments."

The reason for blocking payment is completely insane -- the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) says it needs to make sure that the American funds aren't used to aid terrorist groups. In other words, we can't take people to trial to find out if they're terrorists without risking helping a terrorist.

And, of course, if they ever get that little merry-go-round of circular logic straightened out, the detainees still are pretty much guaranteed an unfair hearing. They don't have access to much of the evidence against them because it's classified. Worse, McClatchy interviewed 66 former detainees and found that at least 40 "had tribunal hearings, but none was able to submit testimony from witnesses outside the detention facility."

"Former detainees singled this out as the most serious flaw in the operation of the combat status review tribunals," we're told, "but it was only one of many."

Another "serious flaw" is, of course, torture of detainees. The "harsh interrogation techniques" used by interrogators is far from reliable. In fact, they weren't designed to elicit truth.

New York Times:

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of "coercive management techniques" for possible use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation," "prolonged constraint," and "exposure."

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

What the hell good are false confessions? Well, to a group of visionary masterminds who must always be proven right, they're invaluable. Other than that, they're pretty much useless. In fact, the very idea that some of the confessions were coerced and false puts all confessions in doubt. It may very well become the precedent that these confessions are inadmissible. As a result, the neocon geniuses have made it more likely that a bona fide terrorist will be set free, not less.

Which, of course, explains all the delaying tactics. If no one ever goes free, there's no danger of that. Just skip the trial, hold them until they die, and that's that. The plan is, of course, flawless -- it just needs a little tweak here and there. What's a little obstruction and miscarriage of justice when the reputation of the neocon worldbuilders is at stake? If some poor Afghani farmer has to rot in prison for the crime of being in prison, then that's the way things are going to be. There are important people and unimportant people. Important people are the neocon dreamers, the unimportant are everyone else.

George W. Bush may be the Midas of crap, but we aren't supposed to notice. In fact, the assumption is probably that we aren't smart enough to notice. Remember, everything you think is obvious is wrong. The new way is the best way, no matter how effed up it must seem to the unenlightened.

King Midas decrees it so.


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