05 April 2007

The Trouble With Gimo

Ben Wizner, of the ACLU, sucinctly sums up what the David Hicks plea bargain tells us about what kind of justice exists in the Bush Administration's military tribunal systems:

The defendant traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, joined with extremists and was captured in December 2001. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld later said he was among the world's most dangerous terrorists. . . . Last Friday night, after a jury of senior military officers sentenced Hicks to seven years in prison, we all learned the details of that agreement: Hicks will serve a mere nine months — a sentence more in keeping with a misdemeanor than with a grave terrorist offense.

This stunning turn of events highlights a cruelly ironic feature of detention at Guantanamo. In an ordinary justice system, the accused must be acquitted to be released. In Guantanamo, the accused must plead guilty to be released — because even if he is acquitted, he remains an "enemy combatant" subject to indefinite detention. Only by striking a deal does a detainee stand a chance of getting out.

And so, the lone Guantanamo detainee who has admitted guilt will be in Australia within 60 days and free before the end of the year. Meanwhile, about 385 others who have not been accused of a crime may remain in detention until the cessation of hostilities in the "war on terror" — a distant abstraction, not an actual event. . . .

Moreover, in a highly unusual provision, the agreement requires that Hicks not speak to the media for a year. Gag rules are not imposed to prevent people from telling lies; they are imposed to prevent people from telling the truth — in this case, how Hicks was treated after his capture and during his detainment.

We all knew that George W. Bush had New England roots. But, few of us realized that those ties went straight back to Salem.

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