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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bush's gambit

This is not justice

A Challenge From Bush to Congress

Published: September 7, 2006

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 — In calling for public war-crime trials at Guantánamo Bay, President Bush is calculating that with a critical election just nine weeks away, neither angry Democrats nor nervous Republicans will dare deny him the power to detain, interrogate and try suspects his way.

For years now, Guantánamo has been a political liability, regarded primarily as a way station for outcasts. By transforming Guantánamo instead into the new home of 14 Qaeda leaders who rank among the most notorious terror suspects, Mr. Bush is challenging Congress to restore to him the authority to put the United States’ worst enemies on trial on terms he has defined.

But the gambit carries with it a potential downside by identifying Mr. Bush even more closely with a detention system whose history has been marked by widespread accusations of mistreatment.

Mr. Bush had more than one agenda at work when he announced on Wednesday that the country should “wait no longer’’ to bring to trial those seized by the C.I.A. and accused of planning the Sept. 11 attacks.

He is trying to rebuff a Supreme Court that visibly angered him in June when it ruled that his procedures for interrogation and trials violated both the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions.

And he is trying to divert voters from the morass of Iraq and to revive the emotionally potent question of what powers the president should be able to use to defend the country.

Mr. Bush must have known that his call for trials would prompt a standing ovation from the relatives of the Sept. 11 victims who were invited to the East Room for the announcement. It did. What he doesn’t know for sure is whether the transfer of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other terror suspects will create the pressure on Capitol Hill to give him the legal latitude he says he needs.

“It’s one thing for Congress to argue over abstract rules’’ about approved interrogation techniques and the rules of evidence at military commissions, said one senior administration official who sat in on the debates over how to respond to the Supreme Court ruling in the Hamdan case last June. “But it’s another to say, ‘Once you approve the rules, we put these guys on trial — but it only happens if Congress acts.’ ’’

In this case, the White House needs Congress to write the rules in a way that would satisfy the Supreme Court while allowing the military to introduce its evidence at trial — even though Mr. Muhammed and his fellow defendants will almost certainly assert that their own accounts of their roles in terror plots were extracted by coercion.

Congress is in no hurry to tie themselves to Bush, which is what this would do. There was already significant opposition to the military tribunal system, and because detaining people in secret prisons makes a fair trial impossible, Bush has few options left. But Congress, facing a brutal fight to retain their seats know that "the war on terror" can be blunted by the was in Iraq.

I can't imagine that Pakistan's peace treaty with Osama's friends will go unremarked either.

The 9/11 families are split. You can find as many who would have booed Bush. But no matter what kind of tribunal Bush sets up, how can it be fair?

People skipped over the fact that Bush is looking for war crimes protection as well for the CIA officers. Congress should be real wary about this, because this is the gift that keeps on giving. He knows that prosecutions for this are likely.

Macho talk is cheap. Ramzi Yusef is in jail for life. Why? Because a New York jury sent him there. Bush didn't trust the law to do the right thing, and because of that any war crime trial at Gitmo is a joke. The next president may have to go to the Hague for any measure of justice, because Bush ruined any chance of them to have the fair trial that justice demands.

posted by Steve @ 3:18:00 AM

3:18:00 AM

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