sonia.jabbar at gmail.com
Fri Apr 11 13:48:22 IST 2008
/Abducted, Tortured and Deprived of His Rights/
Should Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be Set Free?
By MIKE WHITNEY
"This is the time to demonstrate to the world that the United States
need not abandon its principles even as it seeks to ensure the
safety of its citizens."
-- Janet Reno, former Attorney General and member of ACLU Guantánamo
Defense "Dream Team"
Should Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be set free?
It's a difficult question, but it deserves a serious answer. Here's why.
The only reason the Bush administration has decided to conduct a trial
for Mohammed, the alleged terrorist mastermind of the attacks on
September 11, is because they feel confident in the outcome. It's a slam
dunk. There's no chance that the perpetrator of the biggest act of
terrorism in American history (against America, that is) will be found
innocent. Bush thinks a Mohammed conviction will be a vindication for
his kangaroo courts (Military tribunals) at Guantánamo Bay as well as
reinforce the belief that the president has the inherent right to
arbitrarily imprison anyone he chooses if he brands him an enemy
combatant. It is a cynical power-play meant to increase presidential
authority while further undermining fundamental legal protections. That
means that the so-called tribunals will be choreographed by the Bush
public relations team to rehash 9-11 in as frightening terms as possible
invoking the same, worn demagoguery we've heard for the past six years.
On the other hand, the ACLU, which has courageously decided to defend
Mohammed, will try to demonstrate the basic unfairness of the
proceedings (which provide defendants with fewer rights than civilian
trials or courts-martial) and how the Bush administration has violated
the law at every turn by denying Mohammed due process and by using harsh
interrogation techniques, including torture, to extract a confession.
Bush is no friend of civil liberties or justice. Since he first took
office in 2000, he's waged a persistent and systematic no-holds-barred
attack on the Bill of Rights and the Geneva Conventions. Last week, a
30-page memo authored by senior Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo
surfaced, showing that the Bush administration worked assiduously to
create a legal framework for justifying the cruel and inhuman treatment
of detainees in their custody.
"Could the president, if he desired, have a prisoner's eyes poked out?
Or, for that matter, could he have 'scalding water, corrosive acid or
caustic substance' thrown on a prisoner? How about slitting an ear, nose
or lip, or disabling a tongue or limb? What about biting?"
According to Yoo's 81-page memo, which was declassified last week, the
president had the legal authority to order any of these acts of
barbarism because, as Yoo says, "Federal laws prohibiting assault,
maiming and other crimes by military interrogators are trumped by the
president's ultimate authority as commander in chief." The memo also
repeats the Yoo's assertion that an interrogation tactic cannot be
considered torture unless it results in "death, organ failure or serious
impairment of bodily functions."
The memo proves that Bush was aggressively seeking legal justification
for the cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners and deliberately
circumventing the law. Yoo was paid to dignify Bush's coercive detainee
policies with legal flim-flam. He was fully aware of what he was doing;
he was a willing accomplice to a crime. As conservative pundit, Andrew
Sullivan, pointed out on "Hardball" this week, "The latest revelations
on the torture front show the memo from John Yoo...means that Don
Rumsfeld, David Addington and John Yoo should not leave the United
States any time soon. They will be, at some point, indicted for war
Yoo worked in the Office of Legal Counsel, which means that his written
opinions had "the force of law within the government because its staff
is assigned to interpret the meaning of statutory or constitutional
language." (Washington Post) In other words, Yoo was the "go-to" guy.
The memo proves that the treatment of terror suspects was premeditated
But what does Yoo's memo have to do with the trial of Khalid Sheikh
It shows that the government was intentionally carrying out war crimes
while conducting its so-called war on terror. It shows that the military
tribunals have nothing to do with establishing the guilt or innocence of
the defendants. They're just politically-motivated show trials designed
to enhance executive powers and further savage civil liberties. The
administration hopes that by trotting out the so-called "worst of the
worst" they can scare the pants off the public and weaken their
commitment to the rule of law. But whatever hatred or rage Americans may
feel for the perpetrators of 9-11, it is not worth destroying the laws
that protect us all from the long arm of the state. If Bush is allowed
to create his own parallel justice system, with its own courts and
procedures, what's to stop him or a successor from using that same model
at home? Does anyone seriously think that Bush would hesitate to use the
military tribunals on alleged eco-terrorists, protestors at the School
of the Americas, or antiwar activists like the Irish member of the
Pitstop Ploughshares who was just barred from the US for his efforts to
stop Bush's bloodbath in Iraq?
Bush has done everything in his power to place himself above the law,
particularly when it comes to deciding issues of life and death. These
are not matters that should be left to the flawed judgment of one man.
By ignoring the flagrant violations of the law in the imprisonment and
subsequent torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, we further reinforce the
precedents that Bush is setting. That's a blueprint for dictatorship.
The law is our only refuge from would-be tyrants like George W. Bush.
Thomas More summed it up like this in "A Man for all Seasons":
"And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you,
where would you hide, the laws all being flat? This country is
planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's!
And if you cut them down do you really think you could stand upright
in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit
of the law, for my own safety's sake!"
However horrible he may be, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed poses no threat to
our system or our freedom. Bush does. We'd be better off letting one
guilty man free than than destroying the laws that protect all of us
from liberty's greatest enemy; the State.
Mohammed has been abducted, tortured, and deprived of his rights. Give
him an ankle bracelet, and let him go.
*Mike Whitney* lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:
fergiewhitney at msn.com <mailto:fergiewhitney at msn.com>
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