The Least, First

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Gitmo trials rigged; JAG officers want out

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Former chief prosecutor says fair trials “not possible”

[Update, 2/27/08: “The Department of Defense announced today that General Counsel of the Department of Defense William J. Haynes II is returning to private life next month.”]

The Nation writes that the Bush appointee in charge of the entire military tribunal process—to whom its judges, prosecutors, and defenders report—has sent word that “not guilty” is not an option. Follow the link for more details; here’s a summary:

Col. Morris DavisAccording to Col. Morris Davis (right), former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo’s military commissions, the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees in an attempt to foreclose the possibility of acquittal.

Colonel Davis … [told] the Washington Post that he had been pressured by politically appointed senior defense officials to pursue cases deemed “sexy” and of “high-interest” … in the run-up to the 2008 elections. Davis, once a staunch defender of the commissions process, elaborated … “I concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system … I felt that the system had become deeply politicized and that I could no longer do my job effectively.”

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes–the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department. “[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time,” recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, something that had lent great credibility to the proceedings. … At which point, [Haynes’s] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.'” [. . . ]

Told of Davis’s story about Haynes, Clive Stafford Smith, a defense attorney who has represented more than seventy Guantánamo clients, said, “Hearing it makes me think I’m back in Mississippi representing a black man in front of an all-white jury.”

He adds, “It confirms what people close to the system have always said,” noting that when three prosecutors . . . requested to be transferred out of the Office of Military Commissions in 2004, they claimed they’d been told the process was rigged. In an e-mail to his supervisors, Preston had said that there was thin evidence against the accused. “But they were told by the chief prosecutor at the time that they didn’t need evidence to get convictions,” says Stafford Smith.

I am reminded of Isaiah 42:

But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, “Send them back.” (NIV)

Possibly-innocent people get kidnapped, imprisoned, and tried what may be a kangaroo court—and where is the Church? Having Bible studies? Pot-luck dinners? Bring-a-friend days?

Wouldn’t you expect Christians to call for justice with one voice, even for supposed enemies?

Tags: , , , , , , , Monte Asbury


Written by Monte

February 20, 2008 at 3:15 pm

3 Responses

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  1. “Realpolitik” no, not really. That would allude to an illusion of fairness, that if your going to have a show trials, you need to put on a real good show, with the possibility of a few acquittals, without it is just as predictable as a Saturday morning cartoon.

    No, this is about punishing, about winning, about been right, especially when you are wrong.

    Do on to others….


    February 27, 2008 at 2:43 pm

  2. ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.’

    That’s exactly what I suspected the motivation for no-acquittals would be. Some of these folks have been held for six years with no charges, no hearing. Now THAT’s a crime.

    This is a sad, sad state for our country to be in, where the rule of law is supposed to be in effect. Kudos to the JAG folk who refuse to play this corrupt game.

    Monte Says: And play it at considerable personal cost, I would guess. Pointing out that “the good guys” are wrong inevitably brings the accusation of being “soft” on bad guys. In the military, that may seem treasonous, to some.


    February 27, 2008 at 11:38 am

  3. I really don’t understand the motivation for this form of tribunal other than to make sure they get convictions. Every nation on Earth treats terrorism like a crime, and before the Bush administration came along, so did the U.S. Even cases of espionage and high treason are processed in the federal courts. It seems that once again appearances trump justice in George’s kingdom.

    Monte Says: Do you suppose this is realpolitik at its worst, and nothing matters but winning?


    February 25, 2008 at 2:20 pm

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