There is almost unanimous applause in the left-wing blogosphere and mainstream media editorial boards for Obama’s decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in a civilian court. The decision is being hailed as a courageous act to restore the rule of law. In fact, it is a punt by Obama wherein hard decisions about disclosure of classified information regarding the interrogation program will be made by a judge, not the Obama administration.
The logic goes that we should afford an enemy combatant picked up in Pakistan a civilian trial here because we need to prove that we believe in the rule of law, and we need to prove that our justice system can handle whatever may come. Put aside for the moment that the U.S. Supreme Court has not required a civilian trial for such combatants, and Obama previously stated that fair military tribunals were appropriate.
Here is the lofty verbiage from the NY Times:
It was an enormous victory for the rule of law, a major milestone in Mr. Obama’s efforts to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and an important departure from Mr. Bush’s disregard for American courts and their proven ability to competently handle high-profile terror cases.
Here’s a typical reaction from an Obama supporter to criticism of Obama’s decision:
I’ve simply never understood the right’s weak-kneed panic over the U.S. justice system. From what I gather, the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed should be pretty easy to make in court, and securing a conviction is likely to be pretty easy. By giving this suspected monster a fair trial, we can prove to the world the strength of American values and the integrity of the American system.
It’s all nonsense.
John Marshall, at Talking Points Memo, another supporter of Obama’s decision, admits what we all know:
Finally, even in the extremely unlikely case that any of the five were acquitted of these charges, the government has a hundred other things it can charge them with. Indeed, the government could as easily turn them over to military commissions or indefinite detention post-acquittal as it can do those things with them now. That may not make civil libertarians happy. But it is the nail in the coffin of any suggestions that these guys are going to be walking out of the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan saying they’re headed to Disneyland. It’s simply not going to happen.
That’s right. Put KSM on trial. And if he is acquitted by our civilian justice system, pick him up and keep him in indefinite detention if need be. Allahpundit and Patterico called it correctly days ago.
The lofty rhetoric about the rule of law is a sham. The KSM civilian trial is all about putting the Bush administration on trial in a public forum. With plausible deniability built in because KSM and his attorneys will do the Bush-basher’s dirty work for them over the government’s objections.
The decision also is another vote of “present” for Obama. Obama satisfies the left’s desire for further public disclosure of the interrogation program, but it will take place as part of the civilian trial process, not as a result of an administration choice. If there is damage to our intelligence agencies from such disclosures, blame will be placed on a federal judge, not the Obama administration.
Using “the rule of law” for a political agenda is the ultimate disrespect for the rule of law. And in this case, another vote of “present.”
Update: Andrew Sullivan agrees that the main purpose of a civilian trial is to put the Bush Administration on trial.DONATE
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