Via Esquire’s Political Blog, Tyler Cabot has a slim, heartbreaking sideview about “when America went to ‘the dark side’ to fight terrorism“:
… [The lawyer] takes one more long look around the room, at the cell and the steel bunk and the steel toilet and the O-ring drilled into the floor attached to the man’s ankles. He looks closely at the man in front of him, Noor Uthman Muhammed, prisoner 707. He is from Sudan and is accused of having been an instructor at the Khalden jihadi training camp in Afghanistan from the mid-1990s to 2000. According to his combatant-status review, he was a senior member of Al Qaeda, the “70th Taliban commander,” and “was frequently left in charge of the Khalden camp because he was judged to be good with people and could handle all aspects of the camp.” He was seized from what the government describes as a safe house owned by a senior Al Qaeda member in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in March 2002. He has been held here since, without a lawyer. In the morning, January 14, 2009, he will be brought before a military commission in the courthouse at Guantánamo Bay and formally charged with training Al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan. It is one of the last war-crimes commissions of the Bush era, a final attempt to advance the commission and the war-crimes process to the point where the new president cannot stop them.
He has thirty minutes, maybe less, to explain the intricacies of military commissions to a man who for the last seven years has been chained in a box on an island, cannot read or write, and doesn’t trust anyone…
Next, most important, comes the plea. My father spent hours the night before trying to figure out how to explain this. He read the prisoner’s combatant-status review from October 2004. “I did not see bin Laden, nor did I meet him,” the prisoner told the review board at the time. “As I previously told you, I have no knowledge of Al Qaeda, and I don’t know anybody from there. But if you want to say that I’m Muslim and want to make believe I belong to Al Qaeda, then that is something different.”
It will be the same today. The prisoner will want to deny the charges against him. And why not?
But he can’t. It’s one of the peculiarities of the commission system. If he pleads not guilty, if he accedes to cooperate with the system arrayed against him in any way, he’ll be tacitly accepting the validity of the charges. He’ll be recognizing the authority of the United States of America to continue to imprison him. And he’ll forfeit the right to challenge not only the specific charges against him but the validity of the entire proceedings…
It’s good to know that our dearly departed Bush Administration was using Catch-22 as a guide to its operations.
Along with 1984, of course.
It wasn’t to fight terrorism. It was the pursuit of a version of power which is not restrained by hated limits.
Just like every violent and repressive US maneuver in the 3rd world was justified by the bullshit cover of “anticommunism”, now every vicious attack on legal and moral restraints on the violence of officials against people they suspect or just hate are said to be inspired by “security” or “anti-terrorism.”
Just pure evil.
And yet we by social contract pretend that there is a thin veneer of rule of law in this country.
The rule of law will never return to this country if we do not prosecute the criminals of the previous administration and anyone and everyone who ever tortured anyone in the name of the United States of America.
Call it a pony, call me a firebagger, but that’s the fucking truth. Absolutely fucking sickening that my country did this to anyone.
Or in this case, maybe they didn’t torture, they just held someone for years without due process.
It makes me physically ill to consider that this was done in our name. There is no rule of law until those at the top are subject to it as well.
I’m lost how pleading “not guilty” can EVER be any kind of admission of ANYTHING, including the validity or right of the tribunal holding you to proceed. Even on the civil side of federal courts, you are permitted to make a “special appearance” in a given court, represented by counsel licensed in that venue, in order to contest the jurisdiction of the court over the case. This is monstrous that whatever statute or other underpinning the tribunals are allegedly authorized under is written (or interpreted to allow) such that ANY form of participation in the only tribunal offered an incarcerated prisoner is tantamount to recognizing the legality of any of its methods or proceedings against the prisoner.
@cmorenc: As I said, pure evil.
So if you plead not-guilty then you admit that you are guilty? Man, why on earth would anyone have a problem with military commissions? I can’t see a single thing wrong here.
my god, this is taken right out of the medieval book of justice: throw the witch into the water to see if she floats; if she does, she’s a witch and we’ll kill her. if she drowns, she was innocent.
The latest winger meme seems to be that libruls, shamefully, do not believe sufficiently strongly in “American exceptionalism”. Which seems to mean we do whatever the hell we want and it’s awesome because it’s us doing it.
The post immediately brought The Castle to mind.
The Moar You Know
The linked story is amazing, tedious family father/son bullshit aside.
Perhaps this is just a function of me getting old, or it may really be true; this nation that I live in, that I grew up in, is no longer America.
Culture of Truth
So you plead not-guilty then you admit that you are guilty?
I don’t think so, but in any case it’s confusing, if not misleading.
At one point the article states that if he pleads not guilty he will forfeit the right to challenge the specific charges against, implying he cannot later plead not guilty, and yet at another point clearly states that
pleading not guilty would only waive the right to challenge the government’s right to charge him at all.
@Culture of Truth: I think it’s that if you plead not guilty you acknowledge the right of the system to adjudicate your case. One of the contentions in the case seems to be that the US government/military has no proper standing to adjudicate the case.
Culture of Truth
@jwb: I think that’s correct. Zifnab’s misapprehension, if such it is, is understandable, though, given certain passages in the article.
@The Moar You Know:
when was it ?
And Kafka…can’t forget Kafka.
Someone must have been telling lies about Yusuf Khan, he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.
@Culture of Truth:
This comes up in a mystery novel I just read set in 16th century England.
The punishment for the crime the protagonist was accused of was death. If you appeared before a jury, pleaded innocent, and were found guilty, you were hanged. But if you refused to enter a plea, you were pressed–the rocks on the board thing–until you either entered a plea or died.
If you managed to die under this particular bit of torture (they added the rocks slowly) then your heirs received your assets, rather than having them revert to the state as would be the case if you were found (or pleaded) guilty.
Haughty wording by many US politicians and writers and orators aside, this is how it has always been. In any real sense, this has characterized US actions as well. In its most extreme and brute form in foreign policy.
The way the US government fights court cases filed or decisions made against it by the International Court of Justice is to act like mafiosi and threaten the nations whose citizens or governments are filing or winning the cases to drop the case.
The whole point isn’t winning any particular fight with any particular group, it’s about maintaining hegemony through terrorizing innocent people.
The fact that this guy is probably innocent, is all the better if the goal is to terrorize and establish dominance.
To let a bunch of innocent people push the USA around just because they might not have done what we said they done is to let our enemies think we’re weak and they can then destroy us by not doing stuff to us.
@jayackroyd: That’s actually a true story from the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Giles Corey
It says a lot of sad things about our government that it developed a system as Kafkaesque and cruel as anything devised by the Soviet Union–or by a medieval king–all the while loudly proclaiming our allegiance to “human rights” and “the rule of law.”
Just Some Fuckhead
Glad Tyler chose writing. His dad sounds like a real shitbag, current gig notwithstanding.
Really? Four kids is all it takes to sell your soul to the devil?
@Just Some Fuckhead:
For some the price seems to be much less.
@priscianus jr: You’re right. How the hell did I leave out Kafka?
What happens to this guy today, chained in a cell for 7 years, will happen to your black neighbor on the wrong side of town 15 years from now.
And then 10 years after that, it’ll happen to you.
Hear it now: believe it later.