FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Back to the Death Commission

by BINOY KAMPMARK

It seemed like a bright vision.  And that was primarily because it did not feature President George W. Bush.  But here, the Obama administration has undertaken what it said it would not do – run trials before military commissions it promised it would disband, against detainees whose legal status it promised to resolve, from a camp it promised it would close.  The military commissions were merely lying dormant, awaiting a signature to revitalise them.

The recipient of this newly aroused system will be Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, claimed by American authorities to be the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and accused of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.  Last Wednesday, the Pentagon filed capital charges against the Saudi national.

As Obama’s term continued, the sidestepping began over various electoral promises it staked its credentials upon.  Sidestepping then became full reversals.  In March 7 this year, the President signed an executive order which effectively gave the green light to resume military trials against the detainees in the Guantánamo prison facilities.  Continued detention of those in the facility would have to continue because they ‘in effect remain at war with the United States’.  What the order did was ‘establish, as a discretionary matter, a process to review on a periodic basis the executive branch’s continued, discretionary exercise of existing detention authority in individual cases.’

The facilities on Guantánamo have become something of an American fetish, a self-supporting fantasy of deterrence against its enemies.  Patrick Robinson would claim in the Huffington Post (Feb 9, 2010) that the facility should be left open as it was ‘the most priceless source of intelligence gathered on a daily basis from incarcerated killers whose determination to continue the fight against the West breaks down under US interrogation.’  And how confident Robinson is of such techniques of interrogation, not to mention repudiating the presumption of innocence.

The New York Daily News crowed with approval at Obama’s Executive order – at least in part. Despite making an incomplete ‘U-turn’, the President had acknowledged that, despite not wearing uniforms, these ‘terrorists’ were ‘in every sense of the word, waging war against the United States.’  (That terrorists can themselves wage war is a questionable concept to begin with, but the subtleties of language have suffered a dramatic death since 2001.)  While the inmates should not be tortured, they should hardly ‘be read Miranda warnings.’  Nor could the editorial staff see a ‘meaningful substantive distinction between military tribunals and civilian trials’.

Over time, various barriers have frustrated the Obama administration’s aims towards those in detention.  For one thing, the fears that a security tag would be enormous dogged efforts to relocate detainees to the mainland.  Had, for instance, New York been the venue of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s civilian trial, the New York Police Department would have gotten the jitters.  ‘We will have to look at the entire city as a potential target’, claimed Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Some procedural tinkering with the tribunals has taken place. The Pentagon promises closed-circuit television access to journalists from Fort Meade, Maryland given a sense of ‘live justice’.  Coerced evidence will not be admitted.  None of this will make much of a difference to al-Nashiri.  The US record against him is a poor one – waterboarding, threatened drilling to the skull.  As Denny LeBoeuf, director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project explains, military commissions possess ‘unfairly lax rules for allowing evidence, except when it comes to torture – the commissions may admit coerced testimony, while evidence of the torture that produced it can be censored’ (Press Release, ACLU, Sep 28).

Much of the case is also circumstantial or based on hearsay, which would make getting a conviction in a civilian court more problematic.  But there could be a rather perverse outcome here should al-Nashiri be convicted as a war criminal.  The events al-Nashiri is accused of engineering took place in 2000, before the declaration of the fatuous ‘global war on terror’.  As David Glazier of Loyola Law School has explained, to do so ‘could be construed as saying that a terrorist group can legally create a war.’  Now that would be exceptional.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castille’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail