Torture Is Out–Coercing Is in

May 11, 2008
News Analysis

Judge’s Guantánamo Ruling Bodes Ill for System



A decision by a military judge on Friday to disqualify a top Pentagon official from any further role in a Guantánamo war crimes case was a major new challenge to the Bush administration’s legal approach to the war on terrorism.
The ruling, in the case against Salim Hamdan, a detainee who was a driver for Osama bin Laden, transformed what had been something of a Pentagon soap opera over how to prosecute detainees into a formal ruling that gave new force to critics’ accusations of improper political influence over this country’s first use of military commissions since World War II.
. . . Under the Military Commissions Act, evidence derived through torture is inadmissible, but prosecutors can build cases with evidence obtained through coercion.
In the running joke that has become American military justice, the Military Commissions Act is now in play, although it’s unclear whether ‘commission‘ in this sense means a special group, a fee for services, the granting of authority or the state of being in good working order. I guess we can rule out fees for services on a humanitarian basis. Good working order is out of order as well.
Parsing torture and coercion, we step further into the goo of false pretense.

Torture is defined by everyone except this administration as; “The deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons in an attempt to force another person to yield information or to make a confession or for any other reason.

Good enough. Tie goes to the runner, if we can figure out who runs and who bats.

Coercion is defined as; “forcing somebody: to make somebody do something against his or her will by using force or threats.”

Coercion is the new and improved, low-calorie, slimming form of torture.

The Military Commissions Act’s stated purpose is “To authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes.” Oh, that’s the kind of commission Congress meant in 2006, when they had to pull a very tattered rabbit from a caved-in hat to make up for a Supreme Court ruling. That ruling was not in favor of torture.

The Supremes finally got it right.
But wait. Cheney, Addington and the Congress of the United States have the Constitution in a run-down between first and second. There’s the tag. The dust settles. The crowd is on its feet and a roar sweeps across the infield. Where the hell’s the umpire?

Military Commissions Act, Section 948d (c) Determination of Unlawful Enemy Combatant Status Dispositive— A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter.

Dis-positive or dat-positive, does anyone really think that even the most meager percentage of Senators and Representatives has the faintest idea of what an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission even means? I will bet a month of lunches, Wolf Blitzer, that you can’t find an unindicted member of Congress who can define dispositive.
Prosecutors keep bailing out rather than bring these Muslims, swept off the streets, to trial, the actual trials keep failing to convict (or convince), the Cheney bunch keep looking more and more desperate–and the beat goes on.
Didn’t a guy by the name of Milosovic go to trial in the Hague for this kind of stuff?


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