Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On the subject of military commissions...

... and the continuation of a number of Bush-era policies, such as indefinite detention, military commissions, etc.

It has occurred to me in the past, and again now that a change of administration has come about, that one of the principal needs for military kangaroo courts to prosecute drivers, footsoldiers, even the innocents sold into political slavery by warlords and opportunists for U.S. rewards, is because the principle of adopting military force in what is, straightforwardly, a civilian criminal matter has been an abject failure.

It has been eleven years since Osama bin Laden has been sought by the criminal justice system in connection with the bombings of U.S. embassies in West Africa. After that amount of time, not only does the U.S. not have bin Laden in custody, it has no clue where he might be, or even if he is dead or alive.

George W. Bush, infamously, declared in 2002 that he "wasn't all that concerned about him [bin Laden]." Why? Because Bush had unleashed the military on an entire country--there were plenty of surrogates to stand in for the principal suspects and masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri--and Bush, at the time, was coordinating the public relations campaign to condemn yet another new surrogate, Saddam Hussein.

Looking at it from the standpoint of the victims and of the criminal justice system, the thorough militarization of the criminal justice process has failed to do precisely the thing that the entire judicial and law enforcement system is meant to do: bring the perpetrators to justice.

From that failure emanates the justifications for kangaroo military courts. In order to provide some catharsis for the public, prominent people in both government and the news media believe it is necessary to obtain at least some convictions, even for the rather nebulous charge of having "aided terrorism." This, of course, is intended to obscure a reality that is clearly embarrassing, just as the rules of military commissions are intended to obscure the plain fact that the government could not hope to obtain prosecutions, let alone convictions, of the greatest percentage of detainees in the civilian criminal courts due to the ill treatment and torture of many detainees and of the government's near-universal dependency upon secret evidence (also likely obtained through ill treatment and torture) which would be impossible to admit in a civilian court.

That the highest proportion of those people were beaten, psychologically assaulted, tortured and otherwise generally mistreated for the specific purpose of expanding the use of the military even further, into Iraq, seems all of a piece with the other evidence revealed to date of the general perfidy of the Bush/Cheney administration, but, one must hang onto these very important points: a) in its entirety, the government, purely for reasons of saving face and avoiding admission of failure, has decided that obtaining justice for the 9/11 attacks is not only impossible, given its militarization of the criminal justice process and its torture of suspects and witnesses alike, but that, b) justice must also be made irrelevant in order to make permanent Bush's "war on terror" and to institutionalize a new existential enemy to replace the Soviet Union.


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