The Ghailani Verdict And The Price Of Torture

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The only thing to say about the remarkable acquittals on almost all counts for a tortured prisoner of war is that torture renders convictions all but impossible. By throwing aside all norms for prisoner treatment and setting up an apparatus of systemic torture, Bush and Cheney destroyed critical evidence that could have been used by the prosecution to convict. Greenwald notes that military commissions would have been constrained in exactly the same way.

Hence Bush's and Cheney's legacy.

They made it close to impossible to convict most of the terror suspects they seized and tortured in any trial whatsoever; and prudence demands that such radicalized terror suspects not simply be let go to strike again. So we get the worst of both worlds. We could, it seems to me, have made a case for indefinite detention as prisoners of war until the conflict ends - as long as prisoners of war were treated humanely. But we really can't make such a case when those prisoners have been abused and tortured. So the US indefinitely will be forced to detain torture victims for the rest of their lives.

This is not Obama's fault. It is Bush's and Cheney's - because of their incoherent, short-sighted and barbaric choices in the first years of the war.

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