Military Trials to Resume in Guantanamo

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The U.S. will soon begin trying Guantanamo detainees in military commissions, which President Obama halted the day he took office. Congress has made it extremely difficult to try the detainees in America and to close the prison. New charges will be filed against some detainees in the next few weeks, The New York Times' Charlie Savage reports. The first new detainees to be tried will probably include Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, alleged to have planned the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. Prosecutors are considering asking for the death penalty, heightening the scrutiny of a case that is sure to make international headlines, given that Nashiri was held in a secret CIA prison, waterboarded, and threatened with a power drill.

The cases will reopen all kinds of controversies over the place of Guantanamo in the war on terror, and will also pose several legal questions, among them: How long has the U.S. been at war with al Qaeda?  U.S. Military tribunals are thought to have jurisdiction over wartime acts only. Here are a few of the opinions as this hot topic comes, once again, into the spotlight. Liberals aren't happy with the move back towards tribunals, and have argued Gitmo merely serves as a rallying mechanism for potential terrorists. Conservatives, meanwhile, are defending it against this charge.

  • Gitmo Is Not an Al Qaeda Recruiting Tool, Thomas Joscelyn argues at The Weekly Standard. Joscelyn thumbed through the most recent issue of the terror group's magazine, Inspire, and found zero references to Gitmo.
As recently as last month, President Obama and his advisers insisted that Guantanamo is 'probably' al Qaeda’s 'number one recruitment tool.' With respect to al Qaeda Central’s messaging... that is clearly not true. ... While transferring detainees from Guantanamo has clearly replenished AQAP’s ranks, there is no evidence that AQAP has used Guantanamo to earn a large number of recruits. Put differently, the number of former detainees now serving AQAP is probably far greater than the number of recruits who were convinced to join AQAP in the first place because of Guantanamo’s mere existence.
  • Al Qaeda Cares About Palestine, Not Detainees, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey adds. Al Qaeda's "recruitment base has spent the last several decades living off of conspiracy theories regarding how Crusaders and Zionists have oppressed the Palestinians for the last 100 years... Anyone who has spent any time at all studying the issue knows enough not to find this surprising, and not to be surprised that a prison in Cuba holding less than a thousand detainees at its zenith hardly competes with all of these ancient hatreds as a reason to blow one’s self into pieces for emirs who hide in mountains."
Obama has single-handedly eliminated virtually all mainstream debate over these War on Terror policies.  At least during the Bush years, we had one party which steadfastly supported them but one party which claimed (albeit not very persuasively) to vehemently oppose them.  At least there was a pretense of vigorous debate over their legality, morality, efficacy, and compatibility with our national values. Those debates are no more. ... What was once viewed as the signature of Bush/Cheney radicalism is now official, bipartisan Washington consensus: the policies equally of both parties and all Serious people.
  • Obama Has Just Figured Out What Works, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin says. Responding to Greenwald, Rubin writes, "What is key, aside from the sense of satisfaction for conservatives, is that we may be moving toward that bipartisan consensus on national security that so many have pined for. That leaves the left out in the cold, but given Obama's discovery that the left's policy preferences simply don't work, that's a good thing."
  • Bush's Excesses Become the New Normal, Bill Egnor writes at Fire Dog Lake.
We may charge a man who we tortured and held without council in a secret C.I.A prison... We will use a trial system that does not allow him to confront the witnesses against him directly, and if he is found guilty we may very well execute him. ... There are times when I stand up for what the president has done and continues to do. This is an area where I am in complete disgust of the apparent haplessness of our current Chief Executive. If this path is followed I fear it will not matter all the good he accomplishes, history will remember him for the man that did not bring us back from the lawless excesses of the Bush administration, but rather the one that allowed those excesses to become the new normal.
  • No One's Bothered by Torture Anymore, Bryan Cones writes at U.S. Catholic. Torture scenes are now ubiquitous on TV shows, Cones writes, a major buzzkill if you believe the ends do not always justify the means. "[W]hy is Guantanamo Bay still open? Maybe it's because torture--through poltical justification, fear, and media cooperation--has become morally acceptable to the majority of Americans, maybe even American Catholics."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.