Friday, June 30, 2006

What Do We Do With 'Em Now?

The 5-3 decision by the Supreme Court--that the Commander-in-Chief overstepped the bounds of Executive Powers in creating the military tribunal commissions at Guantanamo Bay--has created such reactions as the comment at Daily Kos that "The President is a war criminal and should be executed," to cries of "All is lost." However, the decision also implies that the prisoners at Gitmo can be held indefinitely. At the tremendous cost in taxpayers' money and at the cost of international opinion, that is not a desirable option.
The reason the Guantanamo Bay military commissions were desirable is many fold. Classified evidence and means of gathering evidence would remain secure. Witnesses could testify without publicly revealing their identity, which would leave them or their families vulnerable to kidnapping, torture, and death at the hands of the enemy. The entire process would be quicker and less expensive to the taxpayers, than it would be in a Courts Martial or Civil Court, mainly because, though the defendents are allowed defense council and appeals, the tribunals would not be tied up in countless motions and heavy case loads, as would be Civil Court. This option could still be on the table--many feel that all is needed to comply with the Supreme Court decision is for Congress to pass a law authorizing the President to commission the military tribunals. However, it may not be possible to make such a law retroactive, so it would include the current POWs at Gitmo, so it could apply only to future POWs.
Another option is Civil Criminal Court. It took four years for Civil Court to reach a verdict in the Zakarias Mousawi case, so multiply this by approximately three hundred and thirty defendents and imagine the cost and burden this would put on the courts. Not only that, but it would be more diffucult to protect the witnesses, and more innocent women and children would lose their lives at the hands of Al Qaeda. It would be years, in each case, before prosecution could even begin, do to lenghthy debate over admisablity and safeguarding of evidence. This is the option we may end up going to, along with Courts Martial. Since both options are acceptable under the Supreme Court decision, they should both be used to speed up the process, at least a little. Still, it is unsafe to the general public, and not the most desirable means of procecuting the war criminals.
The former NATO Supreme Commander, General (Ret) Wesley Clark has suggested that the criminal cases be abjudicated by International Court. He actually makes a very good case for this, including some strong language for those countries which say that they are at war against the terrorists, but have, as yet done little or nothing for the war. Indeed, terrorism is a concern for all nations, he argues. He makes some credible points in favor of this option--for instance, that the United States may write the rules as to protection of classified evidence may be presented, and as to the method of prosecution. On the surface, this seems to be the best option we have, outside of the military tribunals, but assembling a fair judiciary for the court would be difficult. Many countries, due to the reporting of partial truths in the world wide media, would not be able to supply a judge who dioes not have some bias, and many of the criminals at Guantamano Bay could be set free to hijack planes or ships, to take hostages, to behead innocent civilians, and to commit other acts for which they were imprisoned in the first place.
A very weak option would be to turn the prisoners over to the custody of the country in which they were captured or of their national origin. Some wouldn't even be imprisoned, most wouldn't receive a trial, and many would experience what real torture feels like. The US has laws against torture, and, though the prisoners incarcerated in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan wouldn't any longer fall under the jurisdiction of the American law, by turning custody over to establishments which do practice torture, the United States would be indirectly violating its own law.
The bottom line is this; that the alledgedly criminal POWs must be prosecuted in some manner. Otherwise, they must be held, indefinitely, without trial, until the War on Terror has reached a conclusion.


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Anonymous said... is very informative. The article is very professionally written. I enjoy reading every day.
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