Saturday, October 04, 2008

Official American Sadism, by Anthony Lewis

This is from Anthony Lewis's "Official American Sadism," an essay in the September 25 issue of the New York Review of Books. The book he is referring to here is Jonathan Mahler's The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight over Presidential Power. Hamdan is the plaintiff in the famous Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case in which the Supreme Court ruled that Bush's military commissions were unconstitutional.

One of the remarkable facts exposed in this book is that Hamdan was first questioned in Guantánamo by an FBI agent who carefully built up a relationship with him and, in time, got detailed statements from him about al-Qaeda and some of its leaders. The agent had ample evidence for Hamdan to be prosecuted in a federal court; he thought he could persuade Hamdan to testify against more important al-Qaeda figures in return for a reduced sentence. But to his dismay Hamdan was designated for trial before a military commission; the FBI was immediately cut off from him and lost a potentially important witness.

This confirms something I started being worried about in September 2001: the militarization of the "war on terror" meant that criminal trials would not be one of the principal means used to combat terrorism. And this proves it: the military commissions clearly hinder the battle against bin Laden and company!

Lewis also quotes Major General Anthony Taguba:

After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.

Taguba, "who was appointed to investigate the torture at Abu Ghraib and found that there had been 'wanton criminal abuse' of detainees, was forced into retirement."

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