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Over the last two years I’ve had a good number of meetings with JAG lawyers involved in the Guantánamo process in various capacities – advising the convening authority, handling prosecution and defense. I have an article about some of that appearing in the July issue of Harper’s. They’re a very impressive lot, and while my forthcoming article will describe the defense counsel, I should add that the prosecutors I’ve spoken with have generally been thoughtful and concerned about the entire process. Obviously, they perform the role the service requires of them and usually keep their private opinions to themselves. But many of them make very clear that they have deep concerns about the system that’s been concocted in Gitmo – fundamental concerns about whether it’s just and whether it serves the interests of the United States to be conducting proceedings derided in the balance of the world, including by our allies, as kangaroo courts. There is a sense among them that the proceedings that Congress and the politicos at the Defense Department have crafted are unworthy of the military and unworthy of the JAG corps. And this is surely correct. Three separate teams of prosecutors have now quit rather than carry cases forward. That tells a huge story, of course. And in one of those cases, according to my sources, prosecutors were outraged when they learned that political figures had decided to withhold exculpatory evidence in order to “rig” the cases and “ensure a conviction.”
The decision handed down today by Colonel Peter E. Brownback III, the military judge in Guantánamo, throwing out the war crimes charges leveled at Omar Khadr, is a watershed event. The reasoning in his ruling applies equally to the other pending case, meaning that we’re now back at ground zero – after the President’s melodramatic White House announcement on September 6, 2006, during which he attempted to make Gitmo prosecutions into a campaign point, and after Congress gave him the legislation he asked for.
The ruling was done sua sponte – this is, on the court’s own initiative, not at the request of defense counsel. And it rests on a fairly technical point in the statute. The decision can be read different ways, of course, but I immediately saw it more or less the same way a retired Air Force JAG did who posted this comment at Laura Rozen’s warandpiece.com:
“This subtle but profound ruling constitutes a revolt by career military officers, especially military lawyers, who have previously compromised their integrity and oath of office to support a President and Administration who lied and violated US and international law to take the nation to war and keep it mired there for years. Note that the courageous ruling is by an Army colonel and the implications quote a Marine colonel — two officers at the end of their careers who have nothing to lose by placing institutional integrity ahead of loyalty to a commander-in-chief who has none. Sadly, the generals and admirals who should have made such stands over the last five+ years sat mute.”
Now “revolt” is an awfully strong word in this context. I wouldn’t adopt it. I would call this a “blow for justice,” and an expression of anger and frustration with an embarrassingly unfair system that Rumsfeld and his Neocon friends crafted at Guantánamo.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Age after which Mick Jagger has said that he’d “rather die” than still be performing “Satisfaction”:
A bioengineered lacrimal gland was successfully shedding tears.
Investigators found that a surgeon in Massachusetts accidentally removed a kidney from the wrong patient, and a former mayor in Thailand was given a six-month prison sentence for kicking his doctor in the neck.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”