Monday, April 02, 2007

WAPO: Political interference in Hicks trial.

The Washington Post has an excellent article demonstrating that the plea deal of Australian David Hicks was not based upon such rudimentary concerns as evidence or justice. It was a political solution handed down from on high after Australian Prime Minister John Howard had a word with Vice President Dick Cheney.

Howard is facing a tough election, and he has been getting a bit of pressure from the domestics about Mr. Hicks. In case you hadn't heard, the Howard and Bush administrations are pretty cozy with one another. So it is a bit more than coincidence that the very first case rammed through the new military commission process is the Hicks case. In fact it is hardly coincidental that part of Hicks sentence includes a gag order that is in effect until after the Australian election.

But the nakedly political component of this plea deal really is objectionable. Are we to believe that the Bush administration is willing to let someone they consider one of the most dangerous men on the face of the planet to walk free to rain death and terror on the rest of us after a year? For politics? The military prosecutors were dumbstruck by this deal. The deal was not done in consultation with them, and they were looking at a decades long sentence.

That this plea deal was political in nature is beyond question. The prosecutors were not made aware of the deal until just before lunch on the first day of the proceedings. The deal was reached with the approval of Susan Crawford. She is the political appointee who oversees the military commissions, and oddly enough has close ties with Dick Cheney. Even the Pentagon spokes toady admits the political nature of the deal by saying:
"Like it or not, the detainees at Guantanamo are from different countries, and that sometimes is a factor,"
This is the Pentagon saying, like it or not no matter how much evidence we manufacture, no matter how many tortured victims proclaim the persons guilt... no matter how hotly the administration declares these folks to be the worst of the worst, politics will play a role.

I especially appreciate the sentiment by the prosecutor that Hicks should be punished for possible future misdeeds:
"I thought he was one of the most dangerous people out there because he was a Westerner who bought into al-Qaeda," Chenail said of Hicks. "He's the kind of person who could use that to his advantage to infiltrate and earn people's trust."
In other words, we think Hicks ought to be made an example of because he's a westerner... Not that there was any charge that he used his western connections to further the cause of terrorism. He may have done so in the future so let's make an example of him!

Don't get me wrong here. I do not believe Hicks was all that dangerous actually. The evidence against him was tenuous at best, having been attained by torture, or being shown to be manifestly false. Hicks was originally charged with reconnoitering an American Embassy that had not even been built at the time.

The fact is that far from being a negative, those western connections may be Hick's ticket out of Guantanamo and to freedom in less than a year. This type of machination ought to even further call into question the credibility of the entire military commissions system. Will suspects from Syria be given the same type of consideration shown for an Australian or British citizen. If the system is stacked based upon politics alone, how just is that? Is the military commissions system really just a way to hand out political favors, or dis's as the case may be?

The Bush administration is already having to play defense against charges that the Justice Department has been politicized. Are we now to just accept that the military commissions have been politicized as well? And the final, most important question I can think of is this How low must this administration be to politicize international prosecutions in the war on terror?

[Update: Please read the comments to this post for a correction as to the affiliation of Messiah College with Pat Robertson... and also me lamenting the fact that I was a week early with this post. I will follow on Friday with a timely post on another aspect of theology which I find objectionable.]

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