Monday, 26 January 2009

Torturous Logic: Obama Edition

So, Obama thus far has entirely followed through on his campaign pledge to close Guantanamo Bay and deal with those still in custody there. Now, obviously this has led to an extended round of bleating by the exact people you would expect. The Minority Leader John Boehner warns us "I think the first thing we have to remember is that we're talking about terrorists here." The House Minority Whip Eric Cantor adds " Most families neither want nor need hundreds of terrorists seeking to kill Americans in their communities".

I'm not going to pretend that having terrorists running around the US is in any way a good idea, obviously. Nevertheless, one would think that "the first thing we have to remember" would be that there is such a thing as a legal system.

This got me thinking about the bind supporters of Guantanamo Bay are in right now. Back when Bush was in office, the argument generally went like this:
  1. Anyone in Guantanamo Bay must be there for a reason, because we can trust the Bush administration to only have grabbed people if they were really sure they were terrorists;
  2. Not everyone in Guantanamo Bay will be found guilty if given a trial, because of pesky things like "evidence" and "due process" and "habeus corpus" and "not extracting confessions under duress". Since by 1. the prisoners must be guilty, a fair trial must therefore not be extended to them;
  3. The only option is to create a new system of trials that require less evidence and/or allow evidence that would be inadmissible in a courtroom. We can trust the Bush administration not to abuse this new legal system;

The fact that 1 and 3 are transparently idiotic isn't really the point at this stage. What interests me is this: are the rabidly dedicated GOP apologists still pushing for a ludicrous degree of trust in the Oval Office now that it's Obama who has his feet up in there? (Metaphorically speaking, of course, I'm sure he doesn't want to scuff the Resolute Desk).

Having already found the above quotes at Glenzilla's site (one day, if I work hard at school and eat all my vegetables, I hope to rise to the level of Glenzookie. A man can dream), I thought I'd take a look at the various links he provided to what passes for conservative wisdom these days. Given that the alternatives are now either to give everyone a fair trial or give the Executive the power to alter the legal system as he sees fit, is the latter idea still palatable?

Unsurprisingly, it would seem not. Both Boehner and Cantor object to ordering the close of Guantanamo without a plan in place to deal with the inmates. Of course, there is a plan, they're going to be tried. What both of them mean, presumably, is Guantanamo could well be shut "without a plan that guarantees convictions regardless of circumstance". What sort of plan they want to see instead, they don't bother to mention. Guantanamo is now a problem without any solution at all.

Fred Hiatt at least has the guts to put his money where his mouth is. His plan has been widely criticised for suggesting there should be three tiers of legal proceedings of differing levels of thoroughness, to which cases will be assigned specifically based on how much evidence is available, but at least it's something: at least Hiatt is dumb enough to hand ludicrous power to a Democrat based on nothing but faith that it won't be abused. That is, he's a fool, but not a hypocrite.

Everyone else, though (see here, for example) seems to be shifting the goalposts. The problem isn't trials anymore, it's that once the trials (be they fair or kangaroo) have been conducted, it's too dangerous to house those convicted in military prisons, lest they become targets of concerted attempts by their terrorist buddies to affect an escape. The fact that no-one has tried this at Guantanamo and that there are plenty (see Glenn once again for a list) of terrorists already in American prisons who have not been sprung is, apparently, irrelevant [1]. Beyond that, though, it seems like a deliberate conflagration strategy. How the guilty are punished is a different question to how the guilty are determined, and right now it's the latter that we need to focus upon. Guantanamo became infamous because of how it was used, not for its existence. If it is now so tainted that even legitimately tried convicts can't be housed there (and if so, heckuva job once again, Bushie), then the US can always build another facility, somewhere else, miles away from any civilians that might be at risk from hypothetical terrorist rescue attempts.

Finally, whilst on the twin topics of Guantanamo and idiocy, this piece by Marc Thiessen is so massively fucking retarded that it deserves an entire post to itself. Maybe if I have time later I'll demolish it as stress-relief.

[1] Also, what's with the imagery of terrorists flying a plane into prisons? Are people hoping the mere spectre of "plane meets building" will make them terrified and irrational? Because I'm pretty sure that if Al Queda are planning a jail-break the chances are crashing planes into it is pretty far down the list. As far as idiotic plans go, that's Snakes On A Plane level.

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