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The Gitmo franchise expands

August 3, 2006


Everybody and his cousin linked to yesterday’s lead at the Onion:

In a decisive 1–0 decision Monday, President Bush voted to grant the president the constitutional power to grant himself additional powers…

Coincidentally, the same morning, the Washington Post reported on a leaked draft of the legislation Bush is proposing to bring detainee treatment into compliance with Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld.

The proposal? Codify into law everything that was in the executive order that established Gitmo, – except that the death penalty will now require only 5 military jurors out of 12, rather than 7, to concur. Reconfirm the absence of jurisdiction of any civilian court over any part of the process. Codify into law many features of Gitmo policy that weren’t spelled out in the executive order: no right to a trial, even to a tribunal, even to a list of charges, ever. Evidence obtained by coercion to be admissible. No release upon being found not guilty.

But those are the innocuous parts.

A draft Bush administration plan for special military courts seeks to expand the reach and authority of such “commissions” to include trials, for the first time, of people who are not members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and are not directly involved in acts of international terrorism, according to officials familiar with the proposal. The plan, which would replace a military trial system ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June, would also allow the secretary of defense to add crimes at will to those under the military court’s jurisdiction.

Oh, yeah. And U.S. citizens, as well as foreigners, may be designated “enemy combatants” enjoying the same extensive list of rights.

The draft’s breathtaking assignment to the President of life-and-death powers over anyone he pleases, for any crime he on his sole discretion chooses to define in the future, makes John Adams’ embarrassing Alien and Sedition Act look positively timid in comparison. One presumes – no, sorry, we overran that goalpost some yards back. One would like to presume that these preposterous clauses were inserted purely for shock value, in the expectation that when one or two of them are eliminated or modified, the resulting Draconian expansion of the current system will be hailed by the punditocracy as a moderate compromise.

But what does it say about how far we’ve descended, that Bush’s goals have become so extreme that his negotiating position reads like self-parody? Albeit a self-parody which evokes more chills than chuckles?

Or is this just what an initial negotiating position looks like, when your bedside management literature is not Getting To Yes but Getting To Yes, Massa?

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