Tuesday, March 27, 2007

MO GUANTANAMO

Well, they had the first … session … of the Military Tribunals down there yesterday. The “Orlando Sentinel’ reporter interviewed on PBS ‘Nightline’ seemed to be under the impression that nothing happened and everything degenerated into a flat discussion of procedures, except that the defense lawyers – surprise! – were disqualified by the military ‘judge’ and left the room and that it was now expected that ‘weeks’ would pass before further activity in the case.

But then both the ‘Washington Post’ (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/26/AR2007032602439.html?nav=module) and Reuters (www.truthout.org/docs_2006/032607T.shtml) reported today that somehow somewhen yesterday the accused – the Australian national David Hicks – had pleaded guilty and it was all over but the sentencing.

As always with the military legal system, and with JAGs, you can’t let your guard down for a minute. You’re up against a military operation, remember, and these days you’re up against one that’s failing, which takes the overriding military ‘virtue’ of Victory and adds the further enabler “by all means necessary”. After all, there is no greater ‘emergency’ than ‘losing’ and – given what they’ve been doing – being ‘found out’. Just ask Quaint Al.

So here we have it: The first of the Military Commissions Act ‘trials’ – I am going to call it an ‘event’ instead, for the sake of clarity – finally takes place; they’ve chosen an Australian national, from that once-independent country that recently elected a Bush-hugger as its boss; he’s been there the longest and may have been the first prisoner; he has his father and sister there and they eat lunch with him before things get going; he is paunchy (and, we are expected to assume, well-fed and, we are further desired to assume, untortured); he goes in without cuffs or shackles (a charming if sleazy touch) and watches his powerful civilian defense team dissolved before his eyes in a fog of procedural stuff; in a slow-motion flurry of gobbledygook that convinced some reporters that it was over for the day the defendant suddenly pleads Guilty after all – to one charge – and it’s only a matter now of sentencing him; the US has already said he’ll be sent ‘home’ to do whatever time he gets in Australia-land, where we might imagine that he will have more amenities.

Slam, bam, thank y’all. A very military operation.

What the hell happened here? What the hell happened there?

Somehow, it feels like a script. The kid caved after the military got rid of his independent civilian" counsel, and left him with dad and sis and his military counsel and promised to send him home most chop-chop. But what good would that do to the government?

The chief prosecutor JAG, Air Force Col. "Morris" (The Washington Post) “Moe” (Reuters) Davis, provides the desired spin: Critics had for all practical purposes turned public opinion against the Military Commissions and now he expects that things will change. “This criticism that we’ve created some novel Frankenstein, cobbled together kind of system is totally inaccurate … we’ve got nothing to be ashamed of and we’re going to tell our story.” That’s their story and they’re sticking to it. But ... alas, much as the JAGs want to get the good news out about their goodness, this particular opportunity sorta disappeared in a foggy rush, so, well, gee, gosh, looks like we'll have to wait until the next 'event' to let them get their 'story' out. And quite a story it will no doubt reveal itself to be.

And Davis is the senior JAG prosecutor down there, so you might as well ask Jimmy ‘Big Salami’ Botchagaloop how things are really going in the Family as ask "Moe" how things really work in the his interesting little patch of the military legal system.

But what Davis limns is exactly what the JAGs, their military bosses, and the White House could want: get rid of your longest-serving prisoner; avoid any unpleasantness in the form of Truth coming out in an independent defense; get a ‘conviction’ – and a Guilty plea from the accused himself to boot! – and get him out of there; turn somebody loose who isn’t burdened by being not-white or not-Western; provide a great scene of family reunion; and fortify your crap with the ‘fact’ of a successful ‘trial’ and conviction and the accused’s own admission that he done bad and that you had justly incarcerated him all along. In the best of worlds, the White House might even be able to deflect some of that burnish at its own programme: We’ve been right all along – so now you know …

Very clever. I hope it’s too clever by half and that folks can now see just how stage-managed this thing is at all levels: the White House, the war, military ‘justice’.

Of course, there’s a lot at stake: the JAGs have been in this thing up to their ethically-challenged ears all along, and if the war goes away then you want to a) get a medal for your trouble and b) avoid prosecution yourself when the cheering stops. The JAGs’ Pentagoon bosses want some good news – any good news – to show that some aspect of “Iraq” is in victory-mode. Ditto the White House that wants to show that a) it was right and b) some aspect of its hyperial enterprise is in victory-mode (so that the less-thought-burdened among Us might presume that everything else is in victory-mode as well).

All in all, a most impressive performance: let Us be impressed with the profoundness of the corruption that faces Us, that claims Our authority and simultaneously defies Our authority to cleanse it. And – may I? – “Let us therefore brace Ourselves to Our duties and so bear Ourselves …”

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