We are informed that the President is considering allowing guilty pleas for detainees, allowing full trials to be avoided.
As ‘The New York Times’ reports, “the provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques”.
Neat. Since several of the detainees have stated that they are looking to complete themselves by “achieving martyrdom”, it’s a two-fer: the government gets to get rid of them, while avoiding having to have its dirty (bloody, filthy) laundry aired in public, and the condemned get their last wish in full. A three-fer, actually.
A four-fer, even: the military lawyers’ guild gets to avoid having its own far-too complicit involvement exposed. They remain, among far, far too many of the nation’s reporters – and even some influential and otherwise skeptical blog-meisters – as ‘the good guys’.
And their system, in all the arranging of the scene, remains cast as a ‘justice system’. After all, “U.S. military law, which is the model for the military commission rules, bars members of the armed services who are facing capital charges from pleading guilty”. Marvelous. One recalls Stalin’s 1936 Constitution of the Soviet Union, the text of which gave Soviet citizens more protections before Soviet courts than even the U.S. Constitution.
For Uncle Joe it was a delicious two-fer: you garnered the praise of the world’s little people for so splendidly protecting your citizens from the brute police power of the State, and you guaranteed the outcomes that you wanted – Siberia or the wall.*
The kicker, of course, was there in that little phrase “Soviet courts”: since Stalin owned the judges, the jury, the prosecutors, the defense lawyers, the investigators, the interrogators, and the witnesses (all of whom could think, even if they would never dare say, ‘Lubyanka’ and ‘Gulag’) … well, the man could afford to be generous on paper.
This was the system that presented itself to the military and its lawyers when faced with Harry Truman’s 1946 demand, at the behest of many, many thousands of verrrry upset returning servicemen and vets, that the military clean up its ‘justice’ act. Substituting flags and some other American scenery for the dour Soviet furnishings, and after Truman won the 1948 election that they all hoped he would lose, the military smiled a butter-greasy smile and unveiled its “Uniform Code of Military Justice” in 1950. Truman harrumphed that it was the same-old same-old, but he had more pressing problems then, as the Pentagoons had shrewdly figured.
If you can imagine what a ‘plea bargain’ entails in civilian criminal justice, where you’d have to have a lot of money or the assurance of a direct, Cinemascope vision of angels right there in your cell in order to opt for a trial … if you can imagine that, then imagine what a plea bargain would be in the military system, as it embodies the very essence of the Stalinist dynamics. You’d have to have a death-wish to imagine you would prevail.
Which of course brings Us to the present proposal.
In a way, it’s a ‘plea bargain’ without the ‘bargain’. Although, since you have that death-wish anyway, maybe not so much.
David Glazier, a faculty member at the Loyola University Law School, rightly opines that “it’s going to lack international credibility”. And so it will. No other nation in the world considers ‘military justice’ anything else but a put-up job – no other nation, just Us. And many of the nations and peoples of the world are verrrry familiar with the fanged gentility of Stalin’s vampiric justice. But not Us … perhaps the greatest producers and consumers of vampire movies on the planet, and yet We don’t see them right in front of Us. Go figure. It would seem that if you put the right uniform on him, Dracula himself could carry on in broad daylight in this town.
And – in case anybody thinks that this is all far removed from Our many pressing daily concerns – recall that the Framers verrrry clearly caged ‘military justice’ in the seventh Article of the the Fifth Amendment, and that an awful lot of eager prosecutors in the civilian system – whether of the Right or of the Left – admire the military system’s ‘efficiency’.
Such admiration cannot end well for a Constitutional Republic.
*You have to recall Felix Dzherzhinsky’s assertion about the true nature of Stalin’s (and all revolutionary and military) justice: “The [police power of the Revolution] does not judge, it strikes” – as nice a military sentiment as you can get from a non-military man.
And, following that oh-so-pretty Constitution of 1936, the 1937 orders to the secret police: for example, to the Western Siberia administrative department – you have four months to find 5,000 Category One Trotskyite terrorists and execute them, and 12,000 Category Two terrorists and imprison them for eight-to-ten years. All of these accused, would of course receive the perfect trial. Such ‘efficiency’! And all in four months.
Trotsky, of course, was Stalin’s rival for the hearts and minds of the Communist membership and the Soviet masses; anybody who thought Trotsky was anything other than a demon was a ‘terrorist’. And for all anybody knows now, if the secret police were behind in their quotas on a given week, they might not even ask you about Trotsky at all. Dosvedanie!