The Talking Dog

June 24, 2017, While you weren't looking

It seems that the Trump Administration has announced the first military commission charges in a really long time, in this case, charges against Indonesian national Riduan “Hambali” Isomuddin for orchestrating the 2003 Bali bombing. Interestingly, I always seem to find that my life parallels the ruling class in some way (either I or Mrs. TD have, for example, met the last two U.S. Presidents). I say all that because the charges have to be referred to a Pentagon official with the title "convening authority" (that's who decides if GTMO military commission charges go forward to trial). The convening authority is... Harvey Rishikof, who is an NYU Law School classmate of... oh, you kind of know already. And unlike my college classmate Barack, whom I knew in passing, I knew Harvey quite well.

So, we'll send a message to Harvey, assuming you're listening! Here's the message: for the sake of the victims, if charges against Mr. Isomuddin are appropriate, they should be referred either to court martial (assuming jurisdiction for same), or else to a U.S. federal court, period, end of story. The sole purpose of the military commissions is, was, and always will be to cover up torture, and I understand that Mr. Isomuddin had a full panoply of torture himself. The federal courts can deal with it: if we have to admit that our nation did really bad things, so be it. If the price of that is Mr. Isomuddin walks, so be it.

Because, Harvey, we are now in one of our darkest hours as a nation. We have elected a mean-spirited buffoon who really doesn't care about governance, and is willing to just hand over major decisions of war and peace and life and death to others that no other President would or has done. Which means, I suppose, that maybe you have some independence here. OK. Exercise it, please, PLEASE. GTMO is down to 41 men-- the 9-11 trials have bogged down for years and look like they will bog down for decades. The military commissions only existed to cover for torture-- we could, and routinely do, try terrorism acts everywhere else on Earth in our federal courts with a very high conviction rate. This is the time.

Not agreeing that the commission trial should go forward doesn't mean that the prisoner goes free: it seems that our courts are just fine with holding the 41 remaining men at GTMO for "the duration" (at least the never-ending Afghan conflict, if nothing else). That's its own separate set of insane injustices, but for another time.

Just as one of your predecessors abandoned a commissions case noting the obvious torture that the defendant had suffered, you have a similar opportunity to do the right thing and say, no, sorry, on net, the victims of the Bali bombing deserve better than to have a proceeding bog down over the question of the abuse that the United States and its allies subjected the suspect to; if he's referred to federal court, fine (or a court-martial if possible), and otherwise... cabin the commissions to the currently pending cases.

We are in a dark moment; subjecting anyone- even our worst enemies- to star chamber "justice" to cover up torture they suffered at our hands, will only make this darker. Do the right thing, Harvey. Please.

For everyone else, we have now come to a watershed moment, without any notice from "the media." This President campaigned on restoring torture, apparently, because in what passes for his mind, he believes it is "effective." At what is left to the imagination. The military commissions exist for the sole purpose of sanitizing Bush-era torture. This President has delegated virtually all military matters to "the generals," some of whom were pretty damned aggressive in their previous management of matters GTMO. Some of whom may well think the military commissions are useful for their own purposes. What? Don't know; could be scary. All we know is that the Obama Administration, for the many legitimate criticisms one could make of it, held back on pressing too many military commissions cases. Now, it seems, the generals and the military are un-tethered, and can do what they want. The apparent yielding of civilian command of the military to the military itself is a remarkable development. We need to make this a bigger issue than the media will present it as. We just do. Or we will go down a slippery slope to tyranny (possibly via an "inverse coup," or some other means) faster than you can imagine.


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