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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June 4, 2017, Isn't that Special [Relationship?]

As is often the case, I must temper my remarks by noting my personal exhaustion: I had a "short finish" (31 miles out of the official length of 40) in yesterday's BUS Anniversary Run in Queens (Alley Pond Park), followed by today's NYRR Retro 5-Miler in Central Park to mark the NY Road Runners Club's 59th anniversary. Seems a big weekend for running club anniversaries.

And speaking of things that have been around a while, what can we say about the President's ongoing feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, which resulted in the President pouring salt on the wounds of Londoners with tweets critical of their mayor's call for calm after the recent multiple attacks in London that left at least seven dead.

Among other things, the President called for the U.S. Courts to back him in his desired "travel ban" (even though his own legal team is trying to argue it isn't a travel ban.) Anyway, the President's policy appears to be to never leave behind an opportunity to drive a wedge or put distance between the United States and its traditional allies. Perhaps this can be explained by kompromat to Putin's Russia (isolating the United States, especially from Europe, certainly must bring a smile to Vladimir Vladimirovich). I believe, however, that most things with the President can, unfortunately, be explained all too easily.

Mr. Khan is one of the few Muslim mayors of a major Western City, and for that reason alone, it seems, the President must oppose and attempt to humiliate him. Just as, it seems, the President must try to repeal "Obamacare" (and send over 23 million people, a huge number of them presumably his own voters, into the realm of not having health insurance) as well as to take the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord (notwithstanding that his executive orders largely repealed many of the measures intended to implement it already and the Paris agreement requirements were ultimately "voluntary") for no reason other than to attempt to sully the legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama; in short, both Khan and Obama have dark skin, and that seems to be the principal guide to Mr. Trump's policies.

And the thing is, say what you will, it is this petty school-yard racism that won him the Republican nomination and ultimately the Presidency, and is still holding his base together (albeit less overwhelmingly than he once did.) Which means that a huge number of Americans continue to believe that, as long as it is done in the spirit of racism, it is o.k. to crap on our allies, isolate the country in terms of near universal agreements (we now join Syria and Nicaragua in being on the sidelines of the Paris Climate Accord) and and even sentence millions of Americans to go without health insurance as our population ages and likely sickens.

Which means that this petty, counterproductive, hateful bullshit is likely to go on for the foreseeable future. Isn't that special?

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