Lets Not Sort it Out; Obama Considers Allowing Detainees to Plead Guilty With No Trial??? Impossible!!
OK, here we go; US Military law does not really allow for guilty pleas in cases where the death penalty is a possible outcome. According to the New York Times today, President Obama and his administration are looking at ways to make this law less ambiguous. The push to clarify this comes from military prosecutors who don’t want to have to put on an entire case if a defendant pleads guilty….really?…Isn’t putting on cases sorta what they do?
But American military justice law, which is the model for the military commission rules, bars members of the armed services who are facing capital charges from pleading guilty. Partly to assure fairness when execution is possible, court-martial prosecutors are required to prove guilt in a trial even against service members who want to plead guilty.
Well, what comes to mind immediately for me is that the military is a very controlling apparatus, just like, say, a terrorist group, in that there is a strong belief system so deeply held that one would gladly die for it, to keep a code of silence, or to become a martyr. When young recruits are broken down and built back up, they are imbued with a code that could maybe, in some off chance, in a system that has been proven time and again to be imperfect, falsely incriminate themselves.
If that part of the law was left “ambiguous” maybe it was so that cases could be decided on their individual merits and depending on the judge. I’m happy to have all of the evidence presented if we are going to put anyone to death, much less a soldier or an enemy combatant. There are certain standards of morality and ethics that have to be upheld, even if it seems like an exercise to these supposed prosecutors.
I’m no law expert, and I’m definitely no military law expert, but in the middle of a certain amount of confusing backpedaling by the Obama Administration, I find it incredibly disconcerting to hear that the idea is being kicked around to allow certain Guantanamo detainees to plead guilty to the 9-11 attack and therefore be executed without a full trial.
This is not because there is some 100% way to know they are guilty. Their stated intent has been to die as martyrs by execution, and because their confessions are completely the fruit of torture techniques that have been proven to elicit false confessions, it would seem to be a little counter intuitive to just give them what they want. It would, however, make the problem of what we did to them go away pretty nicely!
It appears to me that Obama has had to backtrack on the military tribunals because in a regular court these guys might just go free under the weight of how these confessions were coerced out of these very same detainees. The idea of cutting out the tribunal altogether is not only far fetched but pretty unbelievable! We may need a new set of laws and a new sort of prison to deal with this sort of detainee over the long term, but I’ve got to say that putting them to death on the strength of confession elicited by torture is not the way to go.
As much as the New York Times seems to be sure that this idea has legs in the administration, it seems like a long shot that it could ever work. The administration is, for some reason, going to great lengths to try to prevent the details of torture on the Bush watch from coming out, but in so doing they are implicating the Obama administration as more of the same. This is a slippery slope that none of us wants to start sliding down; and I’m afraid that we are already there.
It seems that alot of this revolves around the 9-11 case and our usual need for vengeance by death penalty. According to the Times:
Lawyers who were asked about the administration’s proposed change in recent days said it appeared to be intended for the Sept. 11 case.
“They are trying to give the 9/11 guys what they want: let them plead guilty and get the death penalty and not have to have a trial,” said Maj. David J. R. Frakt of the Air Force, a Guantánamo defense lawyer.
I can just hear the wheels turning in the conspiracy theorists minds. But, if this is just about that pound of flesh, and also serves to cover up the crimes committed by the Bush Administration, its not worth the long term effect on the law and our constitution, which will be skirted in a way that will not serve anyone but the Bush folks, who really need to be at least investigated!
Cmdr. Suzanne M. Lachelier, a Navy lawyer for one of the detainees in the Sept. 11 case, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, said of the Obama administration, “They’re encouraging martyrdom.”
Which is exactly right, and a shortsighted band-aid on a long term problem, exacerbated by the very treatment that is now being glossed over in this way. The Bush answer to martyrs would be “Martyr This, You Asshole…Bring it On!” But that reverberates across the world and creates thousands of more of these same guys. Hiding what happened is not goign to prevent more terrorism; its going to incite it. The best thing that we can do is, if they want to plead guilty, have a trial and then keep them in a small cell forever; take the execution option off the table, at least. The need to make the torture facts go away is a crime in itself, and the need for a pound of flesh in regards to 9-11 is a big example of human weakness. What would Jesus do, after all?
I say that as a non-religious person trying to understand the methods and logic of how these things work in the minds of good religious and community minded people of all ilks. If heaven and martyrdom is the ultimate gift to some, and death is the ultimate punishment to others, where do logical people find a common ground?
Considering that we each live on this earth for a speck of time in the grander scheme of history, and considering that it seems like a relatively long time to us, during which we go through many changes mentally, doesn’t it make sense that perhaps the better punishment for a criminal is to make them live out their lives in a high security facility with little contact with the outside world? Is our need to cover up our own misdeeds so strong that we would, in their minds anyway, let them go freely to their reward in heaven? And if there is the slightest possibility for these guys to ever fully realize the gravity of what they’ve done and to suffer the anguish of having to live with it, day in and day out, into old age, isn’t that a worse punishment?
The real story may lie in the fear that we have of realizing the gravity of what was done in our names while we crumbled to the terra and went shopping. We are all guilty of that, but our system and our way of being should allow for us to look at that so that it never can happen again. The ruined cases of these alleged 9-11 conspirators will go down in history as a reason that we don’t torture; you cant make a real case out of what you find out that way.
If President Obama is behind this misguided idea, I’m going to have a very hard time reconciling the image that he presents in his wonderful speeches around the world with this ass backward, Bushian idea. I never thought I would agree with President Obama on everything, but on the issue of torture and holding the previous administration accountable, its going to be very hard to get past what seems to be purposeful governmental roadblocks to justice! I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: We can not heal and learn from the past unless and until we look hard at what went on, the good and the bad; there is no moving on! There is only repetition of our mistakes until we fully understand what went into making them. Alot of that may be fear, and fear is an issue that human beings have alot of trouble looking at. But, if we don’t look, we can be controlled by it; and thats exactly what happened!! So, face it, and move ahead; but do it in the right way, like real Americans, not scared and embarassed children.
My theory at this point is to wait and see, but I would hope that some sort of check and balance system would kick in in order to give the people a voice. In the meantime, I am heading over to the White House page to drop him a note.
c/p RIP Coco