Shining City Upon a Hill?

The Washington Post reports on a surprising opponent of George W. Bush's Military Tribunals - The Military.

The military's top uniformed lawyers, appearing at a Senate hearing yesterday, criticized key provisions of a proposed new U.S. plan for special military courts, affirming that they did not see eye to eye with the senior Bush administration political appointees who developed the plan and presented it to them last week.

The lawyers' rare, open disagreement with civilian officials at the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the White House came during discussions of proposed new rules for the use of evidence derived from hearsay or coercion and the possible exclusion of defendants from the trials in some circumstances.

The draft legislation debated yesterday would create military commissions to replace the ones struck down in June by the Supreme Court, which ruled that an earlier plan, imposed by the Defense Department without congressional authorization, was unconstitutional. The new proposal seeks to expand the authority of the courts by including defendants who are not members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and not directly involved in acts of international terrorism.
Those italics are mine but, by God, they should have been in the Post's piece. Let's review: Military tribunals, no access to a lawyer, no ability to confront accuser in court, no access to classified material to mount a defense, and no need to actually be involved in any sort of terrorism? You tell me what that sounds like.

But the military opposes the proposed Tribunal system. Why, you ask?
The proposed legislation has not been formally released because of the administration's inability to persuade the military lawyers to accept it, even after two meetings with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

The basis for the lawyers' concerns about administration policy, which they first articulated in private memos in 2002 and 2003 for top Defense Department political appointees, is that weak respect for the rights of U.S.-held prisoners eventually could undermine U.S. demands for fair treatment of captured U.S. service personnel.

"The United States should be an example to the world, sir," Maj. Gen. Scott C. Black, judge advocate general of the Army, told Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. "Reciprocity is something that weighs heavily in all of the discussions that we are undertaking as we develop the process and rules for the commissions, and that's the exact reason, sir. The treatment of soldiers who will be captured on future battlefields is of paramount concern."
Not condemning the plan for it's massive moral lackings, but an equally valid concern (and equally true for torture) not lost on Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who agreed with Maj. Gen. Black. To Black's great credit, he also stood against another amoral part of the proposed system.
Black also took issue with a provision in the draft that would allow the use of evidence collected during coercive interrogations. "Sir, I don't believe that a statement that is obtained under coercive -- under torture, certainly, and under coercive measures should be admissible,"
Since it's so much easier to let the Administration hang itself with its own words, I'll just quote some more from the Post article.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked whether statements obtained through "illegal, inhumane treatment should be admissible."

Gonzales said: "The concern that I would have about such a prohibition is what does it mean [and] how you defined it. I think if we could all reach agreement about the definition of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, then perhaps I could give you an answer. . . . Depending on your definition of something as degrading, such as insults, I would say that information should still come in."
Yep, you read that correctly. The United States of America, the Shining City, set upon a hill, will now torture you until you say what Dick Cheney wants you to say, then use it against you in court.

And, as a sort of parting kick in the crotch, the Bush Administration includes provisions protecting Americans, civilian and military, from any sort of human rights or war crimes prosecution in American Courts.

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