In a verdict that surprised no one, Bin Laden’s driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan was convicted of providing material support to terrorism. Hamdan was however, acquitted on the more serious charge of conspiracy to kill Americans, apparently because, even in a kangaroo court, they couldn’t produce anyone he might have actually conspired with. From a New York Times editorial,
The rules of justice on Guantánamo are so stacked against defendants that the only surprise was that Mr. Hamdan was actually acquitted on the more serious count of conspiring (it was unclear with whom) to kill Americans during the invasion of Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001.
Predictably, the administration has claimed victory despite the fact that many are calling the trial and verdict a disaster for Bush and a “rebuke of the White House“.
Considering that hearsay, secret documents and coerced testimony were allowed as evidence, the outcome should be seen as anything but a victory for Bush’s administration. Moreover, the testimony of Colonel Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor in Guantánamo, exposed the proceedings for the sham they actually were,
Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor in Guantánamo, put the trial in a disturbing light. He testified that he was informed by his superiors that only guilty verdicts would be tolerated. He also said that he was told to bring high-profile cases quickly to help Republicans score a pre-election public relations coup.
The true motivation behind Hamdan’s trial had nothing to do with fighting terrorism or ensuring the safety of Americans, but rather was a shameless attempt to gain political traction by a deeply unpopular administration mired in corruption and malfeasance,
Colonel Davis gave up his position on Oct. 4, 2007. That, he wrote in The Los Angeles Times in December, was “the day I concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system.”
In his article, Colonel Davis described a highly politicized system in which people who were supposed to be neutral decision-makers were allied with the prosecutors. According to Colonel Davis, Defense Secretary Robert Gates pushed out a fair-minded “convening authority” – the official who decides which cases go to trial, which charges will be heard and who serves on the jury.
That straight-shooting administrator was replaced by Susan Crawford who, Colonel Davis said, assessed evidence before charges were filed, directed the prosecution’s preparation and even drafted charges. This “intermingling” of “convening authority and prosecutor roles,” Colonel Davis argued, “perpetuates the perception of a rigged process.”
Nobody is suggesting that truly dangerous terrorists shouldn’t be caught, tried and locked away if they are actually guilty of harming innocent civilians, but the fact of the matter is this: the prosecution of what is almost certainly a low level grunt in al-Qaeda’s employ using blatantly illegal tactics neither avenges the deaths of those lost on 9/11 nor makes America one iota safer. The only result from this will be to further reduce America’s stock in the world community. Only by setting a shining example of freedom and democracy can we expect to have the full and necessary support from the peace loving countries on this planet as well as provide an example for the struggling nations to aspire to.