Friday, September 08, 2006

Push-back Against Bush's Tribunal Plan

It was quite a change of course, yesterday, when President Bush suddenly announced that the prisoners held in the secret prisons, whose existence he has to date been denied, now need to be tried in military tribunals as soon as possible. To do so, the president proposes a new set of tribunals, much like the ones struck down by the Supreme Court in the Hamdan decision. With just two months before an election where Republicans risk losing one or both houses of Congress, it was a pretty brazen attempt to deflect attention from all the incompetencies of the Administration and to paint anyone who supports any kind of rule of law as a coward. David Sanger of the New York Times wrote a great piece analyzing the political strategy of the move, which seems as much a power play by the executive against the legislature as it does a play by the GOP against the Democrats.

I was concerned initially that it might work. Yesterday, on the BBC World Service, someone I had never heard of from "Democrats Abroad" gave a wishy-washy response to Bush's play, saying that Democrats weren't against the legislation, but they were. Can't anyone take a stand here on fundamental rule of law?!! Fortunately, someone is, or rather at least three Republican senators are; John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham. Thus it was a pleasant surprise this morning to open up to see three prominent headlines reading:

Perhaps this time the gambitto marginalize the Democrats won't work because there are still enough good Americans in the GOP and in the military who do not want to marginalize the Constitution. The most succinct rebuttal to Bush's plan, which disallows the accused from seeing classified evidence used to convict and possibly execute them, came from Senator Lindsey Graham, quoted in the article.
"“It would be unacceptable, legally, in my opinion, to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them," said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has played a key role in the drafting of alternative legislation as a member of the Armed Services Committee and a military judge. "“ '‘Trust us, you'’re guilty, we're going to execute you, but we can'’t tell you why'? That'’s not going to pass muster; that'’s not necessary."
Brig, Gen. James C. Walker, the top uniformed lawyer for the Marines, said that no civilized country should deny a defendant the right to see the evidence against him and that the United States "“should not be the first."


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