January 15, 2010

KSM, Abdulmutallab, and the Pseudo-cons


The pseudo-cons

“Conservatives” continue decrying President Obama’s decision to try some terror suspects in federal court. I put “conservatives” in quotation marks because these people aren’t actually conservatives. Conservatives—people like Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, and, of course, all my buddies at the Birch Society—have principles. These bozos—I’m referring to the Sarah Palins and Sean Hannitys of the world—have no principles; they’re partisan hacks and nothing more.

So here we are, two months since the Obama administration announced that KSM would be tried in federal court and three weeks since it announced that Abdulmutallab would receive the same treatment, and these pseudo-conservatives continue running around like a bunch Chicken Littles, warning us how all that is good and noble will somehow be jeopardized if we don’t have these men stand military tribunals.

Now I’d respect these hacks if they truly believed that trying terror suspects in federal court would bring an end to Western civilization. I’d disagree with them, but I’d respect them. But, of course, they don’t believe this; I doubt they believe anything they say.

The Bush administration tried 87 al-Qaeda suspects in federal court and only 6 in military tribunals. Let me repeat that first part: the Bush administration tried 87 al-Qaeda suspects in federal court. And yet I don’t recall any of these pseudo-conservatives raising a fuss back then. To the contrary, many of these Chicken Littles actually praised Bush’s decision to grant these suspects such trials. (Bill O’Reilly’s hypocrisy can be seen here, Rudy Giuliani’s here.)


Not that I’m defending the Democrats

What upsets me about this pseudo-conservative hypocrisy is not so much the hypocrisy—that’s to be expected, not just from these creeps, but also from many—okay, most—okay, virtually all—Democrats. What upsets me is that all this hubub is causing many to believe that Obama is somehow a good guy. Because when many decent Americans hear these Republicans attacking Obama for granting KSM and Abdulmutallab due process, they conclude that Obama must be a defender of due process. So yay Obama—right?

But, as Glenn Greenwald keeps pointing out, the truth of the matter is that the Obama administration will only be granting federal trials to those terror suspects it believes it can convict in federal court. The administration will be giving military tribunals to suspects it believes it can’t convict in federal court. And it has affirmed that it has the right to indefinitely detain some suspects, presumably those it believes it can’t even convict in military tribunals.


I have a dream…

That one day Republicans will excoriate President Obama because he’s trashing the Bill of Rights and not because he’s not trashing the Bill of Rights as much as they would like.

Oh yes, I have a dream.


Speaking of Abdulmutallab

The main argument against putting Abdulmutallab (you know, the underwear bomber) in the criminal justice system is that he’s consequently been given a lawyer and the right to remain silent. But retired JAG officer James Cullen has pointed out that Abdulmutallab would have been granted these same protections under the military tribunal system (h/t Scott Horton).

Moreover: “Republican critics of the president insist that Obama forfeited effective interrogation measures by declining to go the route of a military commission. But there are limitations to what even military interrogators could do with Abdulmutallab. Under the Military Commissions Act, the army field manual has come to dictate the scope of interrogations. This means that tough measures are now out of bounds even if prolonged isolation and sleep deprivation are still permissible. It has also compelled the military to adopt the techniques used by their civilian counterparts in the FBI (lest they risk lessening the chance of securing a conviction).”

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