By Dave Lindorff
In the category of yawn-inducing stories that we knew all about
before they happened, comes word that the jury of senior uniformed
officers sitting in judgement of Osama Bin Laden’s chauffeur in the
first Bush-league military tribunal to actually go to a hearing at
Guantanamo Naval Station found the prisoner, Salim Hamdan…
Drum roll please…
Guilty of supporting terrorism.
I pause here for gasps of astonishment.
It’s awfully silent…
Really, did anyone expect anything else? The officers, who all have
careers to think about that would surely be severely crimped if they
went off script and found the man innocent of the charges, heard
evidence that was obtained through torture. They heard reports of
confessions from a man who himself was subjected to torture, by the
admission of the military itself, and who was never afforded an
attorney during those interrogations.
Okay. So now we need to ask, do we all feel safer, knowing that a
car driver whose claim to fame is that he used to drive the Evil One
from house to house and wife to wife is going to be locked up for life?
Wait a minute. He is already being locked up for life. At least, he
was captured in November 2001, and shipped to Guantanamo in May 2002,
and he’s been held there ever since—for over six years—awaiting this
trial, er, I mean tribunal. There certainly was no prospect of his ever
being let go before the tribunal, so I’m not sure what the point of
this exercise was really.
So now we can move on to the next tribunal—this one involving Ahmed
Khadr, a Canadian boy picked up in Afghanistan at the age of 15, who’s
been held now for six years on the base. His “crime” is that he was
bombed by the US Air Force, and then shot up (in the back) by US
Special Forces, but he somehow managed, at least allegedly, to toss a
grenade at his attackers, killing one (actually there is some testimony
that he didn’t actually toss the grenade, but then, why quibble about
Does anyone want to guess about the outcome of his “trial”?
Back in journalism school, I remember being told that the classic
definition of a news story was “Man Bites Dog!” The notion was that if
something totally predictable happens, like a dog biting a man, it
ain’t really news. Only if it is unexpected does it have any real news
value. By that standard, Hamdan’s conviction should be relegated to a
one-sentence notice in the news briefs section, but I’m guessing it’ll
be page one tomorrow all over America: Terrorist Convicted!
What we really need to be asking is why taxpayer dollars are being
spent on this shameful farce, which makes a joke of American “justice”
around the world.
Salim Hamdan is one of three things:
* a vile terrorist, in which case he should be tried in a regular
court of law by a jury of citizens, with all the rights available under
* a prisoner of war, in which case he should be sent back to
Afghanistan, since that war is now technically over (he is not a member
of the Taliban).