The news of the day is that the Obama adminsitration has announced that it is going to try KSM before a military court at Guantánamo. It’s the greatest anticlimax since Harpo Marx burst the bubble covering Sally Rand in the nude only to reveal her nudity protected by a wooden barrel.
The decision is correct, but Obama wants it known that he does not deserve the credit for it. Rather, the decision simply reflects “steep new restrictions on transferring any detainees from Guantánamo Bay onto United States soil, making such a trial impossible.” The decision is grudging.
The New York Times calls the decision “a major reversal.” Obama supported trying KSM in federal district court. Hey, according to Obama during the campaign, even the Nazi war criminials tried at Nuremberg got their day in court! I wonder if anyone has yet broken him the news that they were tried by a military commission with no appeal and no recourse to the federal courts. It would undoubtedly come as a great shock to him.
Obama made his position on this point something of an insufferable cause. Eric Holder drew up an absurd little list of factors rationalizing the decision to try KSM in federal district court in New York. It was only yesterday that Obama was saying:
“There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law…instead of serving as a tool to counter-terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained. So the record is clear: rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security.”
“Too often – our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford.”
“In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by the American people, who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach – one that rejected torture, and recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”
If Obama doesn’t deserve credit for the decision, others do. I guess we can thank congressional Republicans for this moment of sanity.