Gulagian's Island: The Deadly Farce of Bush's Gitmo Tribunals

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you George W. Bush: the only man in the world who could screw up a kangaroo court. (Judge dismisses charges against detainee.)

The Bush Regime has invented so many new categories of bogeymen for its gulag that they've taken a pratfall on their own bullshit. Their case against the "boy terrorist," Omar Khadr -- who was just 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan -- collapsed within minutes today after a military judge said that Khadr's earlier classification as an "enemy combatant" (one of Bush's first attempts to put his captives beyond the rule of law) meant that he could not now be tried as an "alien unlawful enemy combatant" -- the latest designation hoked up by the Bushists in the tyrannical "Military Commissions Act" rubberstamped by Congress last year.

There is much bleak comedy in this episode, to see the Gulagians tangled up in the hypocritical hyperlegality behind which they've tried to cloak their thuggish proclivity for authoritarian rule. (This is an old trick of tyrants, of course; anyone with even a passing acquaintance of Nazi jurisprudence -- and the bureaucracy of the Holocaust -- is familiar with this mechanism, which Andrew Sullivan so aptly demonstrated in his recent post on "enhanced interrorgation.") Just the day before, the New York Times ran a long article on the "debate" about trying child soldiers such as Khadr as war criminals, instead of treating them as victims of malign adult power. (Yes, there is actually a "debate" on this question, just as there are "debates" on whether "waterboarding" and "stress positions" constitute torture, and "debates" on whether the president has the power to ignore laws passed by the people's representatives in Congress, and so on. Oh, we have many debates in our day, we are a very vibrant democracy, you know.) Now all that journalist sturm und drang, all the earnest "on the one hand this, on the other hand that," has gone for naught, with the case collapsing just 24 hours later.

But no one should mistake today's ruling for a major setback. As the AP story notes, the way in which the case was dismissed means that Khadr can be tried again. Nor did the tribunal challenge the Bush Administration's asserted "right" to hold captives -- even children -- indefinitely in its concentration camps, military jails and secret prisons. Nor did it challenge the Bushists' original perversion of international law: namely that people, like Khadr, who fight and are captured in open battles are in fact prisoners-of-war, with all the legal rights which this designation provides, and not "enemy combatants" -- the Bushists' invented category -- lacking Geneva Conventions protections. Finally, it should be noted that it is the Bush Regime itself that decides which prisoners it will subject to whatever tribunal systems it devises to skirt legitimate judicial oversight; the other captives can simply be left to rot for as long as Bush arbitrarily decides to leave them in chains -- or until they die or kill themselves. This is the system that was "normalized" by the Republican-led Congress last year -- and it remains unchallenged by the newly empowered Democrats.

The most likely outcome of Monday's Keystone Kops caper  is that the Regime will simply put its selected tribunal targets through the "status review" saugage grinder once more -- or else rig up a whole new process of pseudo-legal classification, which would take many months to put into place. But who cares? No matter how the tribunals rule -- or don't rule -- Bush's Terror War captives will stay chained up indefinitely, subject only to the arbitrary will of the "Unitary Executive." Although the judge's decision does point up, once again, the ludicrous incompetence of the Bush gang, it does nothing to change the brutal, astonishing reality of the American gulag.

Excerpts from AP: A military judge on Monday dismissed terrorism-related charges against a prisoner charged with killing an American soldier in Afghanistan, in a stunning reversal for the Bush administration's attempts to try Guantanamo detainees in military court.

The chief of military defense attorneys at Guantanamo Bay, Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, said the ruling could spell the end of the war-crimes trial system set up last year by Congress and
President Bush after the Supreme Court threw out the previous system....

The judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, said he had no choice but to throw out the Khadr case because he had been classified as an "enemy combatant" by a military panel years earlier — and not as an "alien unlawful enemy combatant." The Military Commissions Act, signed by Bush last year, says only those classified as "unlawful" enemy combatants can face war trials here, Brownback noted during the arraignment in a hilltop courtroom.

Sullivan said the dismissal has "huge" impact because none of the detainees held at this isolated military base in southeast Cuba has been found to be an "unlawful" enemy combatant. "It is not just a technicality; it's the latest demonstration that this newest system just does not work," Sullivan told journalists...Sullivan said that in order to reclassify the detainees as "unlawful" combatants, the whole review system would have to be overhauled, a time-consuming act.

A military prosecutor announced plans to appeal, and a military spokeswoman, Army Maj. Beth Kubala, said the prosecution had five days in which to do so. But Sullivan said the court designated to hear any appeal — known as the court of military commissions review — doesn't even exist.