Hamdan and the Convoluted Logic of Gitmo

The AP is reporting that Salim Hamdan, otherwise known as bin Laden’s driver, will be serving out the rest of his sentence in Yemen. Robert Glyn Williams wrote a WPR feature just last month on Hamdan’s defense, for which he served as an expert witness.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is fighting a court order to release the 17 Uighur Muslim detainees who have essentially been cleared of enemy combatant status but fear being tortured if returned to their homeland in China.

I don’t write about this very often, because there’s already a force of nature named Scott Horton who covers it better than I possibly could. Andrew Sullivan has also been a consistent voice of conscience on this issue. But the closure of Gitmo and the clear renunciation of torture is going to have an enormous impact, not only on the world’s perception of us, but on our perception of ourselves.

How bitterly ironic that it took Salim Hamdan, who once took up arms against America, to help us see the damage we were doing to ourselves. And if the damage already done has been mitigated in any way,it’s thanks to the lawyers and advocates who stepped into the breach tostand up for the rule of law upon which our country is predicated.

There’s been a lot of discussion about how to address those responsible for the worst excesses of the Bush administration’s extralegal responses to the terorist threat. Regardless of how he approaches the guilty, I’d like to see President-elect Obama honor the JAGs, pro bono lawyers and civil liberties groups who pushed back against the excesses and in so doing defended us all against them. It would be a strong symbollic rebuke to those who, for reasons of political cohesion at a time of crisis, might not be immediately prosecuted themselves.

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