For the last couple of years, much of the debate about detention at Gitmo has focused on silly arguments about torture. Flushing a Koran -- Torture! Showing a picture of a naked girl -- Torture! The comfy chair -- Torture! As I wrote in this post,
Here is my fervent hope: If I ever find myself imprisoned by hostile
forces, I pray that they will torture me by sitting me in a chair and
having me watch them flush books down the toilet.
If I bought into the theory of Rovian infallibility, I might argue that this was all a clever trick to distract the country with the left hand while the right was really doing the damage. Whether planned or not, the media certainly fixated on the left hand, while the right was doing this:
In a series of probing and sometimes testy exchanges with a government
lawyer, two of three judges on a federal appeals court panel here
indicated Thursday that they might not be prepared to accept the Bush
administration's claim that it has the unilateral power to detain
people it calls enemy combatants....
"What would prevent you from plucking up anyone and saying, "˜You are
an enemy combatant?' " Judge Roger L. Gregory of the United States
Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit asked the administration's
lawyer, David B. Salmons.
Mr. Salmons said the executive branch
was entitled to make that judgment in wartime without interference from
the courts. "A citizen, no less than an alien, can be an enemy
combatant," he added.
The real threat to freedom and the American way here was always the Bush administration's incredible theory that it had a right to name anyone a combatant and then detain them forever, without any sort of independent review or appeal. Particularly in a "war" with no defined enemy. It's incredible to me that the Congress and courts have let this slide as long as they have, and good to see some scrutiny may finally be applied. Hat tip: Reason. More here, here, here. Looking back through my archives, I seem to have made this same point months ago:
One of the problems I have making common cause with many of the
civil rights critics of the Bush administration is that they tend to
hurt legitimate civil rights by exaggerating their claims into the
A good example is detentions at Gitmo. I believe strongly that the
Bush administration's invented concept of unlimited-length detentions
without trial or judicial review is obscene and needed to be halted.
But critics of Bush quickly shifted the focus to "torture" at Gitmo, a
charge that in light of the facts appears ridiculous
to most rational people, including me. As a result, the
administration's desire to hold people indefinitely without due process
has been aided by Bush's critics, who have shifted the focus to a
subject that is much more easily defended on the facts.