Thursday’s in a decision by the the Supreme Court, the Bush administration’s plan to put detainees at Guantanamo on trial before military commissions, was rejected, ruling that the military commissions were unauthorized by federal and international law. William Arkin writes in the WaPo about “The Hero of Guantanamo.”
In November, 2003, Lt. Cmdr. Swift, a Navy judge advocate general, was assigned as Hamdan’s military appointed attorney. A superior officer ordered Swift to secure a plea bargain. But Swift instead decided to argue that Hamdan should be accorded the rights and protections of the Geneva Convention and that the military commissions at Guantanamo were themselves invalid.
According to reporting in The Los Angeles Times, Swift was fearful of the dangerous precedent that could be set by denying international standards of justice even to terrorists.
“I feel like we all won, that the rule of law won, and that is essentially what we are all about,” Swift told the Times.
Guantanamo has another hero as well, Joseph Margulies. Margulies is a civil rights lawyer and activist. He served as the lead counsel in Rasul v. Bush. Rasul v. Bush was the first case in the Supreme Court that shined a light on the treatment of the Guantanamo prisoners. Margulies successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to extend the right of judicial review to all of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. His newly released book, “Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power” takes an analytical look at how the Bush administration’s has exceeded the limits of presidential authority with their claim that they have the claims the right to hold prisoners indefinitely, incommunicado, in solitary confinement, without charges, without access to counsel, and without the protection of the Geneva Conventions.
Margulies writes in the Introduction [pg. 13] that the Bush “administration claims all the authority that could conceivably flow to the executive branch during a time of armed conflict, but accepts none of the restrictions.”
‘The result is unchecked, almost imperial power: the power to define the enemy, to act against this enemy anywhere in the world, to imprison him indefinitely without legal process and under any conditions, and to prevent review of any of these discretionary actions by the courts. All of this power is limited to the president’s promise to exercise it wisely. Nowhere is this power, and its abuse, more evident than at Guantanamo Bay.’
“In the end, the detentions at Guantanamo are important not simply — and perhaps not even principally– because of the unpardonable treatment the men and boys have been forced to endure, and not simply because of the unprecedented legal position the Administration has taken to defend this state of affairs. Guantanamo is important, as well, because of what it reveals about the Administration’s vision of presidential power, and the lengths to which it will go to defend this radical vision.”
“Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power” is an eye-opening and timely read, just released on June 27 — it provides a deeper look into to Guantanamo in the wake of the latest Supreme Court decision on Thursday.
Margulies describes the interrogation techniques that the Bush Administration has subjected the prisoners to arguing that they are abusive, illegal, and immoral. The book weaves firsthand accounts from military personnel who witnessed these interrogations with words of the prisoners (the Tipton Three) involved in the case — Rasul vs. Bush. It’s haunting and maddening.
Margulies notes at the end of the book, that Camp Delta continues today, “in 2006 much as it began in 2002,” except “the world is less safe,” and “the future more uncertain.” Nothing has changed — it’s gotten worse.
The decision by the Supreme Court on Thursday is not one that will force the closing of Guantanamo, more than likely, the Bush administration will push Congress to get their way, as has already been threatened. The GOP already is fast at work, attempting to seek an advantage by claiming that Democrats “must back President Bush on how to try suspects at Guantanamo Bay or risk being branded as weak on terrorism.”
It will take a few more heroes like Lt. Cmdr. Swift and Joseph Margulies, before some in America wake up to the sheer magnitude of the abuse of power at the hands of the Bush Administration. The WaPo reports, “if Republicans ignore the court’s prescription, military lawyers would be quick to speak out, granting Democrats political cover,” Senator Carl Levin predicted.
Pick up a copy of “Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power” and read it, because it’s a telling look at egregious abuses the Constitution by this Administration. Guantanamo is the tip of the iceberg.