The Enemy Combatants Debate

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Finally some new Obama developments other than news of Barack's graying hair or Michelle's bare arms.

Where did all the time go? On one hand the Obama Administration is dropping a well-known Bush buzz term; "enemy combatants," on the other hand the Center for Constitutional Rights calls it a case of "old wine in new bottles." They feel President Obama still supports detaining suspects without charge.

Of course the chief purpose President George W. Bush created the moniker was for the purpose of arresting and holding terror suspects who were not on the battlefield fighting against US soldiers or allies or engaged in a hostile act against the same target. For example a Nazi or North Vietnamese captured during WWll or the Vietnam War, respectively, obviously wouldn't have to be labeled an "enemy combatant" any more than you call McDonald's a hamburger restaurant. It's already self-evident.

But when it comes to arresting suspects at an airport as in the case of the Chicago gang-banger Jose Padilla, "enemy combatant" became a bad jacket forced upon certain individuals in Bush's shopping mall of lies.

What Obama is bringing is a reversal of the right to hold detainees from the president's wartime power back to Congress and the International laws of war; the War Powers Act, and the Geneva Convention.

Although this won't mean a change in the immediate term for detainees, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for many of them. In the long-term there is the anticipated Guantanamo Bay shutdown and the Obama Administration's investigation into the CIA torture tapes-many of which were destroyed by the agency.

News outlets note Obama's latest move to drop "enemy combatant" as a continuation of his distancing himself from the former Bush Administration. This will be construed in the eyes of the public as terrorist-sympathizer-Obama leaving the nation defenseless by the Right and still-not-good-enough by hard critics on the Left.

The simple fact is, all of the some 250 prisoners at the US Naval Base in Cuba aren't Khalid Sheik Mohammed; the man who claims he master-minded 9/11. His trial was suspended before a judge the day after Obama's Inauguration. The chief prosecutor of the Office of Military Commissions (OMC) was directed to seek a continuance of 120 days for Mohammed. All-in-all perhaps Obama should have dismantled the OMC; this is actually their fifth anniversary.

They were established back in 2004 specifically as a vehicle to try terror suspects at Guantanamo. Bush probably came up with this idea shortly after 9/11; he reportedly already had his officers selected before word of the OMC made news. You haven't heard much about the commission; in 2005 there was a scandal.

One of the underlining reasons for the Gitmo shutdown is the reports of rigged Guantanamo trials through leaked emails by Bush insiders. ABC was said to have obtained two e-mail messages; one from prosecutor Major Robert Preston to his supervisor which disclosed in part:  "after all, writing a motion saying that the process will be full and fair when you don't really believe it is kind of hard."

The second e-mail message was from prosecutor Captain John Carr and was even more revealing: "You have repeatedly said to the office that the military panel will be handpicked and will not acquit these detainees." Hmmm, sounds like a Buffalo court, what's the problem?

Of course the obvious issue is, if these detainees were really enemy combatants what's the need of rigging their trials? Needless to say both prosecutors were reassigned. What I just gave you was only a brief example of how dirty the Office of Military Commissions was told to play.

Spiking Bush phrases like "enemy combatants" or "Axis of Evil" are just the beginning. It's the corrupt apparatus that enables them to be detained and prosecuted that must be eliminated.

Chris Stevenson is a columnist for the Buffalo Bullet ( contact him at Reprinted from blackcommentator


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