Rumsfeld brought back into the public forum some important topics on Meet the Press today. I want to dissect this little section of dialogue, because there is just so much that is misleading that it's hard to fathom (well, not really, but it would be if, you know, things weren't in crazy mode right now in this country).
MR. RUSSERT: Lindsey Graham, Republican, South Carolina, says he is now for an independent commission to look into prisoner abuse at Guantanamo because, "We have to prove..."
SEC'Y RUMSFELD: I don't think that's right. I thought he said he was interested in looking into the legal basis that was decided by the administration.
MR. RUSSERT: He said he had now resisted the idea of congressional action to review the issue related to prisoner abuse, but Graham said, "The uproar related to the latest accusations of abuse had convinced him that we've crossed the point where it isn't working anymore." He said, "The United States needed to prove to the world that we are a rule of law nation."
Would you be in favor of an independent commission?
SEC'Y RUMSFELD: We've had, I think, 11 or 12 investigations and...
MR. RUSSERT: By the Pentagon. This would be independent like...
SEC'Y RUMSFELD: There was an independent investigation.
Was there? I'm not aware of one. Is he perhaps referring to the ICRC? If so, that remains misleading, because the ICRC didn't publish their findings. Indeed, we don't even know the extent to which the Pentagon has accepted the ICRC's findings.
MR. RUSSERT: Similar to the 9-11 Commission.
SEC'Y RUMSFELD: I think that to go back into all of the things that's already been reviewed by everybody else doesn't make sense, but that's not a decision for me.
"Everybody else?" Given the the US only admitted Friday that torture has been performed, I would say these things haven't been reviewed by anyone.
That's a decision for the president. I think the issue that Senator Graham was raising is an interesting one, and that is the fact that the president and the attorney general of the United States made a decision at the very outset of the war that the war on terror was different from a normal war and a different--and the idea that we should use the Article III of the Constitution in the criminal justice system that we use for a car thief or a bank robber or a murderer in the United States for terrorists wouldn't work.
I'm glad we're back to this question, because the admin has never ever ever been honest with us on this: "that the war on terror was different from a normal war." We'll ignore the fact that we still don't know how we know it's a "war," and ask a more pertinent question: how is it different? Explain to us the nature of the conflict. And most important for the sake of the troops, explain to us what the rules are. If the Geneva Conventions don't apply, tell us why. If they don't apply, what laws do? (Because apparently US law doesn't.) How do we know how behave in this war? How will we conduct ourselves? Who gets to decide?
Or is this just all a case of shoot first, ask questions later?
And so they established military commissions as the method of dealing with terrorists. The purpose being with a car thief that you want to get them and punish him so they don't do it again. For the terrorist, you want to get them off the battlefield and you want to get information from them so that you know how you can stop other attacks.
I'd love to hear more on this. Haven't the detainees in Gitmo been there for 3 years? Doesn't that mean they have 3 year old intelligence? Is that helpful? If so, how?
The people, for example, in Guantanamo Bay, are Osama bin Laden's bodyguards. They're suicide bombers. They're terrorists. They're murderers and these are bad people. These are not good people. In fact, we've been releasing hundreds of them, and 11, 12 have already turned up back on the battlefield trying to kill innocent men, women and children.
I really don't know how to argue with this kind of a position. Are bad people not entitled to a whatever rights they have under the law? Does anyone really think that?
Now, I happen to think that the president was right, that you do treat terrorists differently than you do people in the criminal justice system in the United States.
Fine. HOW?! What are the rules for treating them? Who makes these rules? Why is it that you think the president is exempt from international and US law on this very subject when it comes to dealing with them?
And I think that the issue that Senator Graham raises is one that deserves debate and discussion. And I'm--this is--we're in a new era.
MR. RUSSERT: Well--and Senator McCain believes everyone deserves a trial, but we only have a minute left.
SEC'Y RUMSFELD: Of course, they are getting tribunals and being reviewed and we're trying to do military commissions. And at the moment, the federal court's holding them up.
That's because they don't comply with international law, also known as US law. The commissions are illegal. That's why they're being held up.
I would love for any serious conservative to engage those questions in a sophisticated manner. Typically, the answers one gets are all too similar to Rumsfeld's. The 'they're bad people' answer. Or the 'it's a different kind of war' answer. Answers that aren't answers but fortune-cookie political theory. And that's what so maddening about this non-debate. It's not just that I think the holders of the fortune-cookie answers are wrong. They don't even pretend to engage the obvious questions seriously, and in the current media environment they've gotten away with it for 4 years.