Boston MA--22 Jul 2008--The Bush Administration's strategy of torturing its war prisoners backfired severely yesterday when a military judge threw out large chunks of evidence against a low-level employee of Al Queda who was put on trial in the first war crimes proceeding since WW-II. Navy Captain Keith Allred ruled that Salim Hamdan had been subjected to "highly coercive" interrogation after being apprehended in Afghanistan, without benefit of counsel.
The suspect said he had been kept tied hand and foot in solitary confinement, deprived of sleep, struck in the back, and knocked to the ground with a hood over his head. His attorneys argued he was never an ideological adherent of Al Queda, but only a bottom rung employee.
Few national security experts have supported the use of torture in gathering intelligence. The New York Times reported last month that the CIA's approach to torturing suspects in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan had been derived at least in part from a study of Chinese tactics toward American troops in the Korean War. Morality issues aside, the use of torture is widely acknowledged now to be worse then useless in revealing useful intelligence information.
It is telling that the first prosecution of an adversary in the Afghanistan campaign is someone who has not been accused of directly harming anyone and had no known leadership role in the organization. Presumably Mr Hamdan's case incorporated the best evidence available against any of the Guantanamo prisoners. And now the judge has determined that even that evidence, in large part, is inadmissible due to the coercive manner in which it was obtained.
Fearing a similar fate for many of its other cases, the Administration worked furiously Monday to lobby Congress for new legislation to keep Guantanamo detainees from being brought to the US for the federal appeals proceedings mandated by the recent Supreme Court decision validating habeus corpus rights to appeal their detentions. Attorney General Michael Mukasey argued that these men posed a "grave threat" to the security of the US if brought within the country. One wonders whether the gravest threat wasn't to the reputation of the Bush Administration, which would have to contend with wider access by news photographers and day-to-day interviews with the attorneys for the tortured prisoners.
Conservative religious commentators, like Bill Donohue and Deal Hudson, have remained entirely silent about the Bush stance on torture, despite the unequivocal condemnation of the US Bishops' Conference.
Taken together, these extraordinary events make the powerful case once more that torture is always wrong, and that all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity. For more than six years, Bush officials have treated these several hundred luckless Middle Easterners like animals. 2000 years ago, Jesus was treated this way--viewed as a grave threat to the security of his country.
The American deaths on 9/11/2001 and the subsequent casualties in the occupied countries are a source of tremendous collective grief. But regardless of whether the Guantanamo prisoners are truly guilty of the crimes for which they will be held accountable, it seems likely that the prosecution of their cases will be severely limited by the stupidity of those in the Administration who decided that torturing them was consonant with American values and promoted our collective security. In the end, neither the cause of morality nor security has been served.