General Sings the Gitmo Blues

Earlier this week, I criticized the Pentagon's ham-handed handling of its military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, particularly the replacement of a senior military judge who hadn't gone along with the Pentagon's wishes. Now, the one-star general running the process has taken his case to the court of public opinion, defending the tribunals as fair and just:

"The Department of Defense is reminding all of us that fair, just and transparent hearings in these cases is the No. 1 legal services priority of the entire Department of Defense," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal advisor to the convening authority in the Department of Defense Office of Military Commissions....

Every effort is being made to ensure all defendants receive everything reasonably possible to aid in the preparation of their cases, Hartmann said, including numerous available military or civilian defense counsels appointed by the court. Simultaneous language interpretation capability, he added, will be available in the new, modern courtroom that's been constructed at a cost of $4 million....

"[W]e're bending over backwards in every way possible to make sure that these trials are fair, and one of those fundamental protections is that the accused gets to see every piece of evidence and confront every piece of evidence, ... even if it is classified," Hartmann emphasized.

Clearly, Hartmann attended the George Costanza school of public relations, where they abide by the principle that "it's not a lie if you believe it." And the corollary that if you repeat something enough, it will be true.

Unfortunately, the military commissions at Guantanamo are not fair, just and transparent -- nor legitimate. Repeating this mantra will not make it true, any more than repeating platitudes about victory in Iraq made those statements true in the dark days of 2005 and 2006. Hartmann may believe in the military commissions system and procedures. But the rest of the world doesn't.

By Phillip Carter |  June 5, 2008; 1:26 PM ET  | Category:  Law
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

GITMO is an excellent location for John McCain to hold the first of his civility town meetings. That GITMO and its trbunals continue to exist while he holds his Senate supporting seat and Host party nomination defies any concept of his past heroism or present integrity.

I await for him to start the demand to shut it down, Mr!

Posted by: Bill Keller | June 5, 2008 2:31 PM

Gitmo stands for everything that America isn't. Gitmo has a negative impact on our moral authority in the world. Gitmo should cease to exist. Send the prisoners to the last country of record. If they fight us or others again, they will likely be killed or captured in their own country. When we talk about wasting tacpayers money, this is a prime example. I am not referring to the fact that we are keeping terrorists off the streets. I refer to the fact that we have no clue how long this will last. If we are supposed to keep them for life, be honest and tell the American public.

Posted by: Earl C | June 5, 2008 2:46 PM

The gtmo trials and the whole PR circus surrounding them must the ultimate professional nightmare for military legal officers. They are pressured by the Executive branch (who determine promotion lists) to conduct entirely questionable procedings and say ridiculous things about fairness and transparency, while critized by the Congress (who must approve promotions) and most of the world for being toadies of an administration gone terribly wrong. I wonder who they can say some of these patently untrue things, rely on torture to get "evidence", deny basic evidence to detainees, replace judges who show any sign of judicial fairness, and still go home at night and live with themselves. Do they not see their long and mostly honorable careers going down the drain for nothing?

Posted by: gjhinnova | June 5, 2008 3:16 PM

What other options exist for Gitmo? Many countries won't host the detainees. US law is not designed to try terrorists. Gitmo may not be an ideal option, but it works.

Posted by: Franconia | June 5, 2008 4:35 PM

Hmmm Bushco is down to 1-Star psychophants now huh?

Posted by: JBE | June 5, 2008 5:12 PM

Do some serious web searching and you will find that BG Hartmann is a reservist who's been placed on active duty to fill his current job. His civilian occupation is corporate counsel for an energy selling company. Search a little further and you will find that he has partisan political ties in that same civilian life.

The man is a political hack, not a JAG professional.


Posted by: Aviator47 | June 5, 2008 5:15 PM

Gitmo and justice don't go together. This is just another example of the Conservative mind building the environment it wants to live in and then forgetting that the environment does not reflect reality. The tinyest Banana Republic strongman will organize his "government" such that whatever he wants gets done "legally." In this case, America has ethically shrunk to the size of a Banana Republic.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | June 5, 2008 5:28 PM

When you say US law is not designed to try terrorists, of course that's nonsense. The US has held domestic terrorist trials for more than a century and in the past six years has run more, locking up some defendants for lengthy terms and failing in its prosecutions against others.

The aberrational Guantanamo legal process diminishes the US's claims to be a nation of laws and abolishes the desire of people in many nations to improve their own governments by being more like America.

At the heart of the GTMO process is the government's refusal to deny the normal processes of United States law as they apply to people on trial for their lives.

If the government doesn't trust the government's own laws, why should anybody else feel otherwise?

Posted by: kunino | June 5, 2008 5:35 PM

Only one comment:

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the TRUTH IS THE MORTAL ENEMY of the lie, and thus by extension, the TRUTH IS THE GREATEST ENEMY of the State."

Know who said this? It is still applicable today. Goebbels

I'll bet the general went to the Air Force Academy, where learning how not to tell the truth is raised to a new level.

Posted by: swanieaz | June 5, 2008 6:14 PM

"That proves his guilt, of course," said the Queen: "so, off with----."

"It doesn't prove anything of the sort!" said Alice. "Why, you don't even know what they're about!"

. . . . "No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first--verdict afterwards."

"Stuff and nonsense!" said Alice loudly. "The idea of having the sentence first!"

"Hold your tongue!" said the Queen, turning purple.

"I wo'n't!" said Alice.

"Off with her head!" the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

Posted by: sturun | June 5, 2008 7:50 PM

Franconia says: "US law is not designed to try terrorists."


That must be why Timothy McVeigh never faced justice.

Posted by: OD | June 5, 2008 11:10 PM

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