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.
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