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The verdict on military tribunals
What Salim Hamdan's sentence says about terrorism trials.
 

“The Bush team got its wish,” said the San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial. With the conviction of Salim Hamdan, who was once Osama bin Laden’s driver, the administration has its first conviction “in a military court of a terrorist grabbed on the Afghan battlefield five years ago.” But the “near wrist-slap sentence of six additional months in the Guantanamo brig” made for a “muddled ending” that won’t end the controversy over the Pentagon’s process for handling terror suspects.

Hamdan’s trial was “neither a model of justice nor a kangaroo court,” said USA Today in an editorial. But the independence of the judge and jurors, along with the reasonable sentence Hamdan received, proved that civil libertarians were wrong to say that the military commissions would “rubber stamp” anything the prosecutors wanted. That alone was a “triumph.”

A “show trial” cannot, by definition, be a triumph for anybody, said the Toledo Blade in an editorial. Regardless of the outcome, Hamdan’s prosecution stained “America’s reputation for justice.” He only received five and a half years in prison, but the Bush administration has the power to keep him locked up as an enemy combatant indefinitely. That’s hardly “playing by the rules.”

The only mistake the Bush administration made was giving Hamdan a trial in the first place, said Andrew C. McCarthy in National Review Online. There is no reason to automatically give a trial to every enemy combatant captured in war. By bending over backwards to be fair, the Bush administration will have to explain itself if it decides to continue holding a man who transported weapons for al Qaida when his absurdly light sentence runs out.

 

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