That hasn't stopped Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Fried Chicken of the US Senate, from quaking in his boots:
"I think it's safe to say that a lot of Kentuckians, including me, would like to know why two men who either killed or plotted to kill U.S. soldiers and Marines over in Iraq aren't sitting in a jail cell in Guantanamo right now," McConnell said on the Senate floor this week.According to the story I heard on All Things Considered yesterday afternoon, however, the Justice Department, having been forced to give up trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York thanks to political pressure, is standing firm on this one.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who lost the political fight over that trial, isn't backing down this time. He told the American Constitution Society Thursday night that the fight is on.I will note, for the record if you will, that most prosecutors are also politicians, and politics, usually local, determine which cases get prosecuted and how they are prosecuted. Holder's protestation of political virginity is a bit of a stretch, to say the least.
"Politics has no place, no place in the impartial and effective administration of justice," Holder said. "Decisions about how, where and when to prosecute must be made by prosecutors, not politicians."
Prosecutors, Holder said, have a better understanding of the law.
Be that as it may, this slap fight between the Senate Minority Leader and the Attorney General of the United States was interrupted in the telling by an unusual character:
Jim Cullen, a retired brigadier general in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, is one of a group of retired military officers lobbying Congress not to tie the Justice Department's hands when it comes to national security prosecutions.The dynamic at work here is fascinating, to say the least. Apparently, some politicians still feel it possible to exploit public fear of terrorism and accused terrorists - the candidates from both parties for the governor's office are joining McConnell's call for the two men to head out for Cuba - ignoring the implications of such decisions. As Gen. Cullen makes clear, the military has a job to do. Piling all sorts of extra work on them, in the midst of an occupation in Iraq, military action in Yemen, and war in Afghanistan stretches an already taught and perhaps even fraying military bureaucracy near the breaking point. Furthermore, while there are elements of the military whose job it is to be prison guards, police officers, lawyers, and judges, their focus is the UCMJ, their jurisdiction members of the military violating that code. While the Constitutional problems with the Guantanamo Bay prison are legion, the personal toll on the prisoners (and the toll on any attempt at prosecutions after years of detention and interrogation worse), we should also consider the toll on the military personnel, tasked to do jobs that can be done by civilians, should also be part of the equation.
"The core competency of the Department of Defense is to defend the nation," Cullen said. "It is not to take over the role of the Justice Department."
Cullen said most of the terrorists convicted in U.S. courts are serving long sentences. They're behind bars for decades. They're no longer a terrorist threat. And they're no longer fodder for politicians.
Yet again, we not only see the further militarization of what should be civilian justice; we also see the promotion of rank cowardice, the apathy toward our military personnel and their needs, preferences, and competence by a politician who believes he supports the military. Like the brouhaha over where KSM was to be tried, and the passage by Congress of a law barring any funding for moving those held at Guantanamo Bay to prisons here in the United States, the exploitation of fear and the promotion of cowardice gives to the terrorists yet another victory.
I have no idea who's going to come out on top in this spat between McConnell and Holder. Venturing a guess, Holder could win, or the President could undermine him yet again, perhaps as the price for getting some "compromise" on some piece of legislation (if McConnell were smart, that is how he would have operated).
President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay prison during the 2008 campaign. After he was elected, he signed an executive order to that effect, only to have Congress cut off any funding for doing so. Three years later, we have more demand for more prisoners to be sent there. It seems to me high time the President spit in Congress' collective eye, shut the place down, and silenced Mitch McConnell. If the folks in Cuba are really as bad as all that, get them to courts and determine it once and for all. Stop saddling the military, who has a job to do, with stuff they shouldn't be doing.
Oh, and kudos to Gen. Cullen and other retired military officers for continuing to follow their oaths, defending the Constitution as lobbyists.