So the right wing is predictably euphoric about Bush's latest political ploy. Here's an example from The Corner:
The President just pulled one of the best maneuvers of his entire presidency. By transferring most major Al Qaeda terrorists to Guantanamo, and simultaneously sending Congress a bill to rescue the Military Commissions from the Supreme Court's ruling Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the President spectacularly ambushed the Democrats on terrain they fondly thought their own. Now Democrats who oppose (and who have vociferously opposed) the Military Commissions will in effect be opposing the prosecution of the terrorists who planned and launched the attacks of September 11 for war crimes.
And if that were not enough, the President also frontally attacked the Hamdan ruling's potentially chilling effect on CIA extraordinary interrogation techniques, by arguing that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is too vague, and asking Congress to define clearly the criminal law limiting the scope of permissible interrogation.
Taken as a whole, the President's maneuver today turned the political tables completely around. He stole the terms of debate from the Democrats, and rewrote them, all in a single speech. It will be delightful to watch in coming days and hours as bewildered Democrats try to understand what just hit them, and then sort through the rubble of their anti-Bush national security strategy to see what, if anything, remains.
(Boy, I sure hate it when the Democrats politicize the war on terror. It's so wrong.)
This is one situation where I think we might have some common ground with the president. He has made a rousing case in the last week or so that we are dealing with a threat equal to the threat of Hitler in WWII. He said last week:
The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.) On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation -- the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism -- the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty.
Stirring words. If this is so, then I think we can do no less that deal with the captured al Qaeda the same way we dealt with the Nazis. We should use the model of the Nuremberg trials.
Of course those trials were public. And they were public for good reason: so that nobody could doubt that what we did was just. Robert Jackson, the head prosecutor, said in his closing address before the tribunal:
Of one thing we may be sure. The future will never have to ask, with misgiving, what could the Nazis have said in their favor. History will know that whatever could be said, they were allowed to say. They have been given the kind of a Trial which they, in the days of their pomp and power, never gave to any man.
The Republicans are gleefully assuming that Bush has cornered the hapless Democrats once again with this clever move. I don't think so. Bush and Rumsfeld just repealed Godwin's law and that means this WWII analogy goes both ways. The Democrats should insist that if it was good enough for the Nazis to have public trials with normal rules of evidence, it is good enough for Al Qaeda.
Without public trials, there will never be any proof of guilt and the United States will create martyrs in a movement that reveres martyrdom --- secret trials play directly into the hands of the terrorists. At the very least, these accused terrorists must be tried under rules such as those used at Nuremberg that cannot be construed as unjust by reasonable people. Without that, we will have given the terrorists another excellent recruiting tool and more reasons for the Islamic moderates we desperately need as allies to mistrust us. It seems to me that we have done quite enough of that.