Wednesday, September 06, 2006

let the show trials begin!

President Bush made another of his fear-mongering speeches today, and in this one he, for the first time, admitted to the existence of secret CIA prisons—or at least admitted to having some 14 men in secret detention. The president admitted this because these 14—including Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and Ramzi Binalshibh—are being transferred to Guantanamo Bay and DoD custody.

Why is Bush blabbing about something previously so secret that the Attorney General threatened to use a 90-year-old sedition law against the reporters who uncovered it?

Election year politics, of course.

It is likely that these captives have been in custody so long that they have little value as intelligence assets—but they have (or so the White House is betting) great value as political assets. In today’s speech, the president—speaking to an invited audience that included family members of those who died in the 9/11 attacks five years ago—asked Congress to pass the White House version of a law to allow special tribunals to “try” these alleged terrorists (no, Bush didn’t say “alleged”) so that they can be “brought to justice” (yes, he did say that).

If Congress acts to rubberstamp the administration’s request during the 18 days left in this session, it will not only serve in large part to countermand the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hamdan case (and theoretically put a layer of concealer over one of Bush’s largest legal black eyes), it will provide the legal frame work for what White House strategists hope will be a powerful political tool leading up to the November elections.

Imagine the headline-grabbing impact of having the “masterminds” of 9/11 paraded before handpicked judges, of having administration lawyers trot out their “evidence” of what the “evil-doers” had in store for the “American homeland,” and imagine what Rove, Bush, and Cheney will do with that “evidence” in this political season.

In the end, there is only one thing that trumps this administration’s cynical attempt to concentrate power in the “unitary executive,” and that’s the cynical need to hold on to that power. For that is a war—the war to win elections, to create a one party state, to remake America in their own image—in which this administration will truly do “whatever it takes.”


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