Friday, August 8, 2008


From the New York Times:

Rejecting a prosecution request for a severe sentence, a panel of military officers sentenced the convicted former driver for Osama bin Laden to five and a half years in prison on Thursday. The sentence means that the first detainee convicted after a war crimes trial here could complete his punishment by the end of this year.

To paraphrase Lawrence & Lee in Inherit the Wind, “The mighty War on Terror War Crimes trial explodes with the pale puff of a wet firecracker.”

Of course, this is not the end of it, and the Pentagon and the White House will ignore the sentence and keep Hamdan in Gitmo for as long as they want because he’s considered an “enemy combatant.”

The military judge, Capt. Keith J. Allred of the Navy, had already said that he planned to give the driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, credit for at least the 61 months he has been held since being charged, out of more than six years in all. That would bring Mr. Hamdan to the end of his criminal sentence in five months. After that his fate is unclear, because the Bush administration says that it can hold detainees here until the end of the war on terror.

But the reason they’d do that has nothing to do with Hamdan’s role in the events of September 11, 2001 or anything else to do with terrorism. It’s revenge, plain and simple, for making a mockery of the Bush administration and their execution of their war on terror. At each turn in the case against Mr. Hamdan they’ve been rebuked, including losing at the Supreme Court, and now that they’ve managed to pull off this military tribunal, the first U.S. war crimes trial since Nuremberg, they were expecting Spencer Tracy and got Judge Wapner instead.

The Bush administration is trying to put the best face on it by saying that such a light sentence means that Mr. Hamdan got a fair trial. That’s really their way of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. What’s really too bad is that they blew their wad on this small-fry catch, so when they catch a real bad guy — someone who actually had something to do with the attacks, like, oh, say Osama bin Laden — and put him on trial, they’ll have to do better than this popcorn fart.