Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) defended the administration Sunday on Fox News, echoing suggestions from the White House that even if the accused are acquitted on a technicality, they won't be released. They would go back to the legal purgatory known as "preventive detention." That is the right policy; these are dangerous men, after all. But it is an affront to civilian jurisprudence. Under military law, preventive detention is a well-established norm. Under civilian law, it's an affront.
Throw into the equation that these men weren't read their rights, were interrogated in a manner that is illegal in civilian courts, are being tried with little if any possibility of an impartial jury -- and the fact that Holder all but insists they'll be convicted -- and it all adds up to a farce.
Moreover, the administration has not abolished military tribunals. Holder is sending the al-Qaida suspects in the attack on the destroyer Cole to one. Hence, enemies who attack us abroad are treated like enemy combatants with fewer rights, while terrorists who managed to kill civilians here at home are treated like American citizens. That is perverse.
If history is a guide, this trial will unavoidably come at a cost in terms of leaked intelligence and propaganda victories for our enemies.
Obama's defenders don't believe it. "Does anyone think," asks Joshua Micah Marshall, a prominent liberal blogger, that the "Nuremberg trials ... advanced (the defendants') causes?" Obama himself invoked the Nuremberg trials during the presidential campaign. "Part of what made us different was even after these Nazis had performed atrocities," he explained, "we still gave them a day in court, and that taught the entire world about who we are but also the basic principles of rule of law."
Such arguments are revealing on at least two counts. First, the Nuremberg trials were military tribunals -- it was understood that the Nazis were not mere criminals.
Second, they took place after we had won the war against Nazi Germany. We could afford such a spectacle because the Nazi cause was dead.
Meanwhile, the war on terror lives. Just don't tell that to Barack Obama.