Of all the characters in the movie, just who was craziest is left up to the audience to mull. But the final words of the film recur to me with some regularity these days: Madness, madness. Madness!
I remembered those words on being told of the risk I was running in accusing Mr. bin Laden of this crime without proper documentation. After a polite but pointed conversation with my editor's editor, the column's reference to Osama bin Laden was retained.
Still, it would have been a consummation devoutly to be wished if Mr. bin Laden had shown up in this country to file suit for libel. What a pleasure it would have been to meet him, complete with a welcoming committee from the CIA, FBI and 101st Airborne, and maybe even get a chance to interrogate him - excuse me, interview him - en route to Guantanamo.
An impossible fantasy, of course. For one thing, it would have meant denying the accused a writ of habeas corpus, and after Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, who knows what this Supreme Court might have to say about that?
Congress has just passed another statute authorizing military commissions in hopes of meeting the new requirements laid down by the Supreme Court.
There's no telling if the court will OK the use of such military tribunals even though Congress now has approved them. After all, the Supreme Court has just ignored the couple of hundred years of legal precedent on which military commissions are based. (An American commander named Washington relied on them in his time.)
Whenever I come across the argument that such tribunals are unconstitutional, and the war on terror ought to be conducted by litigation, I think:
To borrow another phrase, this one from the Hon. Robert Jackson, late an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, let's not confuse the Constitution of the United States with a suicide pact. Thank goodness Justice Jackson's generation didn't.
As if the GIs caught in the Battle of the Bulge didn't have enough problems, suppose they'd had to supply every German prisoner they took with a lawyer to file a writ of habeas corpus on his behalf - including those unlawful combatants caught in U.S. Army uniforms, the better to confuse and misdirect American forces. Yep, that's just what the laws of warfare now need: another incentive to take no prisoners.