November 14, 2005

The Lessons of History

In addition to being big on IR around here, we are also big on history. It seems like the last couple of years have given us ample opportunity to quote Santayana: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

In a WaPo op ed, a lawyer representing a Guantanamo detainee reminds us that some lessons of history bear repeating:

In a wiser past, we tried Nazi war criminals in the sunlight. Summing up for the prosecution at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson said that "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. . . . The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of our strength."

The world has never doubted the judgment at Nuremberg. But no one will trust the work of these secret tribunals.

And the detainee whose case inspired the lawyer to write about Habeus corpus?

Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.


The Defense Department says it is trying to arrange for a country to take him -- some country other than his native communist China, where Muslims like Adel are routinely tortured. It has been saying this for more than two years. But the rest of the world is not rushing to aid the Bush administration, and meanwhile Adel is about to pass his fourth anniversary in a U.S. prison.

Posted by binky at November 14, 2005 09:06 AM | TrackBack | Posted to International Affairs | Law and the Courts | Politics

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