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Civilian Trial Balloon Popped

March 5, 2010

There’s an article in the Post that says that Obama’s advisers are about to tell him that KSM should rather be tried by a military commission than in a civilian court, after all. (Tiens, I wonder how they came up with such an exotic idea.) The French Cowboy finds it pretty ridiculous how the story is supposed to be that President Obama is fully dependent on receiving advice from some “advisers” in his decision over the KSM issue. D’accord, those “advisers” must be a group of extremely well-informed people with years of experience in Advice-Giving and Ivy League degrees in Expertism who look at things in a perfectly scientifically correct and neutral way. But still, are we to believe that Obama had been on another planet while the plans to have the 9/11 mastermind put to trial blocks away from Ground Zero have been discussed in the public, so that Obama hasn’t had a chance yet to make up his mind on this but needs his advisers to hand him over a final report?

Also, Attorney General Holder’s obvious plans and preparations concerning KSM are spoken of as if they had been secret machinations of a renegade head of Justice of which the president had been totally unaware and otherwise would have disapproved of from the start. The obvious truth is, of course, that Holder has been doing exactly what Obama wanted. But because the announced plans are so unpopular with Americans, Team Obama is in full retreat on the KSM decision and seems to be trying to make Holder the fall guy. Ed Morrissey is wondering how Holder will be able to keep his post after this development. Andy McCarthy, meanwhile, is keeping his eyes on what he argues is the actual prize:

President Obama is not caving on military commissions.  He has already caved on them: He failed (thankfully) to abolish them, Congress enacted legislation endorsing them again in 2009, and the administration has already directed a commission trial for the Cole bombers.

The real agenda here is to close Gitmo. That’s the ball to keep your eye on. The Post is trying to soften the opposition to shuttering the detention camp by portraying beleaguered, reasonable Obama as making a great compromise that will exasperate the Left.  The idea is to strengthen Sen. Lindsey Graham’s hand in seeking reciprocal compromise from our side.

The French Cowboy agrees that going ahead with the KSM trial in a civilian court would have been politically very hurtful for Obama. In that sense he can count himself lucky that the opposition has been strong enough for him to retreat without having to publicly admit that it was a bad idea per se. McCarthy argues that Obama had lost that battle anyway and that he is now trying to sell it as a huge concession which deserves reciprocity from conservatives, namely their okay on closing Gitmo. (Such a tactic would, of course, be contradictory to the narrative that it was all Holder’s idea.)

It is true that Republicans will be tempted to give in on Guantánamo, which  they shouldn’t. As McCarthy says, this is not “horse-trading over a highway bill”. But I’m not sure whether such an okay would make such a big difference. Even now the GOP is not emphasising their opposition to closing Gitmo in and of itself. What is at issue is what to do with the detainees and – a topic that deserves more attention that it had so far – the question of where to lock up captured terrorists in the future. A mere nod from Republicans concerning the closing of Gitmo is not going to solve those problems. Even President Bush said he wanted to close the facility. It’s just not that easily done when you look at the nitty-gritty details like, say, the detainees.

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