Washington at Its Worst: Stop the Gitmo Sell-Out

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Washington at Its Worst: Stop the Gitmo Sell-Out

It's getting even uglier in Washington DC. 

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that President Obama's advisers are "nearing a recommendation" that the administration overrule Attorney General Holder's plan for a criminal trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other Guantanamo Bay detainees and revert to Bush/Cheney military commissions. Negotiations have reportedly been underway between Rahm Emanuel and Senator Lindsey Graham, with Graham allegedly promising to help the administration curry favor with Senate Republicans in his bid to close Guantanamo Bay if the president abandons his Attorney General and his pledge to defend the rule of law.

We are now witnessing Washington, D.C. politics at its absolute worst. The recommended White House flip-flop on terror trials puts politics above national security. "Change we can believe in" is being replaced with some of the worst Bush/Cheney policies.

  The advice that Rahm Emanuel and his White House colleagues is apparently offering the president is dead wrong principally, practically and politically:

Principally, it undermines a bedrock of our nation -- the rule of law -- while reversing the president's campaign pledge to uphold it. And it makes a mockery of the president's commitment to re-establish an independent Justice Department that is no longer a political tool of the White House.

Practically, it replaces a system that works -- the criminal justice system -- with something that doesn't -- military commissions. There have been 319 convictions of terrorist suspects in criminal courts compared to a total of three in military commissions. 

And politically it makes the breathtaking assumption that this flip-flop is going to silence Republicans, end their campaign to keep Guantanamo open, and back them off from their dogged criticism of the President's national security strategy. Call me crazy, but isn't it obvious that such a retreat will have precisely the OPPOSITE effect, emboldening the right-wing to increase their volume and step up the pressure on the White House and Congressional Democrats? 

The Post story includes an extraordinary quote from the acting chief defense counsel at the Defense Department's Office of Military Commissions. Marine Colonel Jeffrey Colwell told the Post that it would be "a sad day for the rule of law" if President Obama decides not to proceed with a federal trial.

"I thought the decision where to put people on trial -- whether federal court or military commissions -- was based on what was right, not what is politically advantageous."

Colonel Colwell is right. Rahm Emanuel is not.

  Progressives throughout the country are taking a moment to call and fax the White House. They are responding to our appeal to let the White House know that we strongly oppose any deal to close Guantanamo that abandons our Constitution and our core values.

  Our national security, our judicial system based on the rule of law and our Constitution should not be jettisoned in a Washington, D.C. deal to curry favor with Senate Republicans and protect the President's political standing. I hope the White House will reconsider this ill-advised decision and listen to folks like their own Attorney General and Chief Defense Council at the Pentagon and put terrorist on trial in the system we know works best -- the criminal justice system.

  If you agree, the White House needs to hear from you.

White House Switchboard: 202-456-1111

Tom Andrews

Tom Andrews

Tom Andrews, a former Member of Congress from the first Congressional District of Maine, is the President and CEO of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. Tom also served as National Director of Win Without War, a coalition of forty-two national membership organizations including the National Council of Churches, the NAACP, the National Organization of Women, the Sierra Club, and MoveOn.  He is also co-founder of New Security Action.

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