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Ketanji Brown Jackson

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Bush War Crimes, Guantánamo in Spotlight at Ketanji Brown Jackson Hearings

"Representing Guantánamo detainees was entirely about the limits of executive power, not exoneration of terrorists. It's work she should be applauded for, unless you're, you know, anti-democracy."

Brett Wilkins

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Tuesday deflected attacks from Republican senators who questioned her work as a defense attorney for Guantánamo Bay detainees, as well as a false allegation that she called former Bush administration officials "war criminals."

"It's horrific to see Sen. Graham create twisted knots of logic to justify indefinite detention without due process."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) implied that Jackson's assigned work defending detainees held indefinitely without charge or trial in the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba imperiled U.S. national security, telling her that "if you tried to do this in World War II, they'd run you out of town."

Author and journalist Sonali Kolhatkar told Common Dreams that "it's horrific to see Sen. Graham create twisted knots of logic to justify indefinite detention without due process."

Kolhatkar accused Graham and other Republican senators of "trying to punish Jackson as a sort of payback to Democrats" for their questioning of Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett—who were appointed by former President Donald Trump—during their confirmation hearings.

"Graham was also childishly petulant that his favorite nominee hadn't been picked and it was cringeworthy to watch him demand that Jackson respond to what other people had said about a completely different potential pick, Michelle Childs, as if it had any bearing on Jackson's qualifications," she added. "The GOP is intent on subjecting her to abuse just to whip up political points."

Noting Jackson made clear that "representing Guantánamo detainees was entirely about the limits of executive power, not exoneration of terrorists," Zack Ford of Alliance for Justice tweeted that "it's work she should be applauded for, unless you're, you know, anti-democracy."

During his allotted time for questioning, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wondered "why in the world" Jackson—who he called "gracious and charming"—would call former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former President George W. Bush "war criminals."

"I don't remember that particular reference," Jackson replied. "I did not intend to disparage the president or the secretary of defense."

MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan wrote: "I get it. She has to say that. But let's be clear: No one should ever have to apologize for disparaging Bush or Rumsfeld."

As Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) subsequently noted, Jackson never called Rumsfeld or Bush war criminals. What she actually did was file a habeas corpus petition on behalf of individuals subjected to torture—a war crime—during the Bush administration.

"For the record," tweeted progressive Ohio congressional candidate Nina Turner, "Donald Rumsfeld is a war criminal."

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Bush administration lawyers drafted memos in an attempt to legalize the torture—officially called "enhanced interrogation"—that was occurring at Guantánamo and at CIA "black sites," U.S. military prisons, and elsewhere. Rumsfeld approved the torture techniques.

The Bush administration's allegedly pre-meditated 2003 invasion of Iraq under false pretenses—a war that destroyed a nation and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives—was called illegal by then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and numerous governments and human rights groups.

Benjamin Ferencz, a chief U.S. prosecutor at the post-World War II Nuremberg trials of leading Nazi officials, declared at the time that "a prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity, that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation."

Referring to Cornyn's false allegation, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch tweeted: "Two things can be true at the same time... Ketanji Brown Jackson never referred to George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld as 'war criminals.' Also, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld were war criminals."

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