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Joan Z. Shore Headshot

Trial and (T)error

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The American concept of justice has evolved into something very
strange indeed.

Last year, American justice gave us the farcical Saddam trial. Last
week, we were treated to another burlesque performance: the trial of David
Hicks.

After spending five years in illegal and debilitating detention, the
young Australian was offered a deal -- a plea bargain -- to get him off
the hook and out of Guantanamo. In return for his "confession," he was
sentenced not to twenty years, as originally suggested, but a mere nine
months. Probably what he would have gotten had he been caught shoplifting
at Wal-Mart.

Any sane person would surely confess to anything to get out of
Guantanamo. That the American government, through its ill-conceived
military court, would extort such confessions is appalling. Will the same
manipulation be employed for the 80 other detainees who are scheduled to
be "tried"? And what about the remaining prisoners -- close to 400 of
them -- who are not scheduled to go before this cartoon court? They are
doomed to remain in that penal colony, simply on grounds of suspicion.

This is not a miscarriage of justice: "justice" here is a total
misnomer. It is akin to the malady that infuses our judicial system, so
that if we can't convict a gangster for his crimes, we get him on tax
evasion. If we can't prove conclusive guilt, we get a plea bargain.

David Hicks will have quite a story to tell, once his enforced year
of silence is up. Meanwhile, his case and the others that undoubtedly
will follow will be used as fodder for the Bush administration's
propaganda machine. "We got 'em!," they will proclaim. Got who? Some
hapless individuals who may or may not have been al-Qaida sympathizers,
and who, like Hicks, are not likely to be suicidal Muslim terrorists
plotting another 9/11.

Let's remember the facts as we watch this play out: Osama bin Laden
is still at large, Iraq has been devastated, and our government is
treating us to a little "divertissement" with some monkey trials.

Bring on the clowns.