THE BLOG
09/07/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hamdan Case a Joke

We finally got him. Your children can now play freely in the streets again. We have nabbed, yes, Osama bin Laden's limo driver. Move over Hermann Göring and make room for Ahmad Hamdan.

As we all let out a sigh of collective relief, let us recap how we came to this glorious occasion:

Up until November 2001, Hamdan was chauffeuring bin Laden and a trunk full of surface-to-air missiles, thus providing material support to terrorists. He was a member of the world's number one terrorist' inner posse of bodyguards--a Yemeni version of Suge Knight.

After being detained and hauled off to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he wasted away in a detention facility until he finally was charged in 2003 on charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. Five years later (and the scrapping of habeas corpus, thanks to the 2006 Military Commissions Act) and countless mentions in the press--including the Ali-versus-Frazier-like 2006 case Hamdan-versus-Rumsfeld before the Supremes--he was found innocent of conspiracy (the more serious offense) and guilty of providing material support.

Lest you think this was a kangaroo court, the jury (all of them U.S. military officers) deliberated for eight hours over three days to reach their verdict. Thus, justice was served. The end.

Let's be honest: this case was a joke in the annals of justice and a blotch on America's campaign to prevent future 9/11's. It was held behind closed doors and secret evidence was admitted. The charge of material support for terrorism has no historical basis in international law or the laws of war, nor did the military commissions have proper jurisdiction to even try Hamdan on these charges. The tight handling of evidence and the lack of appeals made it nearly impossible for detainees to build a credible defense or counter the charges levied against them. Even the term "unlawful enemy combatant" has no legal basis in the laws of war.

Our military is always trumpeting how great its courts martial system is--if so, then why try these guys in what most legal rights groups call a kangaroo court? Nobody believes Hamdan received a fair trial. And if Nuremberg is the gold standard for war crimes trials (it was repeatedly invoked during the proceedings), then why wasn't Hitler's driver, Erich Kempka, prosecuted as a war criminal?

I believe Hamdan was not as clueless as his defense would have you believe. There's no way you can ferry around Osama bin Laden and not know what the chap is up to. But my feeling, though, is there are bigger fish to fry. This is a distraction and it paints us as weak and incompetent in the eyes of the world. Let's try those detainees in Guantanamo Bay, but let's do it right.

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?