America, the world's beacon of democracy - that shiny righteous city on the hill - has always claimed moral superiority to the war criminals of the past. America got this title because of two claims: we don't torture people and we give everyone the right of Habeas Corpus.
Well, toss #1 out the window. We do torture people. Of course, the CIA claims they only water boarded people when the country was in total chaos and everyone was absolutely terrified of another 9/11. Skeptics might say that's exactly when the CIA should have shown the MOST restraint - when the American citizenry was in a state of shock and needed to be calmed rather than prodded - but then that would hardly follow the government's systematic pattern of exploitation and fear-mongering.
So because we torture people, all confessions (of any kind) are immediately called into question, even the confession of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the former senior aide to Osama bin Laden, who has said he was the principal planner of the plot and who is one of the Gitmo Six. No video tapes of his interrogation were ever shown to the public, so we have no idea if he was forced into giving false information through torture.
The CIA were desperate to find someone - anyone - on which to pin the blame for 9/11. Perhaps in their desperate quest, they overzealously interrogated terrified men, who in turn regurgitated false confessions in hopes of calming their crazed captors.
And #2 (the right of Habeas Corpus) flew out the window, too. The government can lock you up, and they don't need to tell you why, or even present evidence to a court. Just ask the six men awaiting their "trial" in Guantanamo. These guys aren't going to get a fair trial, and some people might say that's a good thing.
After all, why should we give terrorists a fair trial?
Well, the question has a two-fold answer. First, they could be innocent. Yes, it's true: sometimes our government has the wrong people arrested. Second, we gave NAZIS fair trials at Nuremberg. We even found a lot of defendants not guilty! In the Nuremberg opening proceedings alone, three men were found not guilty. The men got a second chance at freedom because they were able to speak in their defense and present evidence in court: two bedrocks of American democracy.
In other words, men accused of Nazi war crimes had more rights than the Gitmo Six.
Still, even without the right of Habeas Corpus, even without the right of a fair trial, maybe...maybe...these guys can catch a lucky break.
Not according to Colonel Morris Davis, a former prosecutor for the military commissions overseeing all the prosecutions at Gitmo. The Nation magazine reveals that when Davis spoke with Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes, who now oversees the prosecutions and the defense for the tribunal process, about the possibility of acquittals, Haynes nearly had a heart attack.
"(At the) Nuremberg trials there were some acquittals, and if there are some acquittals in our situation here, at least that will lend some legitimacy to the process," Davis told Haynes. That's when, according to Davis, Haynes's eyes grew to the size of saucers.
"We can't have acquittals," Haynes said, "How can we explain holding these people for so long?" and he added, "We have to have convictions."
Even Nazis caught a better break than the Gitmo Six. These guys are going to get railroaded, and potentially executed, on-site. And yet some individuals still claim the Gitmo Six will receive a fair trial, despite the practices of secret evidence and torture.
Pentagon legal adviser Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann claims the defendants will have the right to remain silent so as to not incriminate themselves. But Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights told Democracy Now that Hartmann's claims are weak.
"He said that these detainees were going to have was a right to remain silent at trial. What that means is, they didn't have the right to remain silent when the government was torturing them and interrogating them and abusing them, (but) they can sit idly by during this commissions process and listen to the stream of evidence that was brought in against them through torture, and they have a right not to say anything about it, and it is an illusory right.
Military officials have said that even if these men are found not guilty, the government has no intention of letting them go. So the absolute best they can do is to remain in jail for the rest of your life illegally. And, of course, the worst you can do is to be executed. These are sham show trials, and there is nothing about this that comports with due process."
One can practically hear the Gitmo Six pining: If only we were Nazis.
The trials at Nuremberg were a proud moment for America. We got to show the world that we gave even our enemies a chance to defend themselves. We let the worst of the worst - individuals accused of genocide - present evidence in their defense. For a brief moment in history, America truly was a merciful giant, one capable of compassion and immeasurable kindness and decency.
However, if the Gitmo Six are subjected to these secret, illegal trials, and then are murdered in a United States military prison, we have become what we have so long claimed to loathe: immoral tyrants.