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The Ghailani Debacle and What It Means

The horrendous result in the trial of the al-Qaeda participant in the 1998 embassy bombings is a revelation. What it reveals is just how feckless and irresponsible the policies of this administration have proved to be in the administration of the war on terror. The fact is that, over the course of the Bush administration, a legal regime was established to govern the treatment and handling of non-Americans captured outside the United States for the commission of terrorist acts. The regime came under withering assault from liberals, but it was consistent, predictable, and had underlying logic. Now, almost certainly, we’re spinning off into complete improvisation — Gitmo remaining open when the administration has declared its intention to close it, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad about to be detained indefinitely under war terms his detainers in this administration have rejected. What the Bush people did was far more considered than it was given credit for being at the time, and now the people who claimed it was acting lawlessly are on the verge of true lawlessness — which is what law is when it is inconsistently and improvisationally applied.


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