The Vaunted Effectiveness of Military Commissions

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On Sunday, while defending the Obama administration’s move to try the 9/11 co-conspirators, Vice President Joe Biden said this:

There have been three people tried and convicted by the last administration in military courts. Two are walking the street right now.

That can’t be right! There’s no way the tough-on-terror Republicans want to try terrorists in a system with such a poor record for keeping them locked up! Except, of course, it is right. PolitiFact explains:

After consulting news reports and military documents, we discovered that Biden was correct. We also checked with experts who both support and oppose military commissions for various reasons, and no one disputed Biden’s numbers.

The three men who were convicted are David Hicks, an Australian; Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver; and Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a propogandist for bin Laden. Hamdan is free in Yemen; Hicks is in Australia.

When he was contacted by PolitiFact to rebut Biden’s point, the best the National Review‘s Andrew McCarthy could come up with was that the commissions’ “progress” has been “hampered” because they’ve been “constantly challenged by liberal attorneys,” according to PolitiFact’s paraphrase. “It is more than a little rich for the very people who moved heaven and earth to prevent the commissions from being completed now complain that we didn’t complete very many commissions,” McCarthy told the fact-checkers. But if the military commissions were less flawed, feared “liberal attorneys” would not be challenging them—let alone winning. McCarthy is blaming his political opponents for the fact that the military commissions he advocates for are riddled with problems. Those liberal lawyers were just too good! That’s more than a little rich.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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