Thursday, August 07, 2008

The System ... Works?

All through the trial of Salim Hamdam, one question has been nagging at us.  Assuming that he committed the war crimes for which he is on trial, we asked ourselves, how serious are those crimes, exactly?

He was Osama bin Laden's driver.  And bin Laden is a horrible man, one of the few human beings on earth whom, given five minutes in a locked room, we at the Egg would gladly beat to death with our own fists. 

But Hamdam was his driver.  His chauffeur.  Sure, it's a form of collaboration, but it has to be the least collaborative form there is.  Blaming him for 9/11 is like blaming Iraq on the pilot of Air Force One, or waterboarding on the cab driver who gives David Addington a lift across town.

Given our level of confidence in the military court hearing the case, we fully expected that a guilty verdict would be (a) inevitable and (b) immediately followed by the maximum sentence allowable.  And when the prosecutors asked for 30-to-life, we fully expected them to get it.  And that's where the anonymous tribunal caught us off guard.

They sentenced him to 5 1/2 years, including time served -- and he has already served five years.  The guy could be free in six months.  (Although the Navy also says it won't release anybody it considers a threat, so expect some legal and political fireworks in early 2009).

We can't help wondering whether the jury was sending a message up through the chain of command, and into the political leadership.  If so, it might have been something like this: 

You people, the incompetent politicians and the hamstrung brass, have spent years attacking the wrong target, and everybody knows it.  Seven years later, bin Laden is still alive, and the whole country knows it, and it reveals your impotence to the world.  So you figured we could use this guy -- the driver, for God's sake -- as a scapegoat, a straw man to knock down in Osama's place and appease the bloodthirsty crowd.  And you figured that we would be angry and vindictive and obedient enough to do it, didn't you?  But guess what:  We are still have something none of the rest of you, on our side or theirs, seems to have left:  Our honor.

We at the Egg find even our own icy-cold hearts are actually touched by the HuffPo description of the sentencing:

Hamdan thanked the jurors for the sentence and repeated his apology for having served bin Laden.

"I would like to apologize one more time to all the members and I would like to thank you for what you have done for me," Hamdan told the panel of six U.S. military officers, hand-picked by the Pentagon for the first U.S. war crimes trial in a half century. ...

"I hope the day comes that you return to your wife and daughters and your country, and you're able to be a provider, a father, and a husband in the best sense of all those terms," the judge told Hamdan.

Hamdan, dressed in a charcoal sports coat and white robe, responded: "God willing."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

four yrs including time served plus compensation for any incarcerated time over that would have sat well.