It begins like this
No one seems to know how old Mohammed Jawad was when he was seized by Afghan forces in Kabul six and a half years ago and turned over to American custody. Some reports say he was 14. Some say 16. The Afghan government believes he was 12.
The penultimate paragraph
There is no credible evidence against Jawad, and his torture-induced confession has rightly been ruled inadmissible by a military judge. But the Obama administration does not feel that he has suffered enough. Not only have administration lawyers opposed defense efforts to secure Jawad’s freedom, but they are using, as the primary basis for their opposition, the fruits of the confession that was obtained through torture and has already been deemed inadmissible — without merit, of no value.
Read the column. I have words to offer below, but they will not matter if you read the column
The officer assigned to prosecute him is now retired, and works with his military defense lawyers to try to free Mohammed Jawad.
There is nothing I can say about the case itself that Herbert does not already present as lucidly as is possible. Let me illustrate with one additional paragraph from the piece:
Jawad also complained about being mistreated at Guantánamo, saying he had been moved with absurd frequency from cell to cell — the idea being to deprive him of sleep. A check of the official prison logs showed that Jawad had in fact been moved 112 times, without explanation, from one cell to another in a two-week period — an average of eight moves a day for 14 days.
But there is something else I must say.
I do not know who these administration lawyers are, whether they are burrowed in Bush political appointees, career personnel who are still following the guidance of the previous administration, or whatever possible reason might be offered for this kind of behavior.
This administration has now been in office, as of today, June 20, for 5 months. And yet legal arguments being present in courts are largely unchanged from those of the previous 8 years.
We have seen it on DOMA.
We have seen it in the apparent decision not to hold torturers to account.
We have seen it in the continued use of the state secrets doctrine.
We have seen it again and again and again.
And almost all of the examples either I have cited or have been cited by others seem to violate the commitments Obama made to the American people, to us, when he sought the office he now holds.
How long does it take competent lawyers to examine the case records and come to a determination of how to do things differently? If the lawyers addressing these cases cannot do so in five months, why are they not being removed? If they are deliberately ignoring the guidance of the President and his administration, why are they not removed?
And if neither of those are the reasons, does that mean the President and his administration accept the reasoning now being presented to courts around the nation? And if so, does not the President owe us, owe the American people, a clear and forthright explanation of why he is pursuing a different approach legally than we were led to believe would be his direction?
I understand that trials under military authority are supposed to be protected from command influence. That doctrine was implemented to protect those being court-martialed. A commander always has the right to decide not to bring charges. Anyone who doubts that merely need examine how few of those responsible for the horrors of Abu Ghraib ever faced Courts Martial. Thus there should be no reason for the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the President of the United States stating clearly that given the set of facts that are not in dispute in a case like this,
- all charges should be dropped against Mohammed Jawad
- he should be immediately released back to his family
- the Afghan government should be informed in no uncertain terms that he is to be protected
- he should be given compensation for his mistreatment, torture and unlawful confinement by agents of the United State of America.
I find myself having to again be critical of an administration for whose success I strongly hope - I am not Rush Limbaugh saying that I want Obama to fail.
And I acknowledge that the administration faces many major issues, and cannot right every wrong instantaneously.
There is much good the Obama administration has already done.
But when it comes to human rights, to civil liberties, to basic fairness, justice delayed is, as William Gladstone told us, justice denied.
To continue to use discredited legal argumentation, especially when it means a person we have already badly mistreated, continues to remain in indefinite limbo, in our custody, should be viewed as a violation of much of what we hold dear.
No cruel and unusual punishment.
Equal justice before the law.
Due process of law.
The right to confront the accusers and evidence against one.
Simple human decency.
So Bob Herbert is right to ask his question, How Long is Long Enough?
When the basis of continuing to hold a person is the result of our having tortured him, any time is already too long.