Fish in a Barrel

Getting a conviction at the military commissions melodrama playing at Guantanamo Bay (GITMO), Cuba, is like shooting fish in a barrel. (We doubt any one really shoots fish in a barrel, though maybe one or two bored gunslingers at GITMO have tried. Disclaimer: We are not advocating the shooting of detainees or fish — in a barrel or any other location.)

We digress.

A GITMO guilty verdict almost is assured. Given a list of charges that includes, say, material support of terrorism, and that support can take the form of writing a check, driving Osama Bin Laden, or, say, transporting a couple of al-Qaida-bound shoulder-launch missiles, items typically frowned upon at curbside check-ins even in Afghanistan and Pakistan, how can the prosecution miss? The six-officer jury in the trial of Bin Laden Bad Boy Salim Hamdan rendered its verdict. Guilty. And not so guilty. In short, Osama’s chauffeur dodged a bullet (again, figuratively) on conspiracy charges but was convicted of supporting terrorism.

Reportedly Hamdan wept when the verdicts were read. Tears of joy? Finally, there was a verdict and an end in sight, whatever that end might be. Second, he was cleared of the more serious conspiracy charges signaling the GITMO tribal council was voting him off the island.

It was no surprise the Tribal Six handed down a sentence of a short 5 1/2 years, with credit for time served, despite the prosecution’s plea for 30 years or more. Their move was not unprecedented on this survivors’ island: Aussie David Hicks pled guilty to supporting terrorism and had all but nine months of his sentence suspended. (Pressure from the Australian government probably played a role. Relations with Yemen, Hamdan’s home turf, are not the warmest.)

We’re speculating, but juries might be perplexed by proceedings focusing the on small fish rather than the sharks like the Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds of the world. The jury has spoken, and its message, though open to interpretation, might be, “Move on. Let’s get down to the real business.”

Recent Posts