I have been a defender of the military commission system (though, as I’ve also argued, we can and should do better, namely a national security court). But as we’ve seen before, military judges make whopper mistakes too — recall for example the one who tried to dismiss the charges against the detainee Omar Khadr.
Calling the one today a whopper does not come close to doing it justice.
Naval Captain Keith Allred, the military judge in Salim Hamdan’s case, today sentenced Osama bin Laden’s former driver and confidant to 5 1/2 years – that’s FIVE-AND-A-HALF years — in prison for the war crime of providing material support to the terror network with which we are still at war and which continues killing and trying to kill Americans. Worse, it appears Hamdan will get credit for time served, which means his sentence will be deemed over in a matter of months if not sooner.
It is the worst sentence I have ever heard of. It demonstrates an unseriousness about the war and the stakes involved. It is a deep blow to those fighting to defend the commissions and for a different system for dealing with terrorists. Why not send them to the civilian court system, critics will ask with great force. After all, the judges there have shown they take terrorism seriously — they have routinely sentenced lesser players than a personal aide to bin Laden (one who kept him alive and helped sustain al Qaeda) to 30 and more years.
I don’t know what else to say about it. It’s just a mind-boggling disgrace.