Hentoff on Hamdan, McCain

Much as I resist quoting Nat Hentoff because of his bizarre take on abortion rights [and I acknowledge that I’ve removed his gratuitous comments in that regard from this piece], he’s got it right on this one, as he often does, calling John McCain to account for his response to the partial acquittal of Salim Hamdan:

John McCain supported the Military Commissions Act, and has also agreed with Bush’s veto of a bill that would have required the CIA (including its secret prisons that Bush continues to authorize) to adhere to the Army Field Manual by which all of the other armed and security-based services are mandated not to engage in torture.

So it was not surprising that, after Hamdan’s recent partial conviction, McCain said in a prepared statement to the media: “Unlike Sen. Obama, who voted against the (Military Commissions Act) and favors giving al-Qaida terrorists direct access to U.S. civilian courts to contest their detention, I recognize that we cannot treat dangerous terrorists captured on the battlefield as we would common criminals.”

Hamdan was not captured on the battlefield. The military jury cleared him of being “a dangerous terrorist.” And McCain is oblivious to the fact – shown by the Department of Defense’s own records – that many prisoners at Guantanamo Bay had no connections with al-Qaida.

Barack Obama said of the Hamdan trial (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 7) that it “underscores the dangerous flaws in the administration’s legal framework. It’s time to better protect the American people and our values by bringing swift and sure justice to terrorists through our courts and our Uniform Code of Military Justice.”


Most importantly, the military jury in the Hamdan trial did show the world that the former McCain was right when he said of American values against the terrorists: “It’s not about them; it’s about us.”

As commander in chief, will McCain nonetheless continue to implement George W. Bush’s separate legal system, exemplified by his inventions of the military commissions – along with the CIA’s secret prisons and “renditions” of suspects to be tortured in other countries? If he is elected, the world will be watching.  [emphases mine]

I think that it’s of some concern that John McCain continues to make serious errors in his description of critical facts, as he does here.  Like his concern over the security of the Iraq-Pakistani border, which doesn’t exist; his notion that Iran is allowing al-Qaeda fighters into the country; his worry that Iran is supporting Sunni insurgents in Iraq when, if anything, they would be supporting Shiites; and speaks of “Czechoslovakia” as if it still exists.

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