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Wednesday, 06 September 2006 22:05

Only Bush Could Make Secret CIA Prisons Sound Like a Good Thing. Too Bad it was all a Diversion from Rummy's No Confidence Vote

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George Bush erased any remaining doubt that he is exploiting the struggle against terrorism for his own political gains when he announced the transfer of several key leaders from secret CIA prisons to Guantanamo for trials.

The most obvious sign is the fact that he made his big announcement the same day Democrats tried to bring a vote of no confidence against Donald Rumsfeld. Even though the measure was killed by Republicans, Democrats managed to achieve one of their most public and direct criticisms of the Administration's handling of Iraq to date. Yet Bush just so happened to conveniently make his big announcement on the same day and Rummy got an undeserved pass.

By itself, Bush's admission would evoke fear and suspicion: we have been holding several people for several years in secret prisons across the world without any charges. With the all detainee abuse in known prisons like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, one can only imagine what sorts of things went on when even the locations were hidden. After all, part of the point of international prisoner transfers is to keep people in places where torture is allowed.

However, when Bush parades his few terrorist trophy captures and then offers a seemingly magnanimous claim that they will all get hearings, people start to forget the whole secret prison part. Worse, some might even think it is all justified.

The truth is that Bush is not suddenly becoming progressive or reasonable; he's just as obstinate as ever. He tortured the suspects and is now hoping to subject them to as draconian a trial as the Supreme Court will let him get away with.

Bush's confession has also succeeded in further alienating us from our allies. The European Union has demanded that Bush disclose the locations of our secret prisons while foreign newspapers and politicians have blasted the Administration's arrogance.

Consider this excerpt from a Japanese report:

In Europe, the head of a European investigation into alleged CIA prisons in Europe said he believed the timing of Bush's disclosure was politically motivated. "It probably has to do with the fact that the elections are coming up in the United States," said Swiss senator Dick Marty.

Marty said Bush's speech was "just one piece of the truth," without elaborating. "There is more, much more to be revealed," he added.

Planning stump speeches and rallies is one thing, coordinating CIA and military procedure around your political schedule is something else. This isn't the first time a big counter-terrorism announcement was made on or around damaging events, and it won't be the last. Our intelligence and justice services are not there just to keep Republicans in office. If Bush were really interested in national security, he would stop this exploitation.

This isn't about being "soft" against terrorists. If they killed people, or tried to, they belong in jail just like any other criminal. But there is nothing unreasonable about demanding reasonable doubt be proven before punishing someone. That is one of the staples of our own Constitution.

If Bush were not so stubborn and conniving, all of our detainees could have started serving their sentences years ago. Instead, he is determined not to show an iota of compromise or sensibility, and we are forced to spend more time dealing with how Bush is abusing prisoners than catching news ones.