Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 15, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HARDBALL....Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe reports that the White House is taking steps to rein in those pesky JAG lawyers who think that Guantanamo detainees deserve something at least remotely resembling a fair hearing:

The Bush administration is pushing to take control of the promotions of military lawyers, escalating a conflict over the independence of uniformed attorneys who have repeatedly raised objections to the White House's policies toward prisoners in the war on terrorism.

....Retired Major General Thomas Romig, the Army's top JAG from 2001 to 2005, called the proposal an attempt "to control the military JAGs" by sending a message that if they want to be promoted, they should be "team players" who "bow to their political masters on legal advice."

It "would certainly have a chilling effect on the JAGs' advice to commanders," Romig said. "The implication is clear: without [the administration's] approval the officer will not be promoted."

You will be unsurprised to learn that this is a revival of a policy first proposed in the early 90s by — of course — Dick Cheney, David Addington, and William Haynes. Savage says that the Senate Armed Services Committee forced Cheney to back down the first time, but now he's back to give it another try.

Haynes, by the way, is currently the Defense Department General Counsel, a political appointment. He's also the guy who caused Morris Davis, chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, to resign his job. (Note: that's the chief prosecutor, not some effete, terror-loving defense attorney. The prosecutor resigned because the deck was stacked too firmly in the prosecution's direction.) If you need your memory refreshed, here's Morris in the LA Times a few days ago:

I resigned because of two memos signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England that placed the chief prosecutor — that was me — in a chain of command under Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes. Haynes was a controversial nominee for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but his nomination died in January 2007, in part because of his role in authorizing the use of the aggressive interrogation techniques some call torture.

I had instructed the prosecutors in September 2005 that we would not offer any evidence derived by waterboarding, one of the aggressive interrogation techniques the administration has sanctioned. Haynes and I have different perspectives and support different agendas, and the decision to give him command over the chief prosecutor's office, in my view, cast a shadow over the integrity of military commissions. I resigned a few hours after I was informed of Haynes' place in my chain of command.

The Military Commissions Act provides a foundation for fair trials, but some changes are clearly necessary. I was confident in full, fair and open trials when Gen. Altenburg was the convening authority and Brig. Gen. Tom Hemingway was his legal advisor. Collectively, they spent nearly 65 years in active duty, and they were committed to ensuring the integrity of military law. They acted on principle rather than politics.

The first step, if these truly are military commissions and not merely a political smoke screen, is to take control out of the hands of political appointees like Haynes and Crawford and give it back to the military.

Bush, Cheney, and Addington obviously have exactly the opposite view.

Via Steve Benen.

Kevin Drum 2:42 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Comments

Support the troops, bee-atch!

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 15, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

It is truly amazing that when you think these scumbags cannot go any lower, they find a new low. These people are disgusting representatives of our country. When are we going to take our country back?

Posted by: Mazurka on December 15, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

what we need in this country is a nice, soviet-style court system, complete with show trials for anyone who dares think differently than the administration...

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 15, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

and perhaps a few re-education camps

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 15, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush administration is pushing to take control of the promotions of military lawyers,

And what's wrong with that? Since Bush is Commander-in-Chief of the military, shouldn't Bush legally have the power to determine who serves under his command? It would make a mockery of his powers as Commander-in-Chief if soldiers could ignore his orders with impunity, and yet he couldn't hire, fire, promote, or demote them. I have no doubt new Attorney General Michael Mukasey would agree with me also.

Posted by: Al on December 15, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Al...is it ok for your boss to order you to break the law ? Would you do it ?
Never mind, you obviously do not think for yourself

Posted by: Jake on December 15, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Al I forgot. It is a soldiers obligation to refuse to break the law even if ordered to. So when the PROSECUTOR of the show trials resigns, its kind of a BIG deal. But you would not know this I'm certain, because you would have at one time had to have taken an oath like this one

I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR (OR AFFIRM) THAT I WILL SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC; THAT I WILL BEAR TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE TO THE SAME; AND THAT I WILL OBEY THE ORDERS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE ORDERS OF THE OFFICERS APPOINTED OVER ME, ACCORDING TO REGULATIONS AND THE UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE. SO HELP ME GOD.

You don't get to pick and choose which parts of this you will obey. The part you will miss starts with the comma ", according to regulations and the uniform code of military justice".

You are not allowed to break the law. You might think it says something else, but I'm sure that the lawyers involved know a bit more than you do.

Take it a step further. "Against all enemies foreign and domestic."

If people or peoples in this country are attacking the Constitution ("it's just a godamned piece of paper" GWB 2005) no matter who, it is a soldiers moral obligation to stop it.
Is that what you want Al ? The military leadership removing the governmental leadership ? Its kind of like the end of this democratic experiment. Then what Al ? How well has this worked out in the past with other countries Al ? What would you suggest Al ? Balls in your court Al, you have advocated the destruction of our countries most sacred treasure Al, the rule of law. Sorry Al.

Posted by: Jake on December 15, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Yo, Al - learn the difference between lawful and unlawful orders. This president disgraces everyone who has ever served honorably with his dishonorable actions, hiding behind the authority of a uniform he sullied when he was allowed to wear it.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 15, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush Administration will tempt you to invoke Godwin's Law like no other. I view Bush and Cheney as Nazis. They have no respect for the law at all. They could not care less about our system of government.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 15, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Disgustingly outrageous. There are really no words left to adequately express the contempt I have for this administration. Or perhaps there are no words as yet in existence. It's way beyond outrage and disgust.

Posted by: nepeta on December 15, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously Al doesn't know (or care?) that the President is supposed to enforce the rules and regulations for the military as established by Congress. No President has ever, legally, had the power to "../hire, fire, promote or demote them." except as established by Congress.
The only mockery here is that shown by Bush and his fellow criminals (if it acts like a duck...) towards the U.S. judicial system, military and civilian.

Posted by: Doug on December 15, 2007 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Do NOT attempt to adjust the picture --
WE control the military,
WE control the judiciary,
We can change the Constitution from "supreme law" to blurred obscurity ...

The "Unitary Execuive"
WITHOUT[er] Limits
.

Posted by: Poilu on December 15, 2007 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush Administration will tempt you to invoke Godwin's Law like no other. ...

Not that it was ever terribly appropriate as a universal "rule of thumb", Godwin's so-called "Law" has now assuredly met its demise, owing to the unprecedented relevance the Bush Reich and its NeoCoNazi supporters give to "Hitler analogies".

And good riddance to it! That pseudo-rule perpetually "threw the baby out with the bath water" by conflating mere invective with serious historical comparisons, all in the unworthy cause of "political correctness".

... I view Bush and Cheney as Nazis.

An entirely rational conclusion, little ole jim. I concur, and also strongly believe that if more Americans realistically embraced that thoroughly sensible interpretation, we might finally be able to actually end this long national nightmare. (Of course, that could conceivably require a little "homegrown terrorism" or "violent radicalization" -- concepts Thomas Jefferson accurately described as "the spirit of resistance". But I think Americans are fully up to the task, provided a valid paradigm for their predicament. And unbridled Fascism is certainly a realistic depiction of our nation's current trajectory.)
.

Posted by: Poilu on December 15, 2007 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

little ole jim: They have no respect for the law at all. They could not care less about our system of government.

and they pay lip service to the military and guard while shoving extended tours and executive orders up their butts...

the military is finally catching on...

Nearly six out of every 10 military families disapprove of Bush's job performance and the way he has run the war.

58% of military families want the troops home within a year or sooner.

- L.A. Times/Bloomberg Poll 12/6/07

talk about getting played...

Posted by: mr. irony on December 16, 2007 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Al doesn't exist. He has been repeatedly challenged on moral and logical grounds and doesn't have the corpuscles to respond on even the most basic level, so we should leave it at the fact that he is merely a self-admitted Bush-sucking flack and not try to pretend anything else.

Re the JAGs, let's remember that even in the waning days of WWII, the Nazis still consigned a sizable number of "men" to protecting and running the death camps. Priorities, baby, priorities.

Posted by: Kenji on December 16, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

This latest attempt by the Bush Admnistration to 'control' military judge advocates, is akin to controls put on the miltary by the Soviet and Nazi regimes. Remember that Hitler consolodated his power by making the Wehrmacht, Kriesmarine and Luftwaffe personnel swear allegiance to him. This is going down that route.
Also note that this idea is being pushed by people who have never served in the military. Addington couldn't get through his first year at Annapolis, Haynes did his Army reserve service in civilian clothes, and Cheney famously had 'other priorities' durng Vietnam, receiving five deferments. None have any idea about the ethics and ethos of military JAG service.

Posted by: Offda on December 16, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose on some level I understand why Cheney et all love this idea. The whole unitary executive/authoritarian strain. What I don't understand is how that trumps their obsession with party politics which is also a huge part of their makeup. I don't think these guys are so stupid as to not understand, that like-minded Republicans will be president in perpetuity. They have to know that one of those libural (said with a sneer) Democrats will be president as well. Would they still be happy with that power in the hands of their hated enemy? Will they still think it is a good thing? Are these guys so short sighted?

I can't wait for a new president/vice president. I almost don't care who it is. I refuse to believe the crop of candidates could be any worse. Oh. Wait look at the Republican field.....

Posted by: ET on December 17, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Haynes was a controversial nominee for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but his nomination died in January 2007, in part because of his role in authorizing the use of the aggressive interrogation techniques some call torture.

Christ, I am getting so sick of this Orwellian doublespeak and the refusal to call torture what it is. It's like reading a sentence concluding "the use of the aggressive lovemaking techniques some call rape."

Posted by: Stefan on December 17, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK
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