NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: April 1

Forever Guantanamo

On February 11, 2008, the Pentagon announced that charges were being filed against six men in connection with the September 11 attacks, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the attacks and one of al-Qaeda’s most senior members, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a leader of the Hamburg cell that included several of the September 11 pilots. It has taken nearly seven years for these men to be indicted—while more than 240 other prisoners continue to remain at Guantánamo in a state of indefinite detention without charge. In contrast, Britain, after one of the longest and most expensive trials in its history, has already convicted and sentenced four men for the failed attacks on the London subway on July 21, 2005.

Last year, British officials also arrested three other men for involvement in the deadly attacks on three London subway lines and a bus on July 7, 2005, two weeks earlier; they are scheduled to go on trial at the end of March. Spain has convicted twenty-one of twenty-eight men charged in connection with the terrorist attacks on commuter trains in Madrid in March 2004; and Indonesia has held lengthy trials and convicted four men who were accused of the terrorist attacks in Bali in October 2002, two of whom have been sentenced to death, and two to life imprisonment.

“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a guiding principle of the American criminal justice system. The Bush administration has ignored this principle with impunity, and America’s image abroad has suffered greatly as a result.

Iranian general played key role in Iraq cease-fire

Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran’s Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.

Sadr ordered the halt on Sunday, and his Mahdi Army militia heeded the order in Baghdad, where the Iraqi government announced it would lift a 24-hour curfew starting early Monday in most parts of the capital.

Ground is shifting beneath diplomacy with Pakistan

Not so long ago, the Bush administration could take a one-stop approach to its dealings with Pakistan. Whether Washington wanted to carry out airstrikes against Al Qaeda, trade sensitive intelligence or orchestrate the arrest of a terrorism suspect, it essentially came down to dialing the number of one man: President Pervez Musharraf.

Now all that has changed. Newly inaugurated Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gillani has pledged to take a hard new look at counter-terrorism, the centerpiece of Musharraf’s nearly nine-year rule. He will be backed by a Cabinet made up of former opposition figures who probably will be sworn in this week.

An assertive new parliament is vowing to wield authority that lawmakers here lacked for years, demanding oversight on matters that were previously the president’s sole purview. And the general who succeeded Musharraf as army chief four months ago has methodically removed the powerful military from politics and promised accountability to elected officials.

The longest war

This former Taliban stronghold, where Osama bin Laden spent time planning the Sept. 11 attacks, has become an American success story. The Taliban is being pushed out, and a government presence is extending into previously hostile territory. At NATO headquarters in Kabul, most of Khost has been moved out of the “red” column — at least for now.

Khost shows that, with the right combination of resources and leadership, it can be done. But Khost is not simply a good-news story. It also underscores a larger, troubling truth: The conflict in Afghanistan will be far more costly and much, much longer than Americans realize. This war, already in its seventh year, will eventually become the longest in American history, surpassing even Vietnam.

Some Republicans emerge to endorse Obama

Call them the Obamacans: They are against continuing the Iraq war and reject what they see as Mr. Bush’s unconstitutional buildup of executive power. While the conservative Republican base rejected Senator McCain in the early primaries for his push for bipartisan campaign finance regulation and amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Arizona senator’s hawkish support for the Iraq war has alienated what was once his national constituency, anti-Bush Republicans.

The Obamacans include a former senator of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee; a former senior Justice Department official under President Reagan and senior legal adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Douglas Kmiec, and a granddaughter of President Eisenhower, Susan Eisenhower.

The Clinton firewall

Google the phrase “Clinton firewall” and you will come up with an ever-lengthening list of scenarios that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has said will stop Barack Obama’s candidacy. The New Hampshire primary, said her campaign, would be the firewall to end Obamamania. Then Super Tuesday was supposed to be the firewall. Then Texas. Now Pennsylvania and Indiana.

For four months, the political world has been hypnotized by this string-along game, not bothering to ask what this Clinton tactic really is. The “just wait until the next states” mantra has diverted our attention from the firewall’s grounding in race and democracy. But now, with only a few months until the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the firewall’s true composition is coming into focus. Whether Obama can overcome this barrier will likely decide who becomes the Democrats’ presidential nominee.

Clinton didn’t pay health insurance bills

Among the debts reported this month by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s struggling presidential campaign, the $292,000 in unpaid health insurance premiums for her campaign staff stands out.

Clinton, who is being pressured to end her campaign against Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, has made her plan for universal health care a centerpiece of her agenda.

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