Many had hoped that US President Barack Obama would undo all the damage done by his predecessor. Now, it looks like he might continue the Bush-era practice of trying terror suspects in military tribunals. German commentators are disappointed.Germany's "holier than thou" outrage is absurd, as The Corner's Mario Loyola observes:
When US President Barack Obama entered office in January and promptly pledged to shut down the US prison at Guantanamo and suspended all further military tribunals of the kind used by his predecessor George W. Bush, human rights groups across the country and the world were relieved. Finally, they thought, America would cease locking away terror suspects without recourse to the justice system.
Not surprisingly, though, closing down Guantanamo has proven much easier said than done. Even those prisoners deemed not to be dangerous are creating headaches for Washington as the search continues for countries willing to take them. Domestically, opposition is large to an Obama administration plan to release a group of Chinese Uighur prisoners into the US.
Many of the 241 prisoners, however, cannot simply be released -- and recent reports in the US media indicate that Obama may be grabbing for a Bush-era tool that he appeared to have jettisoned: military commissions. According to the New York Times this weekend, the Obama administration has begun leaning towards trying some of the remaining inmates in such controversial tribunals.
Obama has never categorically rejected the military commissions as a means of dealing with Guantanamo prisoners, some of whom are accused of having been involved in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the US. During the campaign, though, he did say that "by any measure, our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure."
Any return to using such military commissions would be a major disappointment to human rights groups who were hoping that Obama's election signalled a new era in America's handling of terror suspects. As German editorials show on Monday, frustration across the Atlantic is equally high.
In an editorial entitled "Obama's Great Mistake," the center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:Obama's people certainly imagined things differently. But reality has caught up with them. What should they do with people who . . . are in fact horrifying criminals but whose confessions came as a result of brutal interrogations? No regular court would accept the testimony. Should suspected masterminds of the 9/11 attacks and other terrible attacks be set free? That can't be the solution either. Obama is thus considering holding on to the military commissions with a couple of extra rights for the suspects. Bush light, so to speak.
Obama is thus discrediting both himself and the US. It would be better were he to gather the necessary political courage to initiate criminal proceedings before regular courts. Legally, it will be incredibly complicated and possibly untenable in some cases. But the country cannot get around the purification process. Otherwise, the poison from the Bush era could continue to infect America's image for years to come.
The fact that the leaders of all four 9/11 cells were the product of German universities continues to infect Germany’s image in my mind. And the poison of German cultural intolerance, in particular their inability to assimilate the "outlanders" among them, continues to infect the world, to say nothing of their image. And don’t even get me started on their embarrassing performance in Afghanistan, where they have managed to be upstaged by their tiniest European neighbors. Maybe one day I will worry about what the Germans think of us; for the moment, I’m more worried about what I think of them.Still, at some level, I am not surprised: Europe's crush on post-Bush America was only going to last so long as Obama risked U.S. national security for pacifistic press notices. As I have said:
"no-force" diplomacy is the EU's secular religion, obscuring the reality that soft power is . . . well . . . soft. Puny and powerless too--confined to toothless talk-talk forums; futile for defending the non-negotiable.Defense against those who target un-armed civilians, of course, tops the list of the non-negotiable.
Suddenly, I'm an optimist, hoping that--when we look back in years to come--this will be seen as the week Obama grew up. Even though accompanied by a heavy helping of hypocrisy.