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Extra! Dog Bites Man! Read All About It!

by Dave Lindorff
Wed, 08/06/2008
After torturing and imprisoning Osama Bin Laden’s chauffeur for seven years, did anyone expect anything but a quilty verdict--of lesser charges (to justify his treatment?)--from this military tribunal? What we really need to be asking is why taxpayer dollars are being spent on this shameful farce, which makes a joke of American “justice” around the world.

In the category of yawn-inducing stories that we knew all about before they happened, comes word that the jury of senior uniformed officers sitting in judgement of Osama Bin Laden’s chauffeur in the first Bush-league military tribunal to actually go to a hearing at Guantanamo Naval Station found the prisoner, Salim Hamdan...

Drum roll please...

Guilty of supporting terrorism.

I pause here for gasps of astonishment.

It’s awfully silent...

Really, did anyone expect anything else? The officers, who all have careers to think about that would surely be severely crimped if they went off script and found the man innocent of the charges, heard evidence that was obtained through torture. They heard reports of confessions from a man who himself was subjected to torture, by the admission of the military itself, and who was never afforded an attorney during those interrogations.

Okay. So now we need to ask, do we all feel safer, knowing that a car driver whose claim to fame is that he used to drive the Evil One from house to house and wife to wife is going to be locked up for life?

Wait a minute. He is already being locked up for life. At least, he was captured in November 2001, and shipped to Guantanamo in May 2002, and he’s been held there ever since—for over six years—awaiting this trial, er, I mean tribunal. There certainly was no prospect of his ever being let go before the tribunal, so I’m not sure what the point of this exercise was really.

So now we can move on to the next tribunal—this one involving Ahmed Khadr, a Canadian boy picked up in Afghanistan at the age of 15, who’s been held now for six years on the base. His “crime” is that he was bombed by the US Air Force, and then shot up (in the back) by US Special Forces, but he somehow managed, at least allegedly, to toss a grenade at his attackers, killing one (actually there is some testimony that he didn’t actually toss the grenade, but then, why quibble about details, right?).

Does anyone want to guess about the outcome of his “trial”?

Back in journalism school, I remember being told that the classic definition of a news story was “Man Bites Dog!” The notion was that if something totally predictable happens, like a dog biting a man, it ain’t really news. Only if it is unexpected does it have any real news value. By that standard, Hamdan’s conviction should be relegated to a one-sentence notice in the news briefs section, but I’m guessing it’ll be page one tomorrow all over America: Terrorist Convicted!

What we really need to be asking is why taxpayer dollars are being spent on this shameful farce, which makes a joke of American “justice” around the world.

Salim Hamdan is one of three things:

You can’t make this stuff up.

Then again, maybe it is news after all: “US Attacked By Terrorist Gang, Mastermind’s Driver Gets Life Seven Years Later”

Lindorff speakingAbout the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is a 34-year veteran, an award-winning journalist, a former New York Times contributor, a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a two-time Journalism Fulbright Scholar, and the co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of a well-regarded book on impeachment, The Case for Impeachment. His work is available at

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This story was published on August 7, 2008.