Sixty-Six Months for Hamdan: A Sympathetic Narrative:
Let us concoct a narrative, a counternarrative, if you will, to what we've been told by the Pentagon. There's nothing saying it's true, but, hell, a fuckin' military jury said there's little true about the Bush administration's version of events:
Let us say, and why not, that you are Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni with a wife and children. You get a chance for a job that'll earn you many times what you'd ordinarily earn, but there's a hitch: you gotta be the driver and, occasionally, bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. You're faced with a choice. No, you won't have to commit terrorist acts. Indeed, you'd be pretty useless as a driver if you were off blowing yourself up. But you will be driving around, you know, Osama bin Laden. It's a suck ass situation, but in an area of the world where the line between rich and poor is stark and the options are small, you can make enough to support your family and make sure they don't fall into shame and poverty. You take the job.
Now, there you are, in 1996, driving one of the most wanted men in the world, from place to place. You may overhear shit, sure, shit that disturbs you. But you are also very clear on what happens to people who betray this man and this organization. And what might happen to their families. What would you choose? Those of you who think you're brave enough to watch your children get beheaded because you thought you could stop a terror plot are liars. Imagine what would have happened if Osama bin Laden's driver, fer chrissake, went to some authorities - which, in Afghanistan at that point would have been the Taliban or, perhaps, our friends in Pakistan, or, in the best case scenario, somehow to someone in the U.S. military - and said he had information and needed protection. How do you think that would have worked out?
This counternarrative posits the position that Salim Ahmed Hamdan placed himself in. It has sympathy for him, even if it doesn't forgive him. He did, after all, choose to take the job. Ask anyone who ever thought they could work for the mob for a small job and get out. Once you're in, you're in. Even if you never do anything else for them, your silence, and thus your complicity, willing or unwilling, is understood.
Just yesterday, the Rude Pundit said that the only thing that's surprising anymore is when something positive actually happens. Even against a backdrop of all he's been through in the last seven years, Hamdan's sentence is that good thing, and, as such, in our 2008 American context, it's a startling act of mercy.
We can expect the usual dullard bleats of conservative outrage and the crazy-eyes spin of the White House, but understand this: the judge and jury were handpicked by those who wanted Hamdan thrown into a hole and never heard from again. They were supposed to do Dick Cheney's bidding. The fix was supposed to be in. The prosecution wanted thirty years for Hamdan. Hell, many of the Nazis convicted at Nuremberg for planning or participating in real war crimes got lighter sentences.
No, we don't know when Hamdan might actually be released, but when the judge in the trial, Captain Keith Allred, told Hamdan, "I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and your daughters and your country," and joined him in speaking, "God willing" in Arabic, it was a direct "fuck you" to the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the Bush administration as a whole. It was a way of acting as an example and asserting that, even against the inhumane, one can still behave humanely.