Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 06, 2009

Perverse 'Justice': Suicide By Guilty Plea

Will this become another great perversity by the Obama administration?

The Obama administration is considering a change in the law for the military commissions at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial.

The provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques. It could also allow the five detainees who have been charged with the Sept. 11 attacks to achieve their stated goal of pleading guilty to gain what they have called martyrdom.

The military law forbids death penalties based solely on guilty pleas for two good reasons:

  • the guilty plea could be coerced
  • the guilty plea could be way for people who are not guilty to commit a form of suicide.

Such has happened for example in the case of the Beatrice Six four of which had falsely confessed in a rape and murder case and were later exonerated through DNA analysis.

In the case of Guantanamo prisoners both points may very well apply. We do not know if those five detainees are guilty or if they have a death wish for other reasons. After seven years in solitary confinement, intense torture, no trial, plans of the Obama administration to keep them in indefinite detention we can reasonably assume that they simply want to end the horrors they live under.

For the administration this would be a convenient way out of its dilemma. It would not have to release prisoners, it would not have to prove any guilt, it could avoid that the torture and abuse done to those prisoners will ever be aired in a courtroom. Just let them all declare that they are guilty. Then they will be killed and the U.S. can tell the world that justice has been done and the Guantanamo problem is solved.

The whole perversion of this comes to light when one considers how the defense department force feeds prisoners that do want to kill themselves by hunger-strike. Such prisoners are put into restraint chairs have their arms and legs bound and a tube stuck through their nose into the stomach twice a day. While the International Red Cross and the World Medical Association are urging against force feeding competent prisoners the defense department proclaims:

[T]he Department [..] takes very seriously its obligation to sustain the life and health of those in its custody. We view the current policy to preserve the life and health of detainees engaging in hunger strikes, attempted suicide, or other attempted serious self-harm as consistent with that obligation and U.S. law.

To on the one side force feed prisoners to prevent them from killing themselves and now on the other side to allow such prisoners to plead guilty for this or that alleged crime to get themselves killed can only have one reason.

It is seen as a simple and legal way out for the administration. It is the most perverse justice I can think of.

Posted by b on June 6, 2009 at 10:32 UTC | Permalink


they would have to be very stupid indeed to do that. I do not think they are. you do not create martyrs when you can help it.

Posted by: outsider | Jun 6 2009 11:54 utc | 1

Looks like the U.S. Government has just thrown its weight behind Assisted Suicides.

Posted by: Parviz | Jun 6 2009 12:16 utc | 2

It's perfectly consistent, sadly. The force-feeding is just more torture. They use oversized feeding tubes and when they're in the mood they'll yank a tube out of somebody else and ram it right down your gullet, bile and chyme and chunks and all.

Posted by: ...---... | Jun 6 2009 13:02 utc | 3

The State should NEVER, NEVER EVER have the right to kill citizens... or any other human being for that matter.

There was a time I agreed with the death penalty until someone explained to me that giving the state the right to kill made the state more powerful than a living human being and then I understood.

The false patriot crowd loves the death penalty... but they're the same ones who were rooting for the death star in star wars too. These creeps love leather and riding crops... but not 'cause they can be fun but because they can hurt.

I wonder, did Obama study constitutional law so he'd know what he was gonna be tearing apart? The Founding nincompoops are rolling in their graves.

Posted by: DavidS | Jun 6 2009 14:06 utc | 4

A question of sourcing here: who leaked this memo--which sheds a very bright light on the evils of a system inherited from Bush?

If Obama wanted to advance this initiative, he would be most reluctant, on purely practical grounds, to make this memo public. If, on the other hand, he wanted to bring political pressure to bear against its advocates, then leaking the memo would do the job very nicely.

Posted by: alabama | Jun 6 2009 15:12 utc | 5

If, on the other hand...,

Still suffering withdrawal from your Oxybama? This false dichotomy of maybe B.O. has higher reasons for his actions, that us unwashed can't know of, is nothing short of hope-gnostic dementia.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 6 2009 15:32 utc | 6


don't poop on the Gnostics when you poop on the poops who deserved to be pooped upon :)

Posted by: DavidS | Jun 6 2009 16:24 utc | 7

in a purely cold hearted practical way of seeing things this might not be such a bad way to go. If indeed they have really bad guys there who are willing to plead guilty to having done terrible things, but cannot be tried in a US court because they have been tortured, maybe letting them become martyrs is not such a bad idea. I mean, lets face it, they could have just as well have been killed instead of being captured and we wouldn't be discussing them at all. Their choices now that they are captured are either eternal confinement or death. They can continue to live if they believe they have a chance by not pleading guilty whereas on the other hand they can checkout by pleading guilty.

for the record, I do not believe the state has the right to kill, my countrymen do however for the most part and if we are a democracy then I guess we would have respect their wishes. I would expect that every case where a prisoner pleads guilty be fully reviewed by a panel of civilian judges and then those records be made available to the public after a few years. Let these judges put their names on the orders of execution and let them be judged later on. Secret courts are a horrible idea but we have to realize that some of these guys cannot be tried in open court, but that doesn't mean that these proceedings need to be hidden away forever.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jun 6 2009 16:27 utc | 8

@DoS - these men can be tried in an open court. If there is sound reason to believe that they are guilty they are to be judged, set free otherwise.

Guilty pleas given under pressure are not sound reason to believe that someone is guilty.

You seem to have the five or so in mind that the NYT says have given a guilty plea. Think of the 30 or so innocent who are now in months long hunger strikes and force fed in Gitmo. If a "guilty plea" is allowed what are they supposed to choose? And the U.S. would then give them "justice" and kill them?

How does that look in the eyes of the world?

Posted by: b | Jun 6 2009 16:51 utc | 9

I'm no expert on dementia, Uncle $cam, and least of all my own, but I fail to see how the post @5 says, or otherwise expresses, anything whatsoever about "hope," let alone about "higher" vs. "lower" "reasons". It only talks about "sources", and guesses at a calculation that may or may not be based on "reason". That's as far as I'm equipped to go in my comments on Obama.

Can't we be puzzled by Obama without believing him or believing in him? In this respect he differs, I would argue, from (for example) Liz Cheney....

Posted by: alabama | Jun 6 2009 16:57 utc | 10

I agree with the fact that it doesn't look good. I was trying to see it in a way that would "work". The evidence against these guys has been tainted by torture and can not be admitted as evidence. without that they would have to be set free and we all know that just aint gonna happen.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jun 6 2009 17:44 utc | 11

Parviz, you write:

Looks like the U.S. Government has just thrown its weight behind Assisted Suicides.

And I find it ironic beyond belief that the very people who are assisting in the suicide of our war prisoners (i.e., the ones who take great pride in being indispensable cogs in our Evangelical-backed war machine) are the very same ones who are fighting tooth and nail to make sure that people in a persistent vegetative state are kept hooked up to tube feedings 'til death do they part.

Posted by: Cynthia | Jun 6 2009 17:44 utc | 12

The simple solution is to walk backwards and take all the prisoners they have no credible evidence against, and take them back to the country of capture and release them. Its really no different than a domestic case being thrown out because of insufficient evidence or technicalities and having a probable/violent/revengeful criminal released back into society. It happens all the time, and is the price for equitable justice.

Posted by: anna missed | Jun 6 2009 19:51 utc | 13

b, agree with everything you wrote. I thought of Death by Military Commission when I first read the article last night. I was so depressed about what Obama et al are doing re: justice, civil liberties, treatment of prisoners I didn't have the energy to put it in links.

Now, if Gitmo were far enough north, they could just let prisoners volunteer to go out on ice floes....

Really bad week for Obama: First, pushing for passage of the Lieberman-Lindsey Graham amendment to the war supplemental bill, an amendment which will gut FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) by allowing the excutive ever more secrecy powers. Obama goes beyond what BushCo dared ask for. Sickening, frightening--since the Senate already passed it. Only the House and a few Dems calling them out on this, plus Repubs already having voted against it, may keep this abomination from becoming law of the land. Or is that lawlessness of the powerful? Well, greater lawlessness of the powerful....

BTD at TalkLeft has a post up with a Call to Action: Those of us in the US might want to call our House reps to let them know FOIA is too important to play these games with. Links in the link to posts about the move to gut FOIA.

Posted by: jawbone | Jun 6 2009 19:57 utc | 14

Cynthia, I've already instructed my wife and children to pull the plug if I'm ever terminally ill and in a vegetative state. I just hope I'm not in the U.S. at the time!

Posted by: Parviz | Jun 6 2009 19:58 utc | 15

DOS 8) 'really bad guys who have done really bad things'? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!?
These are prisoners of war, whether they wore redcoats or bluecoats or Pashtun garb.
The 'really bad guys who have done really bad things' have retired from the Cheney junta and are living a Life of Riley on pension and full-time guards and chauffeurs.

They've got General McShame in front of Levin on CSPAN testifying about 'honorable career' in Afghanistan 'leading a coalition of special forces', but the hearing is just paint by numbers, asking them to pledge not to withhold evidence from Congress if selected, the guy was only in theatre a little over a year and got fired for it!

Meanwhile BHO is over in GCC, and Geithner in China, pleading for more time for US reorganization so the country doesn't have to go as bankrupt as its foreign policy.

And now for your 'happy up' moment:

The 'bad guys' we're liquidating, in our insatiable desire to control global wealth.

Clear and hold! Clear and hold, baby!

Posted by: Shah Loam | Jun 6 2009 20:19 utc | 16

Typo in HTML for link to BTD's Call to Action at TalkLeft.

Posted by: jawbone | Jun 6 2009 20:21 utc | 17

b) Here, this will blow your mind:

Main stream investigative reporting has been replaced by GPS tag-team Googling,
rephrasing the headlines, but in large part, repeating verbatim the report body.

Academic research has been replaced by mere pablumized over-citation, repeating
and rephrasing the already 'accepted' and 'tenured' works of drones.

Posted by: Chance Michelson | Jun 6 2009 21:26 utc | 18

let's not get too sentimental. there are bad guys, guys who send suicide bombers into crowded markets and similar. I am quite happy to include those who drop GBUs on wedding parties. uniformed soldiers are kept as prisoners of war but spies are shot, the Geneva conventions allow for that kind of thing too.

again, I am only stating what I believe to be the thought process involved here. If you were tasked with protecting the interests of your betters, could you see yourself simply setting free people you know will do everything possible to ruin your day?

there is the world we would like and the one we live in. people are a hell of lot more brutal then we want to believe. there is considerable support in the US for simply offing these people. Politicians will see it in those simple terms, they can do the right thing like everyone here wishes and take it in the shorts at the ballot box or they can kill these people with no repercussions, with the support of the majority of US citizens, and gain tough guys points at the same time. Now you tell me, which path will they choose?

Posted by: dan of steele | Jun 6 2009 21:31 utc | 19

Your children will ask, "Daddy, why did you let those ZioNazi's shove us into the boxcars of vidiot ignorance and wage slavery?"

"Well, kids, your mom and I were just tired of all the bad news, and we wanted to go shopping, because we love you so much!"

"But Daddy, how am I going to pay off your $568,000 Dot.con, GWOT.con and Credit.con debt in my lifetime, on $8.85 a hour?"

"Honey, remember, you only have to wish for something for it to be attracted to you! Now let's go shopping! I saved $5 for gas!"

Posted by: Paris Troika | Jun 6 2009 21:39 utc | 20

dan, that course may lead to war crimes charges. One thing I know is when the US defaults on it's debt, this is one aspect that will cost us, we will lose the "respect" of the world. This also may not be a process any American politician can control any longer as it, default and it's a fait accompli.

Posted by: scott | Jun 6 2009 21:40 utc | 21

Graham-Lieberman Expands Disclosure Restrictions
*BREAKING NEWS* Saturday June 5, 2009 08:02 EDT
Geithner's support for expanded Graham-Lieberman secrecy law

The Treasury is actively supporting an expansion to the Graham-Lieberman bill rider on the War Entitlements Financing Act -- called 'The Credit Policies and Financial Bailouts Records Protection Act of 2009' -- that literally has no purpose other than to allow the government to suppress any "financial records, transactions or audits created between September 1, 1999 and January 1, 2009 relating to the treatment of US financial institutions that were engaged in banking or brokerage activities after passage of the Graham-Lietch-Bliley bill rider on the Financial Services Act of 1999, commonly known as the "Bank Deregulation Act."

As long as the Treasury Secretary certifies -- with no review possible -- that disclosure would "endanger" American citizens or US banks and brokerages, then the financial documentation can be suppressed even if FOIA requires disclosure. The certification lasts 3 years and can be renewed indefinitely.

The Senate passed the bill as an amendment last week, then both President Obama and Secretary Geithner immediately rushed off to Riyadh and Beijing, to discuss final passage of the secrecy bill with their masters. (emphasis added)


Why are we paying income taxes, if they're printing fiat paper even faster?

Posted by: Ponce Deleon | Jun 6 2009 22:04 utc | 22

DOS19) What are you COIN?

'there are bad guys, guys who send suicide bombers into crowded markets and similar'

Yeah, only problem is we have none of those 'bad guys' in Gitmo or Bagram. Our 'bad guys' were swept up after Tora Bora, anyone with a rag head and an AK-47, along with their 12-year old sons and any livestock the DoD goat-fuckers fancied, long before the 'suicide bombers into crowded markets' you are sleight of handing the discussion with.

That tells me you either are a Zionist or CIA apologist, a COIN ops or delusionist.

'there is considerable support in the US for simply offing these people'

OK, you're not a delusionist, you're AIPAC COIN.

'there is considerable support in the US South for lynching bad negroes as well'

Posted by: Mike Kolanda | Jun 6 2009 22:11 utc | 23

cripes Mike, why do you want to make me defend the military? I really do not know who is locked up in Cuba and Bagram and I strongly doubt you do either. to think that the US is going through all this trouble out of pure stupidity is a bit much for me to believe.

finally, your last sentence is mostly true just as mine is. we both want things to be different but merely wanting them does not make it so. try actually talking to other people and you will see that it is as I said.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jun 6 2009 22:45 utc | 24

#22, Ponce de Leon, do you have a link for your article? I googled title and nothing came up. Thnx much.

Posted by: jawbone | Jun 7 2009 0:40 utc | 25

When the system eats itself?

Five U.S. contractors held in slaying of another in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Five American security contractors were detained in connection with the killing of another American contractor last month inside Baghdad's Green Zone, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Saturday.
The body of James Kitterman was found in a car in Baghdad's heavily protected Green Zone.

The body of James Kitterman was found in a car in Baghdad's heavily protected Green Zone.

Iraqi and U.S. personnel took the five into custody in an operation inside the Green Zone before dawn on Friday, according to an Iraqi official involved in the investigation into the killing of James Kitterman. The five, who have not yet been charged, were being held by Iraqi security forces Saturday at a jail inside the heavily protected zone, he said.

The troops also confiscated weapons during the raid on the suspects' firm at about 4 a.m. (11 a.m. ET), said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

When the law breaks the law...blah blah...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 7 2009 0:59 utc | 26

I am with anna missed on this one. If you can't prosecute the detainees for their alleged bad deeds due to evidence having been obtained in a fashion not admissible by regular courts, such as torture, well then stiff shit, take the men back to where they came from. And learn from it, should you want to have someone convicted, don't fuckin torture him.

Shah Loam @ 16, thanx for the interesting link.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Jun 7 2009 4:51 utc | 27

scott @ 21

there are so many war crimes already out there that most of the previous administration would already be swinging from the gallows before prosecutors could make their way to Guantanamo crimes. No one will ever face charges for anything that has happened in Iraq or Afghanistan. apart from the men who raped a 14 yo before killing all of her family and then her too, everyone else has either not been charged or found not guilty.

respect is a funny thing, you can default on your debt but if you have a huge nuclear arsenal and the largest and most powerful military on the globe people tend to do as you ask anyway.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jun 7 2009 6:52 utc | 29

b: the last sentence of this post reads:

It is seen as a simple and legal way out for the administration. It is the most perverse justice I can think of.

I just wanted to point out this is a simple and legal way out for this AND ALL PAST administrations, too. We've already discussed (hat tip, Mr. Floyd) why there will never be prosecutions of the BushCo gang (precedent!), but this is a way out for not just Obama, but all that have come before, too.

I hope you're well.

Posted by: Jeremiah | Jun 7 2009 18:19 utc | 30

these men may not fit the conventional definition of "political prisoner" but their circumstance is far more the product of their captors politics than their own

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jun 8 2009 2:47 utc | 31

Bernhard, thanks so much for reporting on this and doing such fine analysis on it.

Posted by: Helena Cobban | Jun 8 2009 13:15 utc | 32

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