Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Ignore the Guantánamo Confessions
So five accused planners of Sept. 11 want to confess, avoid a trial, and enter paradise via lethal injection. Their wishes should have no bearing on their cases. First, there is an alarming incidence of false confession, to the extent that, if guilt cannot be established by evidence, confession alone should not be decisive. One of the causes of false confession according to the Innocence Project, by the way, is torture and the threat of torture—not that this would have any relevance to Guantánamo inmates, of course. The second thing to consider is the larger significance of the legal case against these men. The damage done to America’s global reputation and to popular views about justice at home cannot be erased, but the first step toward recovery is a public embrace of the rule of law. If the evidence against them is sufficient, put them on trial. Demonstrate a commitment to truth and fairness of judgment. If they did in fact plot murder against innocent thousands, show the cruel calculation of their planning. And if the evidence isn’t there, the confessions don’t take its place.