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Bush on Hamdan: Part II-- Today's Press Conference
Jul-7-06 04:10 pm
The previous post noted several inaccuracies in President Bush's characterization of the Hamdan decision during his interview last night with CNN's Larry King. Today at press conference in Chicago, the President was asked again about the case. The exchange went as follows:

Q I'd like to ask you to speak on the broad implications of that recent Supreme Court case -- not the specifics of the case. But the justices said that you overreached your authority. And your critics have been saying that, too. Given your support and respect for the Court, are you willing to rethink how you use your presidential authority?

THE PRESIDENT: I am willing to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court said that in this particular case when it comes to dealing with illegal combatants, who were picked up off a battlefield and put in Guantanamo for the sake of our security, that we should work with the United States Congress to develop a way forward. They didn't we couldn't have done -- made that decision, see. They were silent on whether or not Guantanamo -- whether or not we should have used Guantanamo. In other words, they accepted the use of Guantanamo, the decision I made. What they did say was, in terms of going forward, what should the court system look like? How can we use a military commission or tribunal?

And we'll work with the United States Congress. They have said, work with the Congress. I have been waiting for this decision in order to figure out how to go forward. I want to move forward. First of all, I stand by the decision I made in removing these people from the battlefield. See, here's the problem: These are the types of combatants we have never faced before. They don't wear uniforms and they don't represent a nation state. They're bound by an ideology. They swore allegiance to individuals, but not to a nation. The Geneva conventions were set up to deal with armies of nation states. You've got standard rules of war.

So this is new ground. This is different than any President has been through before, in terms of how to deal with these kind of people that you're picking up off a battlefield and trying to protect the American people from.

So we have about 600 or so there, and 200 have been sent back home. We'd like to send more back to their countries of origin. Some need to be tried, and the fundamental question is, how do we try them? And so, in working with the Supreme -- in listening to the Supreme Court, we'll work with Congress to achieve that objective.

And so your question is slightly loaded, which is okay, I'm used to it. But the idea of making the decision about creating Guantanamo in the first place was upheld by the courts. Or let's say, the courts were silent on it. (emphasis added)

Bush's comments today seem to be a bit more accurate than yesterday. As with the interview with Larry King, Bush initially indicated that the Court's silence on the status and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo meant that "they accepted the use of Guantanamo." At the end of his response, however, Bush seemed to indicate that there might be a difference between the Court's silence and its acceptance of the situation in Guantanamo. But his refusal to acknowledge the import of the Court's ruling about Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions remains problematic. He seems to imply-- as he did yesterday-- that the Geneva Conventions do not apply in any way to the conflict with al Qaeda.

About the editor:

Anthony Clark Arend


Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.

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» Learn more about the M.A. in International Law and Government at Georgetown University.

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