DAVID HICKS….Andrew Sullivan has about the pithiest take I’ve seen yet on the “confession” and plea deal that recently got David Hicks transferred from Guantanamo to an Australian prison. To say that it stinks is to do a disservice to rotten garbage.

Apropos of nothing in particular, this case is a good demonstration of what the Bush administration has cost us. The fact is that the whole issue of enemy combatants in an age of transnational terrorism is a really difficult one. This isn’t a conventional war where we can just release prisoners after it’s over, nor is it like domestic crime, where the state has the power to coercively collect evidence and demand testimony. It’s a helluva hard problem, and under normal circumstances we’d all be well advised to cut the administration some slack as they try to figure out how to deal with it.

And we might, if it weren’t for what this administration has done. But the combination of torture and “coercive interrogation,” including rendition of high-value prisoners; widespread imprisonment based on evidence the Pentagon knows to be blatantly fabricated; and the adminstration’s almost fanatical resistance to even minimal standards of review, has convinced even sympathetic observers that the Bush administration isn’t struggling to find a solution to a hard problem. They just want to keep people locked up forever — unless it happens to be politically inconvenient, of course. Is it any wonder virtually no one trusts us on this subject any longer?

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