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As first reported last night and confirmed this morning Salim Hamdan has been flown back to Yemen. There was considerable concern that Bush would continue to hod him in Guantanamo even after he served his sentence but it seems that even Bush understands there are limits to his outrageous conduct.

Hamdan has been imprisoned in Guantanamo for seven years. He was the first to actually be tried by a Military tribunal. But the tribunal refused to convict him of most of the spurious charges against him, convicting him of only one count and, most importantly, sentencing him only to time served plus five months. This was widely seen as a rebuke to the prosecutors. But at the time, there was concern that Bush would continue to hold him past his sentence, based on his asserted authority to hold enemy combatants for the duration of the so-called war on Terror.

Well, for once Bush has thrown in the towel.

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What was Hamdan's big crime? He worked as a driver for Osama bin Laden for a while. Now let's put this crime in perspective. Hitler had a driver named Erich Kempka. Unlike Kempka who was a high ranking SS officer who worked for Hitler for over a decade, Hamdan worked for a couple of years for OBL making $200 a month. Hamdan was a gofer. Kempka was in charge of Hitler's motor pool and was part of his inner circle, to the point that he was one of the men chosen to be with Hitler at the end. Kempka was not charged with anything by the Nuremberg court and, in fact, was called a defense witness in the trial of Martin Bormann.

But for Bush, Hamdan was one of the "worst of the worst." A man so dangerous that he had to be held in the hellhole of Guantanamo for seven years and eventually tried for things that are only crimes in Bushworld. This notwithstanding the fact that

Hamdan had maintained his innocence of war crimes throughout his detention. Then, during sentencing, he apologized for any pain caused by his work as bin Laden's $200-a-month driver in Afghanistan.

He said he worked for money, not ideology.

The sentence of the court meant that Hamdan was to be released on December 27, 2008, two days after Christmas. The "leniency" of this sentence did not go over well with the Department of Defense.
Defense officials had argued they were under no obligation to free him after his sentence. Under a post 9/11 detention doctrine set up by the United States, the Bush administration argued that it could hold enemy combatants indefinitely, even after time served for war crimes.
Since then they have reconsidered the absurdity of that position. The outrage of holding people without trial is bad enough. But to assert that prisoners can continue to be held even after they have been tried and served any sentence they are given is so far beyond the pale that even these bozos had to relent.

Over five hundred Guantanamo prisoners have been released without charges. Of the 250 being held another sixty have been cleared for release. And just earlier this week, a District Court overturned the "enemy combatant" of Boumediene and four other prisoners, ordering their release "forthwith." We'll see if the decision to finally release Hamdan indicates that Bush will accede to the court's ruling in the Boumediene case or whether he'll drag that case out till he slinks away.

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Originally posted to September 17, 1787 on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 09:33 AM PST.

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