AS THIS ISSUE goes to press, the Bush-Cheney administration is coming to a close. Legal scholars will long analyze the origins and repercussions for the American constitution of its most disastrous legacy: the “global war on terror.” Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, describes this as a “political battle cloaked in legal strategy, an ideological trench war.” Although Afghanistan and Iraq, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo have figured prominently in news headlines over the last eight years, insufficient attention has been given to Israel’s influence on the ideological and legal underpinnings of this dark period of U.S. history. Particularly nefarious has been the impact of ideas developed in Israel and by its most fervent U.S. supporters on legal theories and practices adopted by federal prosecutors in U.S. courts.
In part II of “Secrets and Lies: The Persecution of Muhammad Salah,” defense attorneys Michael E. Deutsch and Erica Thompson illuminate, in chilling detail, how exclusively Israeli concerns have been grafted onto American policies and laws about terrorism. The judge in the Salah case admitted into evidence testimony obtained under Israeli torture, potentially opening the way for the admission of testimony similarly obtained in cases at Guantanamo and elsewhere. The case against Salah was the mother lode of a strategy that bends U.S. law to serve political ends that benefit Israel, and which imports into U.S. law some of the most twisted thinking behind Israel’s anti-terrorism practices. For these reasons, this seminal case deserves to be better known. Chief among the new administration’s priorities should be the task of cleaning out the Augean stables of Bush-Cheney legal policies on prosecution, detention, and torture. Deutsch and Thompson’s expos´e of the deformation of the legal system in the Salah case provides a blueprint of what will be required to reverse some of the damage done during the last eight years.
This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the signing of the Oslo accords. In this issue, Hilde Henriksen Waage, senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, recounts the story of the disappearance of the Oslo files from the Norwegian government archives and explores the troubling implications of the backchannel negotiations that defined the Oslo process. Waage’s article provides a useful case study for the next U.S. administration of what not to do in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy: extracting concessions from the Palestinians alone, as we now know the Norwegians did, brings not peace, but rather, more suffering, for which third parties like Norway and the United States under the last three administrations share culpability. The next administration will be responsible as well for such an outcome if it falls into the same trap set by the dominant constellation of political forces in the United States, which have long excluded rational and balanced discussion of the core issue of Palestine.
—Rashid I. Khalidi