A U.S. military war tribunal is weighing a question that might seem better suited for a history class than a courtroom: How long has the United States been at war?
The question is more than academic for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, whose lawyers are appearing before the tribunal this week at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba, to seek the dismissal of war crimes charges that were approved by a Pentagon-appointed legal official.
Al-Nashiri faces trial in a special tribunal for war-time offenses known as a military commission for allegedly orchestrating the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 as well as attacks on two other ships. But his lawyers say that since the U.S. wasn't at war at that time, the 47-year-old shouldn't be tried at Guantanamo.
"The fact of going to war is a decision by the political branches, either Congress or the president or both," attorney Richard Kammen said Monday. "It's not something to be arrived at retroactively by a bureaucrat who is not appointed by Congress because it has huge consequences."