A welcome bit of nuance amid his latest lament about how Iraq sidetracked us from the great overmountain invasion of Pakistan to get Osama that we’ll presumably be undertaking once he’s office. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but if he’s willing to grant Gitmo prisoners habeas rights in order to separate guilty jihadis from detainees wrongfully accused, and if as he said earlier he’s concerned about Islamic fundies whining about unfair treatment by the U.S. as a recruiting tool, then why not go whole the nine yards and grant them access to the criminal courts?

My quote, the point I was making and I’ve made before, is without giving full blown rights to those who are being held, we can set up a system of due process, and when I said that the administration didn’t even try to do that, what I have consistently said is that rather than figure out how do we effectively hold these folks, detain them, provide them with some due process, try them, lock them up, the administration decided to take a bunch of short cuts.”…

We don’t have to treat them in the same way that we would treat a criminal suspect in the U.S., but we should abide by the Geneva conventions. We should at least follow through on the same principals we followed though when dealing with Nazis during Nuremburg [Or give them extra principles, even! — ed.], that is not only the right thing to do but it also actually will strengthen our ability over the long term to fight terrorism.”

Asked by Richard Wolffe of Newsweek what he would suggest be done with detainees, Obama said “we can lock them up in military facilities on U.S. soil in the same way that we locked them up in Gitmo. The reason we set up Gitmo is because the administration wanted to set up a black hole where there was no accountability whatsoever…

“It does not have to be before a U.S. district court,” Obama said, “but if we provided some modicum of due process, we can have confidence that we’ve got the right people, that we’re not wasting time on the wrong people. We can send a message to the world that we continue to abide by the standards of rule of law, and we can actually be more effective in our pursuit of terrorism.”

In fairness, this isn’t the general election pander it looks like. He alluded to trying jihadis under the UCMJ, as opposed to normal criminal statutes, near the end of his big foreign policy speech last August (the same one in which he talked about invading Pakistan) and his floor statement on granting habeas rights two years ago proposed limiting claims to the question of whether the petitioner was being wrongfully held, not whether his cell at Gitmo is too small, etc. Even so, I’m curious as to what’s motivating this compromise. Is there any logic behind it or is it a simple something-for-both-sides political solution?