My Photo

« Open Thread: Rilkefan Gets Married! | Main | Don't Cry For Us, Argentina... »

May 30, 2005

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834515c2369e200d83424143853ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Amnesty Travesty:

» The Hits Keep Coming from The Debate Link
Frankly, the Amnesty International story has a lot more legs than I had expected. I'm on my fourth post on the subject (in reverse chronological order, here, here, and here for my prior thoughts). President Bush himself has jumped into the fray, sayi... [Read More]

Comments

but at least there would be no violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Except, of course, that the prisoners are held at Guantanamo Bay in violation of Article 5 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, and you know this, Charles, because we've discussed it before.

A competent tribunal is required before prisoners held by a signatory to the Geneva Convention can be removed from the protection of the Geneva Convention. Bush & Co failed to do this.

The persistent argument that Bush & Co only need to do this "if there is doubt" and Bush & Co had no doubt that all of their prisoners sent to Guantanamo Bay were not eligible under Article 4, is plain wrong on several levels.

First, it's a clear misreading of the Geneva Convention. Article 4 specifies who is eligible to be considered a prisoner of war. Article 5 continues "Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal."

Second, many of those sent to Guantanamo Bay had not even committed a belligerant act before "falling into the hands of the enemy" - they were merely kidnapped, from Ghana, from Bosnia, from Pakistan, from Afghanistan, and sent there, usually after a period of time in Bagram Airbase where at least two prisoners have been tortured to death for "refusing to confess".) Arresting and detaining civilians for years without due process is in violation of several articles of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

Third, as you must be aware, even if Bush & Co believed at the time that they had the kind of superpowers that can magically pick out al-Qaeda terrorists, detaining only the guilty in Bagram Airbase or Guantanamo Bay, that hypothesis (unlikely even at the time) has since been proven wrong so many times that I don't think I need to link to any more specific incidents. (But you can read about some of them here.)

You were asked repeatedly on another thread (by Anarch) to explain on what evidence you were assuming that all the detainees in Guantanamo Bay were al-Qaeda - care to answer that question here and now?

As for your comments on the Amnesty International report, Edward already did the necessary post about it.

Charles- Since the US's treatment of prisoners doesn't meet the standards you point out AI calls for:

"AI’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards."

I don't see how you can claim AI has lost their bearings. They are keeping the same standards they always have. We are just falling further short of meeting those standards.

With all due respect, I feel like this is a deflection, dealing with what Amnesty's terminology is rather than answering the question that Anarch asked. I would strongly suggest to everyone who would like an answer to that question to hold off on posting a comment until that is addressed

I agree.

(Correction to my comment: not the Ghana, the Gambia. Curses. need sleep.)

LJ:
I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for CB to answer Anarch's question, since we all know the answer already: and having to clarify this point would take some of the steam out of Charles' well-stoked rant: much of which, just btw, I concur with. Amnesty International has only embarrassed itself with that inane "gulag" comment: if they were going to criticise the US over its "torture" policies (quite rightly, IMO) they should have done it without the hyperbole and snark: AI performs an invaluable function in the world (Charles' lashing for their lapses notwithstanding), and should really save their piss-off quotient for the dictatorships whose goodwill they won't get anyway.
But the unanswered question popped right up in CB's last cite from Dale Franks (closing an otherwise great post at QandO):

My preferred method of dealing with these terror prisoners would be to get two captains and a major together as a tribunal, declare them to be unlawful combatants, and put them in front of a firing squad.

Gee, sounds nice: all neat and legal, and waaayyy badass tough: but shouldn't that "tribunal" maybe, be doing something else while they are at it, other than simply handing their prisoners over to be executed, like, maybe finding them GUILTY of something??? Or is Mr. Franks just taking the "they're prisoners so they must be guilty - shoot 'em" line?

As so often with Charles post's I start off admitting that yes there are certainly some good points here and end in astonishment. A pattern of structure from the reasonable to the.... less reasonable.

"Or is Mr. Franks just taking the "they're prisoners so they must be guilty - shoot 'em" line?"

Hey, torture them long enough they are gonna confess to something...why not just skip the torture? It would be more humane and civilized.

Having just returned from Tacitus.org, I wish, Charles, you had chosen a less contentious topic for Memorial Day.

I was not in a contentious mood.

CB seems to be suggesting that AI used to be a legitimate organization, but that he must part company with it now that it's not emphasizing how much worse other countries' human rights records are than ours.

Oddly enough, I don't ever remember any time conservatives thought AI was a legitimate organization. I do, however, remember how conservatives used to call AI a "Communist front" or "Communist sympathizer," because it didn't emphasize, to conservatives' satisfaction, how much worse Communist countries' human rights records were than those of our allies.

IOW, it's the same old tune. This is an irritating rheotical device, pretending to have once had respect for an organization in order to point out how far the organization has fallen from its former high standards, and thereby dismiss what it has to say.

The only difference now is that conservatives no longer call AI "Commies"; now they call it a member of the "Bush-hating Left."

I think AI does believe that a nation which holds itself up as the sin qua none of human rights and freedom has a higher standard to live up to than nations which make no such claim. It's more cause for sadness and anger when the US violates human rights than when North Korea does because - once again, with feeling - we're supposed to be better than that.

Being "better than that" used to be our raison d'etre; used to be what made us proud to be Americans; used to be why other people in other countries dreamed and yearned and struggled to come here; used to be why other countries sought to emulate our form of government and our laws.

Now we've settled for "Not as bad as."

"Better than that!" is a great rallying cry; it's the kind of thing you can throw your shoulders back and scream defiantly at the world.

"Not as bad as" is a defeatist's slogan; it's the kind of thing you say with a shrug.

out italics!

It seems pretty hilarious to hear C. Bird criticize an organization by comparing it to its own high standards in order to deflect criticism of the US by comparing it to its own high standards.

Casey, I love and agree with "Being "better than that" used to be our raison d'etre; used to be what made us proud to be Americans; used to be why other people in other countries dreamed and yearned and struggled to come here; used to be why other countries sought to emulate our form of government and our laws."

Cuba, where AI has not been allowed into for seven years. Curiously, even when the subject is Cuba, Amnesty International still blames America for Cuba's wrongs:

"The US embargo and related measures continued to have a negative effect on the enjoyment of the full range of human rights in Cuba."

Yeah, right. If only the U.S. dropped the restrictions, then Castro would lighten up on his people.

***sniff, sniff*** I smell burning straw. The sentence you quote does not contain the argument you accuse it of making. In fact, you subsequently go on to agree with exactly with what the sentence actually says: That our policy has a negative impact on the lives of Cubans.

Not so incidentally, if I had coined a clumsy, tin-eared, stupid phrase like "democratsunami," or did my best to propagate its acceptance, I wouldn't be getting in others' faces over faulty comparisons, poor analogies, or the importance of semantics.

Actually, upon reading the last three grafs, in which Charles supports the show trials and summary executions of men being held as prisoners who have not actually been convicted of anything --and who may very well be innocent -- I come to suspect that Charles has gone so absolutely off the rails with fear of Al Qaeda that anything even resembling normal human morals have gone away completely.

Execute them for what?

I think the real terrorists are in Jordan, Syria, or Egypt.

What Darfur needs right now is action, not visits, not tribunals after the crimes have been committed.

Charles, if you'd be so kind, could you please remind me what the Republican President and Commander-In-Chief of the U.S. armed forces, the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate, and the Republican dominated U.S. House of Representatives are doing on Darfur?

Oh, that's right. Absolutely nothing. Just so.

Does Schulz envision a jail cell with al-Bashir's name on it? Apparently not.

If AI isn't allowed in or is hampered by excessive restrictions, the operating assumption should be that the government is hiding something and to expect the worst.

The irony of this in light of, say, Hamdi, is delicious.

Charles:

Were I North Korean, I would try and shoot Kim the fearless leader in the head. I would die in the attempt.

Were I Iranian, I would read "Lolita" in private with some beautiful young women and share wine with them, and if the mullahs tried to break it up, I'd nuke their beards.

As it is, I'm an American. So I mind my own business, like barfing at the sight of the Guantanamo scandal and making sure James Dobson doesn't grow a beard so that I need to nuke it when he screws with Nabokov.

You should be pleased and personally gratified and proud that you and I and our country are held to a higher standard than the rest of the world.

But you're not. We Americans have it all. But it's not enough. We also want no criticism beyond your limits.

Fine. You decide from now on. We'll follow your lead.

I don't think that the fact that AI has gone over the top in its rhetoric* excuses for a minute our own stupidity. It would not be legal to appoint a tribunal of two captains and a major, and then have executions, but even if it was, it would be moronic on an epic scale. The object of the war is to get people who generally don't like us (a huge group) to cut off cooperating with people who hate us enough to kill us (a very small group). Summary execution of the relatives of people in the former group would be counterproductive, as indeed their incarceration without due process has already been.

You would push people from the large group into the small group. You advocate doing so at nearly every turn, CB, and I am pleased that the Admin has thus far resisted the siren songs of people aligned with your point of view.

* Put it another way: We are waging an offensive war, in the other guy's space, and trying to win over the other guy's base. the burden is on us to behave in a way that is above reproach, and when we fall short, to act in ways that mitigate the harm. The burden is on us to live up to our values.

f openness is a policy that Amnesty International is in favor of, they could start with themselves. While their website states that "no funds are sought or accepted from governments for AI’s work investigating and campaigning against human rights violations," their financial disclosures are opaque when it comes to knowing who the big benefactors are. If a large chunk of the funding is coming from Bush-hating liberals, it would explain quite a bit.

Oh, brother. Straight from the Denny Hastert Graduate School Course in Unfounded Speculation. Explain to me again why anyone should care about anything you write?

The discoveries and investigations of ill treatment, abuse and torture were made by US investigative authorities. CBS News didn't discover Abu Ghraib, the US military did.

Given that press access to Guantanamo (much less Bagram) is severely restricted, this is less a triumph for the military than you make it sound. When the government declassifies everything that it doesn't actually have to keep secret to protect the national security, then you can make comparisons between military and media diligence.

CharleyCarp raises an important point: Moral conduct is a weapon of war. Because it affects the perceptions, judgments, and responses of others - when one side acts virtuously and is seen to do so, it sways others in the ranks of the enemy and those watching. Gandhi knew this, but so did Sun Tzu and a lot of others. American leaders sometimes know it. It's worth remembering. The highest standard of clear and open justice is good strategy as well as the only course of action consistent with America's founding principles.

"My Country Used to Be", by Dave Frishberg

Written long before 9/11/2001; more poignant now.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the good old USA
And to the values for which it stood
The home, the family, the neighborhood
'Cause while it lasted it sure felt good

Now I pledge allegiance to the bank
To my fixed rate second mortgage
To my friendly auto insurance man
To the IRS to the medical plan
To whatever's about to hit the fan
Cause hit the fan it will
And we will pay the bill

My country used to be
Famous for quality
We led the way
Now we buy overseas
Then beg the Japanese
To buy some products please
Made in USA

My country used to be
Land of productivity
We stocked the store
Now we make paper trails
Mergers and mega-sales
And then when all else fails
We make arms for war

My country used to be
Land of opportunity
Second to none
My country once was proud
We stood above the crowd
No need to shout out loud
"We're No. 1"
I hope my children live to see
A land like my country used to be

I believe we should (and do) hold ourselves to a higher standard, but it's unreasonable to expect a perfect standard.

So, what's the reasonable limit on innocent prisoners beaten to death? OK, OK, we're not perfect! We make a few mistakes! A few hundred strikes to the leg of a man who screams in an entertaining way when it happens. What are you gonna do?

Seriously, do you think what's happening falls within a reasonable-but-imperfect standard? If so, how many more attrocious fatal slip-ups are allowed before we're, y'know, beyond what's reasonable?

We've made our share of mistakes with prisoners and detainees, but another measure of having higher standards is what's being done to fix them (the mistakes, not the prisoners/detainees). The discoveries and investigations of ill treatment, abuse and torture were made by US investigative authorities. CBS News didn't discover Abu Ghraib, the US military did.

The military didn't discover that Lt. General Sanchez authorized illegal interrogation techniques, the ACLU did. Or maybe they knew but decided not to hold him to their own *cough* higher standards.

Report No 2 in my travels in the blogosphere....report No 1 was the very moving tribute to our fallen over at Tacitus.

No 2 is from Gilliard, I won't offend with a link, wherein he says that the largest and most prestigious law firms in the country are sending their best and brightest down to Guantanamo pro bono, per SCOTUS decision. These are careful dudes, who will get it and get it right, tho it may take time. And when they get into court, I hope to see the entirety of Bushco in prison, preferably in Indiana, preferably til they are dead.

You are defending the indefensible, Charles.

BY the way, Charles, "Bush-hater" is a meaningless slur, precislely meaningless as "Bush-lover".

I'm beginning to think the archetypal CB post is "Well, yes, we are torturing prisoners, but ...."

The first part does him credit, & I like to think the "but" derives from a profound unhappiness that America has sunk so low.

But, please, no more "buts."

Chaz, if you're really interested in where Amnesty gets its money, its IRS Form 990 is posted online, per the law.

You were asked repeatedly on another thread (by Anarch) to explain on what evidence you were assuming that all the detainees in Guantanamo Bay were al-Qaeda - care to answer that question here and now?

Jes, where do we disagree? Timely tribunals? Check. Abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Check. No torture? Check. Humane treatment? Check. No extraordinary rendition? Check. Your truck isn't with me.

Charles: with respect, if you are seriously endorsing the claim that they should be shot, it would be nice to know whether you think they're innocent, and if so, how.

Charles: with respect, if you are seriously endorsing the claim that they should be shot, it would be nice to know whether you think they're innocent, and if so, how.

I fully endorse timely tribunals so that each detainee's status is fully ascertained and judged upon. I will likely do an update because someone at Redstate suggested that executions of unlawful enemy combatants does not conform with the UCMJ.

The post at Steve Gilliard's place, about the high-level law firms sending attorneys to represent the prisoners at Gitmo, made me smile. I hope they're sending their best.

Does anyone know which court will those cases be heard in? Civilian or military? Will the cases wind up in the SCOTUS?

Who will be arguing for the Bush Admin? Alberto Gonzales as AttyGen, or Acting Solicitor General Clement? (That's odd: Ted Olson resigned last summer; why hasn't a permanent SG been named?)

Or - good god! - could Gonzales (Mr. Torture Memo himself) be named as a Defendant?

Chaz, if you're really interested in where Amnesty gets its money, its IRS Form 990 is posted online, per the law.

prak, I linked to that very link in the body of the post. The Form 990 in the link does not answer who the big contributors are.

Charles, if you'd be so kind, could you please remind me what the Republican President and Commander-In-Chief of the U.S. armed forces, the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate, and the Republican dominated U.S. House of Representatives are doing on Darfur?

Phil, you're mistaking me for someone who agrees with the Bush administration on Darfur. Since Powell said his historic words last August or September, they've fallen way short and I'm fully opposed to their inaction.

Explain to me again why anyone should care about anything you write?

Explain to me why you're not violating posting rules yet again, Phil.

Does anyone know which court will those cases be heard in? Civilian or military? Will the cases wind up in the SCOTUS?

Most of the cases are pending in the US District Court of the District of Columbia. There have been rulings in a couple of cases, let's call them Khalid and Boumediene , and they are currently on a consolidated appeal at the DC Circuit. Briefing will be completed soon. Most other cases are stayed pending resolution of the appeals. (Stayed as to the dispositive issues, but not necessarily stayed as to issues of interim relief -- a prisoner could seek an injunction to prevent an improper rendition, for example, notwithstanding the stay).

I would not be surprised if whoever loses at the Circuit petitions for cert. And I guess I wouldn't be surprised if the petition was granted, although I think the chances will be better of them taking it if the government wins than if the government loses. (I say this because (a) if the government loses, the cases are not over, but go back to the district court for further factual development and (b) the government is essentially trying to relitigate the points it lost in Rasul and Hamdi , so if the Circuit rules against the government on these bases, following the Sup Ct, there's less of a need for the Sup Ct to get involved.) The Circuit has issued expedited schedules for the cases, and I think a ruling before Labor Day is quite possible.

There is a third DC Circuit case that has already been argued, and is awaiting decision: Hamdan . This is about the Geneva Conventions. Judge Robertson's opinion is quite good, and a pdf file is available http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/Opinions/2004/Robertson/04-1519.pdf> here.

Who will be arguing for the Bush Admin? Alberto Gonzales as AttyGen, or Acting Solicitor General Clement?

Or - good god! - could Gonzales (Mr. Torture Memo himself) be named as a Defendant?

The DOJ is defending the cases. When/if they get to the Sup Ct, the SG's office will take them. I don't believe that anyone has named Gonzales: the proper defendant in a habeas action is the custodian. In my case, we've named the President, the Sec of Defense, General Hood, and one other Army officer (who's name and position escapes me). I think this is typical.

In your case? Charley, forgive me if this is common knowledge and I somehow missed it, but I didn't know you were one of the attorneys working on these cases!

What can you tell us about it? Can you keep us updated as things move forward? Does a habeus action include Consitutional issues, or is that a separate legal issue? Is the government claiming testimony and evidence against your client but won't permit discovery or cross examination?

It would be fantastic to have someone in a position to give us an inside view of this process, though of course we'll understand if you can't do so.

Bless you, and good luck!

I fully endorse timely tribunals so that each detainee's status is fully ascertained and judged upon.

With due respect, then, you're conceding the thrust of my point: you don't know the innocence or guilt of the parties in Guantanamo or Bagram. Furthermore, given this remark coupled with the fact that you've now been asked something like three times and have failed to address this rather pertinent point, can I take it that you cannot justify the claim that those who are imprisoned in Guantanamo and Bagram are actually terrorists (let alone Al Qaeda)?

Charles Bird,

-“To the extent that Amnesty International overemphasizes transgressions made by the United States, they are underemphasizing the many more serious violations in the rest of the world, and that is a fundamental disservice.”

-“Amnesty International has no rating system, and they provide no reportage which quantifies or objectively measures alleged transgressions of the governments in the world. In effect, there is no mechanism for country-by-country comparisons. That is a fundamental disservice because, in doing so, AI fails to prioritize the worst abusers of human rights.”

You accuse AI of not having a rating system by which to measure human rights violations nation by nation. Yet you assume that the US is not the worse and has done more than any other nation to “advance freedom and human rights.” By what rating system do you make these assumptions?

-“We've made our share of mistakes with prisoners and detainees, but another measure of having higher standards is what's being done to fix them (the mistakes, not the prisoners/detainees).”

Our treatment of detainees does not amount to “mistakes.” Their treatment, as we have seen at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, was Administration policy. To create for them an extra-legal category, to remove them to a location where no international or domestic laws covered their treatment, and to deliberately exclude them from protection under the Geneva Conventions was policy as well. What have we done to fix these “mistakes” other than hang a few enlisted personnel?

-“CBS News didn't discover Abu Ghraib, the US military did.”

Exactly who in the US military, and what did they do about it? The US military, under the direction of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, created (or at the very least, made possible) what transpired at Abu Ghraib. How does “the US military” then receive credit for exposing and fixing the situation?

-“What Darfur needs right now is action, not visits, not tribunals after the crimes have been committed.”

What action do you suggest? What is the problem in Darfur (and I don’t mean the violence – the symptom – I mean the cause of the violence)?

Jes, where do we disagree? Timely tribunals? Check. Abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Check. No torture? Check. Humane treatment? Check. No extraordinary rendition? Check. Your truck isn't with me.

You have asserted the guilt of all detainees in Guantanamo Bay, and you have refused to answer when asked to explain how you know they are all guilty. When are you going to answer?

Indeed, you assert it again here: "a few hundred unlawful enemy combatants" - where is your proof that all of those imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay are "unlawful enemy combatants"?

If a large chunk of the funding is coming from Bush-hating liberals, it would explain quite a bit.

Let's just say that you have convinced me to give them & the ACLU a Grant each before the end of the year. Just knowing how much they annoy you and other Bush-Lovers this small gift will great satisfaction.

I'll second Bob...not my idea of a Happy Memorial Day post either...too busy to address the issues today...will hopefull get time to respond by tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, I really wish folks could focus on what the US HAS done that deserves criticism in a mature fashion. That is, acknowledge it and redouble efforts to prevent future abuses. All this "blame the messenger" petulance drives me nuts.

Caseyl, thanks for the good wishes. I know I've mentioned it before, and some of the lawyers posting here have gotten solicitations from me to sign on (they need more lawyers).

Yes we raise constitutional issues, as well as various statutes and treaties. We're (a partner and I) going down to Guantanamo next week to talk to the clients. I've had to get a theater clearance, in addition to the secret clearance I had to get to review the classified summary of our clients' files. Our case is stayed, pending the consolidated appeals, but we did get an order requiring 30 days notice before rendition, and may need further relief once we get a chance to find out what exactly the clients have been dealing with.

(On the question of believability, one always has to be alert for clients who lie. On the other hand, a guy who says 'this happened to me' is more credible to me than a guy who says 'I've had some minions review pages and pages of documents, and I can't find any mention of that happening, although to be honest, we never asked anyone to record instances of it' -- when the question at issue is whether something happened.)

The lawyers in the various firms have a listserv, over which we argue, encourage, and monitor everything in and outside the cases. It's a great group, and I'm honored to be able to be a part of it.

The lawyers in the various firms have a listserv...

Watch out for that Patriot Act, guys.

CharleyCarp: It's a great group, and I'm honored to be able to be a part of it.

Congratulations and best wishes for the trip. I second CaseyL's wish to know as much about it as you're allowed to tell us.

Thanks for the link to Judge Robertson's opinion. (Will bookmark it for later digestion.)

Absolutely fascinating, CharleyCarp. Best wishes in helping uncover and nail down truths, so that those who deserve incarceration and punishment get it and those who don't, don't.

Sorry, CB, but repeating the Vice-President's disingenuous talking points doesn't make them so. Since the Bush Administration has refused to follow either the laws of the United States or international law, they have committed the crimes that AI has legitimately accused them of. Since the Bush Administration has failed to follow the prescribed rules for detainees, they are nothing but kidnappers and, while they are certainly not as evil in scope as Stalin, there is a clear similarity of purpose and operation between the illegal prisons where the US keeps its kidnapping victims and Stalin's Gulag.

I would expect every conservative to be outraged that the Bush Administration has brought shame on the United States because it has violated one of the fundamental tenets of conservatives: following the rule of law is critical for any society to thrive. If so-called conservatives are going to make excuses for these crimes and start to resort to playground excuses such as "they started it" and "he's not playing nice either" then I despair. Are there no principled conservatives any more? Is it all about getting power for themselves? Is it all about how rich Halliburton can get?

Phil, you're mistaking me for someone who agrees with the Bush administration on Darfur. Since Powell said his historic words last August or September, they've fallen way short and I'm fully opposed to their inaction.

No, I'm not. I just think that, since whenever you write something like this, you tend to elide the point and try to blame everyone except the Bush Administration (The UN! Amnesty International! Democrats!), it's worth noting. Hell, if you hammered the Administration publicly half as hard as you do the standard right-wing shibboleths (Ward Churchill!), you'd be ten times as interesting.

Explain to me why you're not violating posting rules yet again, Phil.

Which rule?

Yet you assume that the US is not the worse and has done more than any other nation to “advance freedom and human rights.” By what rating system do you make these assumptions?

Knowledge of history, and they're not assumptions. WWII, the Gulf War, the Cold War, the War on Terror, for example. All these actions were led by the U.S. and has made the world a freer place.

can I take it that you cannot justify the claim that those who are imprisoned in Guantanamo and Bagram are actually terrorists

If they were captured on the field of battle, then they're unlawful enemy combatants and their stay at Gitmo is indefinite. A tribunal is required under the GC only if there is doubt as to their status, but I believe that all should get timely tribunals. I'm already on record as being against extraordinary rendition. Can I justify the claim? This isn't a court of law, this is war, and the rules of war apply.

If they were captured on the field of battle, then they're unlawful enemy combatants...

is there a little fence, some chalk lines, or even a piece of flourescent string on posts around "The field of battle" ?

or, is it wherever our troops decide it is ?

ever have a war in your backyard?

Charles: If they were captured on the field of battle

...as many of those sent to Guantanamo Bay were not. But, of those who were:

A tribunal is required under the GC only if there is doubt as to their status

Absolutely: which is to say, in order to remove prisoners from the status of prisoners of war (the default option) a tribunal is required by the GC.

This isn't a court of law, this is war, and the rules of war apply.

And the Bush administration have broken the rules of war.

Which rule?

The one that talks about consistent abuse and vilification for its own sake, Phil. At 9:09: "Not so incidentally, if I had coined a clumsy, tin-eared, stupid phrase like "democratsunami..."" At 9:24: "Explain to me again why anyone should care about anything you write?" Not to mention a prior thread where descended into multiple mindreading episodes.

The sentence you quote does not contain the argument you accuse it of making. In fact, you subsequently go on to agree with exactly with what the sentence actually says: That our policy has a negative impact on the lives of Cubans.

You're conflating separate issues, Phil. The U.S. does not control what human rights the Cuban people have or don't have. Castro does. That's why their blaming the U.S. is a bogus charge. What is denied them under U.S. policy pertains to economic matters, not rights.

The one that talks about consistent abuse and vilification for its own sake, Phil. At 9:09: "Not so incidentally, if I had coined a clumsy, tin-eared, stupid phrase like "democratsunami..."" At 9:24: "Explain to me again why anyone should care about anything you write?" Not to mention a prior thread where descended into multiple mindreading episodes.

As to the first, if the word "democratsunami" has a problem with me, I urge it to take it up with me itself. Is describing an effing word as clumsy and tin-eared now against the posting rules? We can't criticize words now? Holy Toledo, says I.

As to the second, it was actually a legitimate question. When you toss in garbage like I quoted, it literally makes me disregard everything you wrote, some of which might be worthwhile, in favor of figuring, "Well, Charles got the latest talking points in his email today." I'm sure "Bush-hating liberals" as a mantra plays well for the RedState audience, but it ignores the fact that: A) There are liberals who don't "hate Bush," whatever that comprises, B) There are non-liberals who hate Bush as well, and even some conservatives, C) there is no evidence whatsoever of the thing you're postulating, and D) who cares if there is? Seriously, why include it? It added nothing, unless your real goal is to include AI on the latest GOP hit list rather than really examine the issue.

You're conflating separate issues, Phil. The U.S. does not control what human rights the Cuban people have or don't have.

The sentence didn't claim that, either. It said the policies have a negative impact, not that the US controls it. And in fact the report you linked to makes it clear who AI believes is in charge:


In April the UN Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution deploring the verdicts against political opponents and journalists arrested in 2003. It called for Cuba to cooperate with the UN envoy and to “refrain from adopting measures which could jeopardise the fundamental rights, the freedom of expression and the rights to due process of its citizens”.
And outside of that sentence in the introductory paragraphs, AI's report does, in fact, absolutely agree with you:
USA
In June tough new sanctions by the US government on Cuba were introduced, restricting Cuban-Americans’ cash remittances to relatives on the island and limiting family visits between the USA and Cuba to 14 days once every three years. On 8 November US dollars ceased circulation in Cuba and were replaced by Cuban convertible pesos, following a decree by the Cuban Central Bank.
Cash remittances and travel restrictions, just like you brought up. It looks to me like you're looking for a disagreement with AI on Cuba where none exists.

Castro does. That's why their blaming the U.S. is a bogus charge. What is denied them under U.S. policy pertains to economic matters, not rights.

Not allowing family members to travel to Cuba for visits more frequently than once every three years is far more than an economic matter, Charles.

FWIW - and I don't anticipate this happening often - I agree with Charles that Phil's comment Explain to me again why anyone should care about anything you write was "vilification for its own sake" and in breach of the posting rules. (The comment about "democratsunami", however, was valid literary criticism.)

Now, Charles, to prevent more of that "massive mindreading" you complain about:

You were asked repeatedly on another thread (by Anarch) to explain on what evidence you were assuming that all the detainees in Guantanamo Bay were al-Qaeda - care to answer that question here and now?

Phil: As to the second, it was actually a legitimate question.

Perhaps, but it was phrased in a way that allowed Charles to duck out of answering (forgive me) more interesting questions. God knows I've been guilty of this myself, but this time there's an answer to question I'm seriously chasing!

It is incomprehensible to me that anyone could write what Dale Franks wrote. Your endorsement, subsequent backtrack notwithstanding, is beyond the limits of reasonable differences of opinion. It advocates murder. If such a policy were carried out there would be no words Amnesty or anyone else could use that would be too harsh, and the US would deservedly be reviled worldwide.

I don't really care what the UCMJ permits. Not everything permitted should be done.

"WWII, the Gulf War, the Cold War, the War on Terror, for example. All these actions were led by the U.S. and has made the world a freer place."

There's a reasonable point buried in there, but you get yourself into great rhetorical trouble, Charles, and find yourself arguing with all the contradictions of fact also contained within that statement when you don't simultaneously acknowledge the ambiguous, and occasionally downright contradictory, history that is also buried in the history alluded to in that statement. Is it arguable to say that "the Cold War" "made the world a freer place"? Overall, sure, it's arguable. But how does one look simply asserting it flatly, without acknowledging all the, ah, collateral damage to freedom along the way? (Iran, Guatemala, South Korean martial law, Diem, El Salvadoran nuns, etc.) One looks less than as convincing as I expect is desired, I'm afraid. Suggestion: if you don't want to get bogged down in endless arguming pointing out everything you neglect when you over-state, consider not over-stating. (To neglect to even acknowledge that there are or have been any trade-offs in anyone's "freedom" in the "war on terror," well, you must really enjoy just leaping into briar patches.)

Yet you assume that the US is not the worse and has done more than any other nation to "advance freedom and human rights." By what rating system do you make these assumptions?

Knowledge of history, and they're not assumptions, otto. The U.S. was in a leadership role in WWII, the Cold War, the Gulf War and the War on Terror, for example. All those actions have expanded the range of human freedom in the world.

What action do you suggest? What is the problem in Darfur (and I don’t mean the violence – the symptom – I mean the cause of the violence)?

The cause of the violence is al Bashir and his wink-and-nod acceptance of Janjaweeds gone wild in Darfur. The action I suggest would be along the lines Trevino proposed, as I wrote about here.

Gary: Also wrapped up in all of that is, of course, the degree to which the US "led" in WWII (20 million dead Russians and three years of pre-US-entry UK residents who survived the Blitz might have a bone to pick with that); as well as the question of whether the US calling an end to the Gulf War while leaving Saddam in place, and how Saddam was later to spin that into personal heroism for himself -- a point acknowledged even by war supporters -- and the accompanying US presence in Saudi Arabia, which helped increase recruitment for Al Qaeda -- a point also acknowledged by war supporters -- really made the world "more free." (Whatever that means.)

Jes: Understood, although I suspect we're never going to get an answer, for reasons which are fairly obvious.

WWII, the Gulf War, the Cold War, the War on Terror, for example. All these actions were led by the U.S. and has made the world a freer place.

WWII - true.

Gulf War - possibly true, but marginally so, we restored a relatively benign but uncontested monarchy, but by doing that, we also set the stage for protecting the Saud family and their corrupt and repressive control over Arabia along with their funding of religious zealots who don't care a bit about freedom.

Cold War - generally, though many people in the United States lost their freedom unjustly because of the paranoia about reds. Sure, there were a few people who truly were traitors, but there were also many people who legitimately advocated a more liberal society who were painted as reds by the reactionaries. Frankly, I am glad we stood up to the Communists, but it seems clear to me that no one outside of the Iron Curtain should get credit for the revolutions that brought down these governments. It is people like John Paul II, Lech Walesa and Solidarity who won the cold war for the side of freedom, not Kennedy or Reagan or Kennen.

War on Terror - sorry, you and I are less free than before our President declared his fake war on terror. I stand with my senator, Russ Feingold, in disdain for this authoritarian law, with the newspeak name of USA PATRIOT Act and I continue my disgust with those who not only want to continue this authoritarian monstrosity, but want to increase the authoritarian power of the United States government in a new version of the misnamed act. Some people in Afghanistan are now free to grow opium poppies because we have destroyed the economy there, but failed to destroy the Taliban. Iraq, which we all know had nothing to do with terror, has been a disaster for the United States, its allies and the people we supposedly liberated.

Phil: Jes: Understood, although I suspect we're never going to get an answer, for reasons which are fairly obvious.

And then Charles (having failed to answer repeatedly) will accuse us of "mindreading" when we draw conclusions from his failure to answer.

"If they were captured on the field of battle, then they're unlawful enemy combatants and their stay at Gitmo is indefinite."

Nice flat, absolute statement. Apparently our soldiers are not mere humans, but are god-like in their infallibility, incapable of human error. It simply doesn't even enter the equation that any mistake could possibly be made, that any person captured could even conceivably be assumed to be associated with true killers and that such an assumption might possibly be an error.

This is doubtless very comforting, but it bears no resemblance to the actual functioning of real human beings on planet Earth.

If such claims were, perhaps, made about the staff at the Clinton White House, they perhaps might earn a tad more doubt.

"A tribunal is required under the GC only if there is doubt as to their status, but I believe that all should get timely tribunals."

So if, say, we define "timely" as "within a year," I presume this is a backward way of severely criticizing the fact that few have received timely tribunals, and you are chastizing the Administration in harsh, but coded, fashion. Or maybe not. What does "should get timely" mean to you?

Which rule?

The one that talks about consistent abuse and vilification for its own sake, Phil. At 9:09: "Not so incidentally, if I had coined a clumsy, tin-eared, stupid phrase like "democratsunami...""

Pish, tush, and absolutely balderdash. There's no rule against criticizing what people write, and there jolly well neither should be nor could be, if allowing people to say what they think of what others think is the goal. Statements aren't people, Charles, and people aren't statements -- nor ideas. Let's put it baldly: saying "you are stupid" is abusing a person; saying "that statement is stupid" isn't, and trying to making such an hysterical claim makes you look, well, I'm sure different people will have different views.

WWII, the Gulf War, the Cold War, the War on Terror, for example. All these actions were led by the U.S. and has made the world a freer place.

WWII - true.

Before giving that away, wasn't there some talk about "Yalta," lately? Did, in fact, placing the Baltic nations, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslavakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and so on, under the rule of the Soviet Union, actually lead to them being "freer"? Did leaving Marshal Tito in control of Yugoslavia? Was Albania made "freer"? Did partitioning Korea into two halves in 1945 make it freer? How about Germany? How about even Taiwan? Let's be sure to congratulate the U.S. for having "led" this, and for having to -- somehow -- led WWII from Sept 3, 1939 to December 7th, 1941, because, after all, two years is such a blink of an eye it's completely forgettable.

Let's do all this, if we're talking to seven-year-olds whom we want to badly mislead with self-congratulatory propaganda, which is the precise mirror image of "blame America first/America can do now right." Yes, the answer to simple-minded propaganda isn't the truth, but to reverse the propaganda! Instead of "America can do no good," it's "America never does anything but good!" Actually acknowledging slightly complicated truths, which takes whole additional sentences, is too complicated to be worth the bother.

Gary Farber wrote: Before giving that away, ...

I see your point. Yes, I disagree with our President's loony interpretation of Yalta. Yes, it is true that we turned our back on Europe early in the war, before Japan invited us in. Yes, it is true that we did not have the stomach to try to fight the Soviets while we still had to face Japan. That said, I think we made a greater, if still flawed, effort to bring freedom to people during WWII than we did in the three other examples.

"That said, I think we made a greater, if still flawed, effort to bring freedom to people during WWII than we did in the three other examples."

That's certainly an entirely defensible POV, but my point, aside from the extreme questionability of the assertion that the U.S. "led" WWII, and the minor fact that we didn't participate at all out of reasons of idealism, but in self-defense only after attacked, years after others were -- is that if Charles wants to make such generalized assertions that, for instance, grant the U.S. credit for all possible good done during WWII (or any of the named efforts), he can't honestly do so without also granting the bad that also came along as part of the package.

Charles Bird,

-“Knowledge of history, and they're not assumptions. WWII, the Gulf War, the Cold War, the War on Terror, for example. All these actions were led by the U.S. and has made the world a freer place.”

Knowledge of history does not equal a rating system. You criticized AI for not having a system by which to quantify human rights abuses in nations throughout the world. By what yardstick do you quantify (or qualify) such things? The sentence, “All these actions . . .” is an assumption, as others have pointed out above (Gary Farber covered this more succinctly than I could). The Cold War? “Communist” was quite widely used as a label applied to quash domestic dissent. It is curious how so many civil rights leaders were “communists.”

-“If they were captured on the field of battle, then they're unlawful enemy combatants and their stay at Gitmo is indefinite.”

If they were captured on the field of battle, why aren’t they considered POWs and protected under the Geneva Conventions? A question to which I am very interested in getting an answer: “Even if they were non-state actors from “failed states,” why did the Administration not extend to them protection under the Geneva Conventions: why did they go to such lengths to deny them POW status and place them outside international and domestic law?

-“The cause of the violence is al Bashir and his wink-and-nod acceptance of Janjaweeds gone wild in Darfur.”

According to this sentence, al Bashir is not the cause of the violence (the “Big Man” theory of history is one of the least helpful analytical tools but one of the most satisfying for storytelling), but “Janjaweeds gone wild” is. So, why have the Janjaweeds “gone wild”? A big part of the answer is water, specifically the degradation of grazing and arable land due to increasing desertification of the region over the last generation or so and accompanying issues such as overgrazing and loss of soil-stabilizing hashab trees. This environmental problem has stressed what was in the past a more amiable, symbiotic relationship between herdsmen and farmers. The point here is that we need to look at the underlying causes of violence/terrorism/genocide if we are indeed concerned with getting beyond symptomatic solutions. If one is sick, wouldn’t it make more sense to attack the cause of the sickness instead of constantly battling the symptoms? If we do not address root causes, we are left with “evil people doing evil things” as an explanation for the problems we see in places like Darfur. This is not an explanation that might bring us toward lasting solutions, I think.

CharleyCarp,

Good luck! I hope yours will be a rewarding experience.

Excellent post, Charles.

It seems that many commentators are missing the point. An organization that labels Gitmo -- for its many and serious faults -- as the equivalent to the Soviet gulag is an organization that has gone completely, and collectively, insane. And the (mis)labeling isn't excused by calling it "rhetoric," for rhetoric and argument are all AI can offer -- exhorting others to treat the US as some modern-day police statement.

As for Jes's point: Assume that I grant you the argument that the detaintees at Gitmo (1) should receive an assessment of their status under the Geneva convention and that (2) such is not happening. How does that legitimize AI's argument in any respect?

Erm, "police state" -- not "police statement".

Italics off!

Gary: Let's be sure to congratulate the U.S. for having "led" this, and for having to -- somehow -- led WWII from Sept 3, 1939 to December 7th, 1941, because, after all, two years is such a blink of an eye it's completely forgettable.

Or, if you're into Asian history, from Oct 8th, 1931 to December 7th, 1941.

"It seems that many commentators are missing the point."

I don't think so. I was lambasted by several posters, several times, who insisted that my pointing out the huge distinctions between the actual Soviet "gulag" and our present (highly criticizable) system was simply a "nitpicking," "dishonest," "distraction" from "the real point." Yet somehow it's still an issue, but I don't see that I, for one, can be fairly accused of "missing the point" about the flamnatory nature of choosing to use the word "gulag." (Nice to get it from two different directions, though.)

Charles made the objection above in regard to AI that "There's no cherry-picking here," but that's precisely what he's doing, both in regard to what AI has had to say, and his accounts of the unmitigated purity and goodness of the United States in the examples from history he himself has chosen as the (presumably) best possible examples. Cherry-picking examples, I'd agree with him, is, you know, bad. It's certainly not a sign of a strong argument.

It seems that many commentators are missing the point. An organization that labels Gitmo -- for its many and serious faults -- as the equivalent to the Soviet gulag is an organization that has gone completely, and collectively, insane.

I think you've missed the point, von. What's happening here is clear. AI used an inflammatory word that badly overstates the situation, and now voices on the right are using that misstatement as the excuse to point fingers anywhere but at Guantanamo, and to avoid confronting the abuses there, and punishing those responsible. It's the reddest herring ever.

What's worse, using the word "gulag" or calling for the murder of all the detainees? Yet while Charles rages about one, he only "doesn't fully agree" with the other.

What's worse, using the word "gulag" or giving senior officers and Administration officials a complete pass on their actions? Yet Charles rages about one and ignores, implicitly even denies, the other.

No. It's not an excellent post.

I'm with Bernard et al. I also second The Poor Man, who seems to feel our posting rules are too strict:

"As Charles and the Washington Post astutely note, the Soviet gulag was much, much larger and nastier than Guantánamo Bay. I would also like to point out that the Soviet gulag, being based primarily in Siberia, was also much, much colder than Guantánamo Bay, which is in sunny Cuba; and that it was called “the gulag”, whereas Guantánamo Bay is known as “Guantánamo Bay”, which is a totally different name. (They do, I must conceed, both start with the letter “g”.) Clearly, Guantánamo Bay is not literally the gulag of our times, and Charles, the Washington Post, and everyone else who considers “some people don’t love George W. Bush” to be a bigger problem than “your government can now torture you to death without any identifiable trial or legal restrictions”, can boast another famous victory in The War on Metaphor. And Amnesty should be ashamed for failing to start their report with a bold disclaimer that they would be using the English language in the standard way.

Outside this group - the Pravda of our times - it might serve as another in series of near-daily reminders that the Republican party, and the highly principaled small-government libertarians that support them, have no interest in doing anything but excusing the government’s documented policy of extra-legal torture, because that might involve disagreeing with Dear Leader, which might involve standing next to a liberal. Far better, they feel, to make common cause with China and Castro against an organization with a solid and uncompromising 40 year history of fighting for human rights."

In Amnesty's place, I would not have used the same words. But going after them because they criticize us for what are plainly appalling acts is just wrong. And it repeats the 'let's go after that Bush-hater Soros' tradition of criticizing people who have a longer track record of actually doing good than most of us will ever dream of, whenever they decide to oppose Republicans.

An earlier poster asked why the government is so adamant about denying Geneva Convention protections to the people in Gitmo. I believe I have a theory.

Consider a taliban soldier picked up in Afghanistan during the war. For whatever reason, the US decides he has further intelligance value and ships him of to Gitmo. Under the Geneva Conventions, there is no basis for holding him regardless of what intelligence value he has.

The whole idea underlying the GC is that soldiers are not criminals and that fighting a war is not a crime. In the course of waging war, it is advantagous for belligerant states to remove opposing soldiers from the field of battle, which leads directly to the need for POW camps. However, once the war is over, there is no justification for holding onto POWs. Merely fighting on the wrong side is not a crime, and once the war is over, POWs must be released.

According to the President, the war in Afghanistan is long over. That means that the US has no right to hold onto soldiers captured during the war there. No right that is, unless the soldiers are illegal combatants. Hence the need to deny them GC protections.

The government could argue that the war in Afghanistan was simply a battle in the "Global War on Terror" and since that war is not over, they still have the right to keep POWs prisoner until it is. I have not heard anyone in the government make this argument, but in my opinion, it is not valid. The GWOT is a marketing slogan, not an actual conflict, and certainly not a conflict that would be recognizable by the authors of the Geneva Convention. After all, under this viewpoint, the US would have the legal ability to capture and detain anyone in the world for arbitrary lengths of time just by mumbling GWOT. Did Chirac impede our efforts to conduct the GWOT through his security council machinations? He's obviously an enemy combatant! To Gitmo with him! That result is, of course, abhorrent to international law.

By what yardstick do you quantify (or qualify) such things?

otto, I'm not an international organization with the express mission of standing up for one standard of rights for every person, and then to investigate and report on those findings. If I were, I would have a rating system, based on prescribed and reasonable measures. But as a rule, I generally do link to organizations that provide comparative measures such as Freedom House, the Index of Economic Freedom, Reporters Without Borders and the Corruption Index (if there are other better measures, I'd like to see them). These groups are superior to AI because they provide perspective and context, attributes that AI sorely lacks.

You were asked repeatedly on another thread (by Anarch) to explain on what evidence you were assuming that all the detainees in Guantanamo Bay were al-Qaeda -care to answer that question here and now?

Jes, see my comment at 11:09. Like I wrote, your truck isn't with me.

Your endorsement, subsequent backtrack notwithstanding, is beyond the limits of reasonable differences of opinion. It advocates murder.

Killing the enemy in conformance with the rules of war is not murder, Bernard.

The sentence didn't claim that, either. It said the policies have a negative impact, not that the US controls it.

"Negative impact" is your phrase, not mine, Phil. I was talking about rights and you moved the goal line by changing it to "negative impact". AI also moved the goalposts because one of their fundamental tenets is Universal Declaraton of Human Rights.

Is it arguable to say that "the Cold War" "made the world a freer place"? Overall, sure, it's arguable.

Sure, Gary, everyone has their own interpretation of history. But still, since WWII the numbers of nations in the world are freer on par. Japan, western Europe, South Korea, Taiwan, etc. in the middle part of the century, for example. Yes, I know that a number of nations went backward, but I was trying to describe the net progress made. If you want more objective measures, Freedom House has some data. Seems like if the US, as leader of the world, is going to get its share of blame for things gone wrong, it should share in the credit for things gone right. Reasonable, no?

Charles: Jes, see my comment at 11:09. Like I wrote, your truck isn't with me.

My truck, however, is. To wit:

If they were captured on the field of battle...

Assumes facts not yet in evidence. Which are, need I remind you, exactly the facts I've been asking you for and which you have refused to supply. Furthermore, this isn't the claim that you were making two threads ago where you said that those in Guantanamo were "terrorists" not merely "unlawful enemy combatants". [And no, those two are not in any way synonymous.] Would you please stop moving the goalposts and just answer the question?

Charles: The point is that I do not accept at face value and without corroboration the words of Gitmo detainees, not when many or most of these men are likely terrorists and enemies of the United States.

[Me] On what basis do you make this claim?

Seems like if the US, as leader of the world, is going to get its share of blame for things gone wrong, it should share in the credit for things gone right.

I totally agree with this. The US has every right (and George Bush in particular) to take credit for the excellent aspects of the War on Terror as waged by the US and overall increase in number of global democracies. And I'll go further and happily list what I consider the top 5 things Bush should proudly take credit for:

1. Kicking the Taliban's sorry asses
2. Replacing the Taliban with a promising, if struggling, democracy
3. Not scapegoating Muslims, per se, but carefully putting the blame on Islamist radicals
4. Building an international coalition before invading Afghanistan
5. Making human rights, in particular for women, a big part of the PR efforts of our resulting nation building in both Afghanistan and Iraq (which I don't consider part of the WoT, but still appreciate the effort)

Now...NOW can I also point out how murdering prisoners is totally unacceptable? NOW can I point out that the conditions of G-Bay are totally unacceptable? NOW can I also point out that both of these unacceptable items bring shame to the United States and that AI or any other peace-promoting body of the word is right to criticize them? And can we please all agree that the mature, appropriate response for the leader of the free world when facing such criticism is to own up to it and root out its sources, rather than deconstruct the terms used in said criticism?

"There's no cherry-picking here," but that's precisely what he's doing, both in regard to what AI has had to say, and his accounts of the unmitigated purity and goodness of the United States in the examples from history he himself has chosen as the (presumably) best possible examples.

I feel as if we are reading completely different posts. The post I read actually criticizes the US in the course of pointing out AI's myopia.

think you've missed the point, von. What's happening here is clear. AI used an inflammatory word that badly overstates the situation, and now voices on the right are using that misstatement as the excuse to point fingers anywhere but at Guantanamo, and to avoid confronting the abuses there, and punishing those responsible. It's the reddest herring ever.

This isn't misdirection; this is perspective. There are good guys and bad guys in the world and, for all our faults, we are the good guys.* To the extent AI has forgotten this essential point -- and it has -- it richly deserves Charles' ire.

*By "we" I mean not only the US, but also each place were people are generally free and are governed by the rule of law.


Yet Charles rages about one and ignores, implicitly even denies, the other.

Bullsh*t, Bernard. I linked directly to QandO in this post, and stand in full agreement with them regarding our treatment of prisoners and detainees. There's no denial here.

Charles, the Washington Post, and everyone else who considers “some people don’t love George W. Bush” to be a bigger problem than “your government can now torture you to death without any identifiable trial or legal restrictions”, can boast another famous victory in The War on Metaphor.

Hilzoy, I reject Poorman's characterization. The issue is perspective, context and reality. I say again. I didn't link to QandO's persuasive post for my health. I fully agree with Jon and Dale, and I did so precisely because I'm not excusing our behavior and our responsibility.

There are good guys and bad guys in the world...

No there aren't. There are simply people who do good and bad things. To the extent that we do bad things, we richly deserve AI's ire; to the extent that we do good things, it's not part of their mandate. Same is true for everyone else.

On earlier matters: I agree, fwiw, that "gulag" shouldn't have been used because even though it has been imprecisely adopted into the English lexicon -- and, incidentally, Irene Khan used the term correctly as it's been adopted, for all that you and others might rage against it -- that very imprecision renders it unfit for most discourse. To which I say: so what? AI used imprecise terminology. The US is torturing people (to death) who are most likely innocent.* Which is the worse thing, von?

* I'd normally say "innocent of the charges brought against them", but, well...

There are good guys and bad guys in the world and, for all our faults, we are the good guys.* To the extent AI has forgotten this essential point -- and it has -- it richly deserves Charles' ire.

I disagree. AI states clearly in which context it makes its criticism:

The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity.

This is not confusing the US with the "bad guys," but rather noting how the US, through these incidents, is granting license to the bad guys to ignore AI's campaign to shine light on their abuses. How the US is making AI's job that much harder. They have every right to be pissed at the US.

von,

"This isn't misdirection; this is perspective."

With all respect, it's misdirection. It enables the Vice President to say things like "“Frankly, I was offended by it,” Cheney said in the videotaped interview with CNN's Larry King. “For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously.”" link. He is denying that any violation of human rights is occurring. Not just that the violations are being overstated. But that any violation is occurring. That is the warped view that these parsing attacks on the AI report are allowing the Adminstration to set forth.

From the same article, it enables the Preisdent to say things like "“It’s absurd. It’s an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world,”", which, while not quite as silly is every bit as much of a statement that there is no human rights problem. If you believe there is one, and that it is appropriate to correct the problem, then your fight should not be with AI, but with the Administration.

Von: As for Jes's point: Assume that I grant you the argument that the detaintees at Gitmo (1) should receive an assessment of their status under the Geneva convention and that (2) such is not happening. How does that legitimize AI's argument in any respect?

"Argument"? What exactly is illegitimate about Amnesty International's argument? What do you mean by AI's "argument"? I thought we were discussing either their report on human rights worldwide, or else their use of a word to describe Guantanamo Bay, "gulag". Can you clarify what you mean by AI's "argument"?

in the course of pointing out AI's myopia.

What myopia? Are we reading the same report? AI outlines and criticises every single one of the US's offenses against human rights. That's a far more detailed list than is (for example) their report on China's offenses against human rights, or Cuba's, because the US operates with far greater transparency than either Cuba or China. And this is a good thing.

If you read the actual reports rather than (as Charles appears to prefer) the summaries, you perceive that the language used to criticise China's much more serious violations of human rights is much more harsh. The reports on the individual countries, that I've read, are fair and balanced. I would ask anyone who accuses AI of myopia to go read the report on the US and inform us all what they think should have been omitted from that report.

Charles: Still waiting for your answer to that question. (Thanks, Anarch, for repeating it.)

When China or Cuba tries to criticize other countries about human rights, they are rightly laughed at. I would like to avoid having US criticisms be equally dismissable, but I fear it's already too late for that.

I would like to think it's not unreasonable to expect a democracy to be more likely to change its human-rights-violating policies as a result of criticism than a dictatorship would be. Judging by the administration's responses, that doesn't seem to be true any longer for the US.

"Consider a taliban soldier picked up in Afghanistan during the war. For whatever reason, the US decides he has further intelligance value and ships him of to Gitmo. Under the Geneva Conventions, there is no basis for holding him regardless of what intelligence value he has."

This somewhat elaborate theory would better explain things if it took into account that Administration policy applied the Geneva Conventions to the Taliban. It doesn't strengthen otherwise valid criticism to embed it with such major errors of fact.

Yes, Charles. You linked to QandO. What I was objecting to when I criticized

giving senior officers and Administration officials a complete pass on their actions

was this passage from your post:

We've made our share of mistakes with prisoners and detainees, but another measure of having higher standards is what's being done to fix them (the mistakes, not the prisoners/detainees). The discoveries and investigations of ill treatment, abuse and torture were made by US investigative authorities. CBS News didn't discover Abu Ghraib, the US military did.

This suggests that we are cleaning up, investigating, punishing wrongdoers without fear or favor. No coverup, no scapegoating, no shielding of high-ranking officials, military or civilian.

That is not an accurate description of the official response.

Charles: The point is that I do not accept at face value and without corroboration the words of Gitmo detainees, not when many or most of these men are likely terrorists and enemies of the United States.

Anarch: On what basis do you make this claim?

You may not like the answer, but an answer was given. Like I wrote before, this is a War on Terror, not a Law Enforcement Response on Terror. The detainees at Gitmo are unlawful enemy combatants so judged by the US military under the rules of war, those combatants being members of al Qaeda and who have raised arms against the United States military. My dispute with the practice is that, even when there is no doubt as to their status, every detainee should face a proper and timely tribunal to remove even the appearance of a violation of the Geneva Conventions. I believe we've made serious mistakes by doing so few of them, and we've made things worse by using the practice of extraordinary rendition.

Why do I not take the detainees' words at face value? One, because al Qaeda has a training manual, and one of the manual's instructions is for captives to proclaim torture. Two, because it is unwise to take uncorroborated statements from someone who is most likely our enemy and trained at giving out misinformation. I'm sorry you don't like the answer, but you'll just have to deal with it. Or not.

Charles: The detainees at Gitmo are unlawful enemy combatants so judged by the US military under the rules of war

Were they? What evidence do you have to prove that the US military judged all the Guantanamo Bay detainees as "unlawful enemy combatants under the rules of war"? Cite, please. And, following on from that, what reason do you have to suppose that they were correct in doing so? Again, cite, please. Shall I give you example detainees by name and you can tell me how in each instance the US military judged that detainee an "unlawful enemy combatants under the rules of war"? I am happy to do so: just say the word.

Why do I not take the detainees' words at face value? One, because al Qaeda has a training manual, and one of the manual's instructions is for captives to proclaim torture. Two, because it is unwise to take uncorroborated statements from someone who is most likely our enemy and trained at giving out misinformation.

Again, what evidence do you have that the detainees are al-Qaeda? And two, what evidence do you have that the detainees were "trained at giving out misinformation"?

You're still not answering these questions. You merely assert that this is so, without explaining what reason you have for thinking that this is so, aside from your assertion that you believe the US military has correctly judged all the Guantanamo Bay detainees as "unlawful enemy combatants under the rules of war"?

Charles: Jes, see my comment at 11:09. Like I wrote, your truck isn't with me.

I saw your comment at 11:09, btw: I noted (as I responded to it) that again, as now, you were evading answering the question.

Gary: "This somewhat elaborate theory would better explain things if it took into account that Administration policy applied the Geneva Conventions to the Taliban. It doesn't strengthen otherwise valid criticism to embed it with such major errors of fact."

I have a great deal of respect for you, but I don't think the linked article claims what you say it claims.

There are two separate issues here: 1. whether or not to apply the GC to captured individuals at all, and 2. if we apply the GC to captured individuals, whether to treat them as POWs, civilians, or unlawful combatants.

The article you link to says that the administration has decided on answers to both these questions. For question 1, the administration says that the GC does apply to Taliban soldiers. For question 2, the linked article clearly states that the administration is going to treat Taliban soldiers as unlawful combatants and not POWs:

"Legal experts and human-rights advocates said Bush's decision to continue classifying Taliban detainees as "unlawful combatants" instead of POWs allows the White House to use secret military commissions to try the individuals."

My original post posited that the government classified Taliban detainees as outside the reach of the GC in order to detain such soldiers indefinitely. That wording is sloppy. I had meant to indicate that the government's denial of POW status to Taliban detainees is the central issue. Whether the GC applies is a secondary issue, since, regardless of whether the GC applies, the government has some authority to hold onto non-POW detainees long after the conflict has ended.

While I was in error, I don't think that error affected the analysis in any significant way.

Common Sense: "While I was in error, I don't think that error affected the analysis in any significant way."

Hey, I gave you "otherwise valid criticism."

:-)

Charles: you know, I take it, that some of the people we shipped off to Guantanamo were not captured by us at all. (E.g., the passengers in the car driven by the taxi driver whose death was recently reported in the NYT.) In some cases we paid various groups and/or warlords to turn captives who were (according to those groups and/or warlords) Taliban or al Qaeda. This gave those groups a vested interest in deciding that all sorts of people were Taliban or al Qaeda when they weren't. This seems to have been what happened in the case of some of the Brits we held at Guantanamo.

Also, I believe I read somewhere (I'll try to track it down if anyone's interested) that we had very few interpreters, and so often relied heavily on contractors who were, in many cases, untrained in interrogation (think: restaurant workers whose fluency in, say, Pashto suddenly came into demand.) We were not in a position to be making very good judgments even when we didn't just take some warlord's word for it that a given prisoner was al Qaeda.

"Negative impact" is your phrase, not mine, Phil. I was talking about rights and you moved the goal line by changing it to "negative impact". AI also moved the goalposts because one of their fundamental tenets is Universal Declaraton of Human Rights.

No, Charles, "negative impact" (actually, "negative effect") is the phrase from the goddamned sentence that you chose to quote. Just because you're not going to bother reading your own pull-quotes, don't expect that nobody else is going to read them. To wit:

The US embargo and related measures continued to have a negative effect on the enjoyment of the full range of human rights in Cuba.
"Negative effect," right there in the quote. You're the one who moved the goalposts to "The U.S. does not control what human rights the Cuban people have or don't have. Castro does." AI didn't say anything about the US "controlling" the rights of Cubans -- you did. They said that US policies have a "negative effect" on Cubans, and now you're trying to accuse me of moving the goal line, when I'm sticking with the precise wording of the quote you frigging picked out? Some stones on you, Bird. Honestly. Orwell would have loved you, as would Humpty-Dumpty.

Killing the enemy in conformance with the rules of war is not murder, Bernard . . . I fully agree with Jon and Dale, and I did so precisely because I'm not excusing our behavior and our responsibility.

For the record, this is what Dale wrote: My preferred method of dealing with these terror prisoners would be to get two captains and a major together as a tribunal, declare them to be unlawful combatants, and put them in front of a firing squad.

I would like a one-word, yes-or-no answer -- with absolutely no qualifications -- to the following sentence, which I believe accurately characterizes what Dale Franks has written above:

"I, Charles Bird, publicly support the convening of show trials in which all detainees at Guantanamo Bay are declared by a three-man tribunal to be unlawful combatants, then summarily executed."

Yes, or no?

This is comedy, right? Amnesty International lacks perspective because they used an inflammatory word in a report about Guantanamo. That's what's important here. Aside from that inflammatory word, the contents of the report itself--the abuses committed in the name of our country--sure, those are regrettable, but hardly in the same category as AI's dreadful lack of perspective.

I'm rolling on the floor laughing. Really I am. Or would be, if I could suppress the disgust for long enough to truly appreciate the humor.

Common Sense,

Thanks for you response regarding GC and their application!

Well, I guess that is as good an answer as we are going to get. It reflects a remarkable absence of thought about the situation. What would constitute corroboration for Chas? Corroboration of examples of koran desecration seem to be numerous, but one statement by Pentagon spokesman DiRita seems to negate any and all corroboration, so for Chas, there is no corroboration. Dead bodies don't provide corroboration because we (as opposed to Chas) don't know that they weren't guilty. Those released who present evidence that is corroborative are discounted because, well I don't know, but if they were picked up, they had to be guilty of something, so we can't trust their word, even though they were released. In fact, they probably were guilty, but it was only with the application of pressure from allies who we have to keep at least a little bit happy that they were released. Anyone who could corroborate may have read the AQ manual, so therefore, their corroboration is non-corrobative. Thus, the existence of the AQ manual, irregardless of whether the person (or anyone for that matter) has seen it, exists as the universal un-corroborator. (which, if you think about it, is remarkably like the notion that the koran exists outside of time as a sacred text, thus, the opposite poles tend to resemble each other more and more)

As for the term gulag, I believe that the necessary conditions do not include forced labor and Siberian cold, but rather a willingness to imprison people for perceived rather than actual evidence, relying on the word of informants and others, covered by a remarkable blanket of secrecy. And, in our case, we've made it new and improved by adding poorly trained interpreters and military personnel who are probably as uninterested as Charles in questions of guilt or innocence and motivated by job performance ratings, as well as being outsourced so responsibility is attenutated. I'm all for getting a new word, if it could contain all the disgust and horror I feel at this development, but I don't see one word containing it all.

Also, I was struck by this comment

There's no cherry-picking here, and there's no singling out a particular nation because that nation happens to be really, really powerful.

Again, remarkably unreflective. AI is arguing that everyone should have a certain measure of human rights. That Chas twists this around to mean that therefore, the mass of Chinese or Cubans being oppressed outweighs the one or two eggs being broken in Bagram or Gitmo, really is sad.

It's important to note that this assumption that each person has a measure of human rights plugs into the notion of asymmetric warfare. Therefore, granting that measure of human rights (and given that these people were taken out of foreign countries and brought to US territory, it seems to me that the onus is on the US to grant these rights, not to come up with legal excuses to deny rights) to those imprisoned would be taken as 'giving aid and comfort to the enemy', so Chas has to assume that by fact of their imprisonment, they are guilty, and therefore only eligible for punishment. Chas apparently doesn't disagree with the concept of universal human rights, so to remove such rights, has to develop a system of belief that takes those imprisoned to be guilty. He's right that I don't accept it, and it is tempting, in order to 'deal with it', to deliver more and more pointed insults to Chas, but I hope that I (and others) can avoid that.

At the risk of mindreading, I have to assume that Chas thought process is hey, I'm a decent person and I wouldn't support anything like a gulag. Thus, this system of prison camps where access to prisoners has been systematically denied can't be a gulag because I'm not that kind of guy. Sure, a few mistakes were made, as in any human enterprise, but there has to be a fundmental moral decency to this, because I wouldn't be able to support it if there wasn't. Therefore AI's at fault.

More's the pity.

Knowledge of history, and they're not assumptions. WWII, the Gulf War, the Cold War, the War on Terror, for example. All these actions were led by the U.S. and has made the world a freer place.

ROTFLMAO

WOT has made the world freer? How? By replacing a Theocratic State by a failing Narco State, or by destroying a semi functional country and turning it into the single best AQ recruiting tool and training ground for Terrorist?

As for the cold war, tell that to the various Central American Countries whose Goverment we have overthrown, whose population we have terrorised with Right Wing death squads, not to mention the 1/2 million indinesians we got killed in 1965, 3 million Vietnamese we killed in the 60's, the various dictators we have supported over the years ( Mobutu amongst others) and the various Coups we have backed over the years (Arbenz, Allende, Mossadeq, The Colonels in Greece).

And BTW Granada was a real threat to world peace, and if we had not invaded the planet would have been turned in a nuclear waste land.

As for the Gulf war, who was made free? cause last I checked Kuwait still isn't a democracy!

There really is a general hatred of the USA on this web site. DQ is just one example.

Charles Bird: You may not like the answer, but an answer was given.

No, it wasn't. The outline of an answer was traced; a truth was claimed; and in neither case was factual justification provided. I'm not sure how much clearer I can get: you have not provided factual evidence for any of these contentions, despite my repeated requests, and I'd very much like for you to do so. Facts, not assertions; that's all I've been asking for, and all I'll accept.

The detainees at Gitmo are unlawful enemy combatants so judged by the US military under the rules of war...

False. Some of the detainees at Gitmo have been declared to be unlawful enemy combatants by the US military under their, shall we say, idiosyncratic interpretation of the rules of war. Judgment has, by and large, not been forthcoming as you yourself admit; neither has a general agreement on what the "rules of war" betoken in these circumstances.

[Incidentally: I note, again, that you're implicitly tacking on a universal quantifier here without, again, providing justification for this view. On what basis do you make the claim that all the detainees in Gitmo were, in fact, "judged" (and judged correctly) to be unlawful enemy combatants?]

those combatants being members of al Qaeda...

Who, precisely, were members of Al Qaeda? What proportion of the detainees do you know to be members of that specific organization? Facts, Charles, not assertions.

and who have raised arms against the United States military.

Who, precisely, "raised arms against the United States military"?* What proportion do you know they comprise amongst the inmates at Gitmo? Facts again, Charles, not assertions. That's all I've been asking for, and your repeated evasions -- including the ever-popular "I've already answered that question!" when, in fact, you haven't -- aren't doing your case or your credibility any favors.

* Note that, as you've formulated the proposition, the Taliban and Iraqi regulars don't count, since by invading we raised arms against them rather than the other way around.

DaveC: There really is a general hatred of the USA on this web site. DQ is just one example.

I can't (or rather, won't) speak for DQ, but "general hatred"? I'm all ears. Who, precisely, are you charging with hatred of the USA and for what specific reasons?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


  • visitors since 3/2/2004

April 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
Blog powered by Typepad

QuantCast