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June 04, 2005

Comments

Here's an old chestnut I've never understood:

the Taliban detainees are unlawful combatants and, therefore, do not qualify as prisoners of war under Article 4 of Geneva.

Why not? The Taliban was the government of Afghanistan. I assume the problem is that we (like the rest of the world) didn't officially recognize them, due to whatever compunctions, but that seems like a cop-out.

Could the U.S., during WW2, have declared that Hitler's gov't was illegitimate and that, therefore, we weren't going to recognize it? Would that have removed Geneva coverage from the Wehrmacht?

I assume the problem is that we (like the rest of the world) didn't officially recognize them, due to whatever compunctions, but that seems like a cop-out.

No, the reason is that the Taliban did not sign the Geneva Convention, nor did they follow it in practice.

Any combatant picked up in Afghanistan is de facto illegal; the problem is solely that the US did not convene tribunals to distinguish combatants from civilians.

No, the reason is that the Taliban did not sign the Geneva Convention, nor did they follow it in practice.

The Taliban was recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan by a couple governments (Pakistan certainly and I think Saudi Arabia and a few others) and as such were signatories to the Geneva Convention. My understanding was that they were not recognized as legal combatants because they were not fighting in a recognizable uniform under a cental military command. A technical interpretation that should have at least required review of a competent tribunal.

How fortunate. I was looking for a thread in which to post this (h/t Shakespeare's Sister, via Pandagon):

Jailers splashed Koran with urine - Pentagon

The article doesn't quite stand up to the headline (what is it with headline writers nowadays?) but here are the money grafs:

In the incident involving urine, which took place this past March, Southern Command said a guard left his post and urinated near an air vent and "the wind blew his urine through the vent" and into a cell block.

It said a detainee told guards the urine "splashed on him and his Koran." The statement said the detainee was given a new prison uniform and Koran, and that the guard was reprimanded and given duty in which he had no contact with prisoners.

I haven't yet read anything that clarifies whether this incident was deliberate or not. I am, however, amused at the late-Friday-afternoon-document-dump nature of the press release.

I assume the problem is that we (like the rest of the world) didn't officially recognize them, due to whatever compunctions, but that seems like a cop-out.

It is a cop-out. The Geneva Convention specifies that it doesn't matter if the government isn't officially recognised by the other side in the conflict.

No, the reason is that the Taliban did not sign the Geneva Convention, nor did they follow it in practice.

Not relevant either: Afghanistan is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, and I do not believe the Taliban ever repudiated it. If one side in the conflict does not follow the Geneva Convention, the GC explicitly says that this does not exempt the other side from following it.

It's a cop-out. The Bush administration is in breach of the Geneva Convention: Charles understands this perfectly well (god knows it's been explained to him enough) but he obviously can't ever cop to it. That would mean admitting Bush & Co are war criminals, and he'd have turn in his VRCW membership card if he did that.

Jonas Cord: Any combatant picked up in Afghanistan is de facto illegal.

Under what auspices?

*having read it* I made a resolution never to post to RedState (I registered Jesurgislac there just to prevent anyone else taking my nick). I'm unsurprised that Charles doesn't have the nerve to post that pile of crap here and see it torn to shreds.

Jonas: Any combatant picked up in Afghanistan is de facto illegal; the problem is solely that the US did not convene tribunals to distinguish combatants from civilians.

No, the problem is that the US was required to convene competent tribunals if the US doubted that all of its detainees were PoW. To remove a detainee from PoW status requires a tribunal. But convening tribunals would have meant the US would have to have had to define exactly what it meant by "illegal combatant". That would have been embarrassing for several reasons - the most obvious one being that the Northern Alliance, the US allies, would also have been "illegal combatants" under any definition that included any and all Afghans fighting for the Taliban.

My last take on the issue is here

I read the post at Redstate but I'm not well-bred enough to comment there.

So here I sit. The post didn't give much ground. Apparently the "problem" "we" (I'll get to who "we" might be) have is more of a bad campaign strategy by the Republican Party than something slightly worse. Kind of like the Nixon White House being prosecuted for using the entire (F.B.I., C.I.A., etc.) security apparatus of the U.S. Government to break into a Democratic Campaign office to steal campaign secrets, and then having the crime described 30-some years later by Noonan and company as a harmless and apparently constitutional third-rate burglary or, what the heck, its prosecution condemned as the opening for massive genocide.

This sentence in your post, Charles: "Because 'we' have aggressively responded to 9/11 and have aggressively removed Saddam Hussein 'we' are more exposed to criticism by those who are anti-U.S, Bush, anti-Bush, anti-war, or anti-what-have-you."

I know 'we', the other breed, are in that sentence somewhere too, but I always love it when we get to rub up against those who are anti-U.S. with only the thin prophylactic sheath of a comma separating us.

But thank you for the opportunity to read some stuff over at Redstate. Paul Cella's diary casting a stunningly wide net out for the treasonous among us was cool, and RJCarney's numerous diary posts (kicking a Quran for him, too, was my favorite) make me want to have a drink or many with him and maybe "converse" out in the street later. Other good ones, too.

Am I to assume that the new policy of America is to show our enemies that we'll sink lower than them in order to accomplish our goals. "I'll see your support of terrorism and raise to mass murder and torture." Am I also to assume that the people let go from GB were somehow guilty but we accidently let them go? That fact alone breaks the whole argument. Or are we to assume that the guards looked over Santa's good list and bad list and only mistreated the ones whose names they found on the bad list?

The pissing officer was reprimanded and reassigned so I doubt the accidental pissing on the Koran was considered so accidental afterall.

The Geneva Convention specifies that it doesn't matter if the government isn't officially recognised by the other side in the conflict.

I don't think that's quite right. Part of the problem is that there are multiple Geneva Conventions, so I'll try to tackle both because the synergies are quite instructive. Here's the text of the 1949 Convention on Protections of Civilians. Note carefully the following, which don't quite say what you're saying they do:

Article 2:

...Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.

That last sentence is key because it's conditional: if the non-signatory power agrees to bide by the Geneva Convention, then so to must the signatory power (relative to civilians; for soldiers, see below).

Also:

Article 4

Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it...

I frankly don't understand how this is supposed to be applied without contradiction but, if I had to guess, I'd say that there's a missing qualifier between these two sentences. Something like "Persons protected by the convention are those who..." yadda yadda yadda "except those who fail to meet the criteria below." In short, I think the second sentence takes precedence over the first, although I wouldn't swear to it.

Now, the Convention on Prisoners of War, which contains a crucial difference:

Article 2

...Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.

Again, this is a conditional: if the non-signatory power agrees to abide by the Geneva conventions then so to must the signatory power. Same as above. What's critically different is the following: Article 4, which specifies who precisely counts as a "prisoner of war" for the purposes of the convention, does not contain an exemption for members of a non-signatory polity unlike the Civilian convention. Likewise Article 5, which is the oft-cited provision concerning the right to a trial, contains no such exemption:

Article 5

The present Convention shall apply to the persons referred to in Article 4 from the time they fall into the power of the enemy and until their final release and repatriation.

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.

So how does this shake down? As I see it, the question boils down to the following: does the fact that the previous Afghani government abided by the Geneva Conventions, coupled with the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, the Taliban continued to abide by the Geneva Conventions,* mean that the Taliban should be regarded as a "bound Party" via Article 2 of both the relevant conventions? If so, then pretty much everyone in Afghanistan is covered; if not, then things get, well, complicated.

Two other things: irrespective of whether or not the Geneva Conventions apply to Afghani detainees, the Convention Against Torture most certainly does since it applies to everyone everywhere: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." Second, if there were further treaties or conventions that modify any of the three I've cited, everything I said should be reconsidered in the light of those later documents.

* If someone has evidence to the contrary, I'd be grateful if it were brought up. To the best of my knowledge, though, most of the atrocities in Afghanistan either a) weren't committed by the Taliban, or b) don't fall within the Geneva Convention's mandate.

Freder Frederson,

My understanding was that they were not recognized as legal combatants because they were not fighting in a recognizable uniform under a cental military command. A technical interpretation that should have at least required review of a competent tribunal.

I agree completely, that's the biggest issue in play here.

Jesurgislac,

Not relevant either: Afghanistan is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, and I do not believe the Taliban ever repudiated it. If one side in the conflict does not follow the Geneva Convention, the GC explicitly says that this does not exempt the other side from following it.

The Taliban repudiated it by not following any of its requirements. This is a very good example of the behavior that makes you an "illegal combatant."

This does not exempt the US from following it - but following it does not mean that POW status is guaranteed after the prisoner has been brought before a tribunal. In fact, the opposite is likely true in this case.

That would have been embarrassing for several reasons - the most obvious one being that the Northern Alliance, the US allies, would also have been "illegal combatants" under any definition that included any and all Afghans fighting for the Taliban.

...Which would have only been relevant if the Taliban were taking Northern Alliance fighters prisoner, and declaring them illegal combatants. As they weren't doing this, nor even pretending to follow the Geneva procedures, it simply wouldn't be a big deal.

Anarch,

Under what auspices?

My point is simply this: had the Tribunals been convened as they should have, it is completely inconceivable that when someone is found to be an actual combatant, that they would not be de facto illegal ones, because the Taliban made no effort to comply with any of the laws under Geneva. Not to mention the Al Queda fighters...

Jonas: Are you using "illegal" to mean "not covered by the protections of Article 4 of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War", or is it proxy for some wider-ranging term? I still don't understand what laws, precisely, these combatants are supposed to have broken.

Jonas, you appear to be arguing that if the Taliban de facto violated Geneva, then they're not a party to it.

But it seems to me that Afghanistan could be a signatory and still violate the rules.

The Germans violated Geneva in WW2; does that mean their soldiers weren't entitled to Geneva's protections?

Sorry if I'm misunderstanding you, but I'd appreciate clarification, merci bien.

(Obviously, if Nation A can say "Nation B mistreated one of our guys, so Geneva's off the table now," then Geneva is not worth a bucket of warm spit.)

Jonas: The Taliban repudiated it by not following any of its requirements.

Actually, that doesn't constitute "repudiation". Sorry. Breaking the law is not identical with repudiating the law. (If it were, the US would by now be deemed to have repudiated the Geneva Convention, through failure to comply with its provisions with regard to PoWs.)

This does not exempt the US from following it - but following it does not mean that POW status is guaranteed after the prisoner has been brought before a tribunal. In fact, the opposite is likely true in this case.

*shrug* Not really relevant to my point. I've never either believed or claimed that every prisoner held by the US in Afghanistan is innocent. Some of them were civilians: some of them were soldiers who happened to be on the losing side: some of them may well be terrorists: some of them may well be al-Qaeda. The US simply never bothered to find out which was which.

It's entirely possible that the US could have come up with a definition of illegal combatant that could have been used in tribunals to decide whether a prisoner of war (as all of them were and are, according to the Geneva Convention: a tribunal is required to remove a PoW from that status) was in fact not entitled to the status of PoW.

Which would have only been relevant if the Taliban were taking Northern Alliance fighters prisoner, and declaring them illegal combatants

It would have been relevant, since it would have meant that the US was using illegal combatants as allies with US military. Given this, it would have been clear to the world that the US has no objection to illegal combatants in principle: so long as they are fighting on the side of the US.

It would have made clear to all Afghans, including the Northern Alliance, that, to the US military, Afghans are disposable people: not allies worthy of protection or consideration. That would have been embarrassing.

Anarch,

In Part I, Article 4a, Section 2, to qualify as a POW you must meet requirements A, B, C and D:

Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:[ (a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

I picked this section because it is the one that likely best describes the Taliban. That being said, I don't think the case can be made that they met those requirements.

And of course regardless of legality, some of us think torture and other abuses are morally wrong and a violation of what our country stands for -- not to mention counterproductive in a war for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. Even if the GC doesn't prohibit the mistreatment, it certainly doesn't require it.

Anderson,

But it seems to me that Afghanistan could be a signatory and still violate the rules.

The Germans violated Geneva in WW2; does that mean their soldiers weren't entitled to Geneva's protections?

To clarify: Yes, the Germans were entitled, despite violations. Everybody violates Geneva at some point for some reason. My point is that the Taliban made absolutely no effort to comply with any provision of the treaty.

Jonas
When you make these sweeping statements it may help if you can cite something other than your opinion.
Can you cite a referrence that shows "the Taliban made absolutely no effort to comply with any provision of the treaty"? Or that they, though not recognizing Geneva, instituted policies or activities that were in true violation of it?

Jesurgislac,

Actually, that doesn't constitute "repudiation". Sorry. Breaking the law is not identical with repudiating the law.

I do not believe that breaking the law is identical to repudiating it. However, the Taliban's repudiation comes from not honoring any provision of Geneva. About the only thing they have going for them is that there is a war and they use weapons in it.

The US simply never bothered to find out which was which.

Too true, and precisely why I am not a fan of the Administration's behavior.

It would have made clear to all Afghans, including the Northern Alliance, that, to the US military, Afghans are disposable people: not allies worthy of protection or consideration. That would have been embarrassing.

That could very well be the case, I don't know. But this more a matter of Public Relations than International Law governing conflicts. That's all I'm saying.

KCinDC,

Even if the GC doesn't prohibit the mistreatment, it certainly doesn't require it.

Amen. Anarch's previous mention of the Torture conventions is far more relevant to the prevention of mistreatment than the Geneva Convention will ever be.

Carsick,

I'll try to dig some stuff up to demonstrate this particular point.

Thanks, Jonas. But why aren't the Taliban qualified under 3d Geneva, (I)(4)(A)(1)?

Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict, as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

Afghanistan was the Party, and the Taliban were, at the least, militias/volunteers forming part of its armed forces. I mean, if not they, then who?

I stopped reading at the rhetorical and not-believable "...once respected..." That's a useful rhetorical trick to establish one's credibility and sympathy etc etc But I simply don't believe it; it turns me off, or rather, I turnh it off.

"The liberal agenda is to damage, neutralize or impeach Bush. Wy give the left this kind of ammunition?"

A gift for understatement, or a generosity I don't deserve. My agenda is more ambitious, tho never, Mr Secret Service Man, beyond the scope of law.

Charles post was just fine. I, for one, do not expect Charles to be Gilliard or Neiwert, and any day I can agree with or approve of a single thing he says is a good day. The last paragraph of recommendations are laudatory, quite controversial to his intended audience, and took more courage that many here would give CB credit for. I would support them as a possibly achievable compromise.
.....
I have not registered at Tacitus or Red State. The possible rejection would devastate my self-image as comitable...comitose...umm civil, calm and generous commenter. And I pollute too many blogs already.

But I enjoyed the Paul Cella mentioned above. I believe he sets a standard for political discourse many on the left could do well in emulating. If none dare call it treason, might I suggest "heresy"? At one time heresy was a burning offense, and the fact that the concept has disappeared in late Medieval mist shows how far our civilization has declined with the foul influence of Luther and Calvin. We barely recognize mortal sin even when daily surrounded by it!

Sigh. But the mention of Cella and heresy reproves me with unread Chesterton on my hardrive and I must avaunt, apace.

At one time heresy was a burning offense, and the fact that the concept has disappeared in late Medieval mist shows how far our civilization has declined with the foul influence of Luther and Calvin.

You impugn Calvin unjustly, sirrah, as the ghost of Michael Servetus could tell you.

Jonas
My understanding is that the administration decided that since Al Queda obviously wasn't following Geneva and the Taliban supported or accepted Al Queda that de facto the Taliban lost their ability to be protected by Geneva.
I don't accept the administration's logic but that may be where you got the idea.

Jonas: I do not believe that breaking the law is identical to repudiating it. However, the Taliban's repudiation comes from not honoring any provision of Geneva.

I see where you're coming from: I just don't agree with either your premise or your conclusions.

Just for the record, I'm not poly-bloggery,especially when Scoop is involved, so not taking up the offer to comment at Redstate should be viewed in that light. I appreciate the fact that CB posted that over there. I hope it is not uncivil to suggest that Jonas post his musings on the non-applicability of Geneva over there to see what kind of response it gets.

I'm unsurprised that Charles doesn't have the nerve to post that pile of crap here and see it torn to shreds.

Read my next two posts and then we'll talk about nerves, Jes, but thanks for calling me a coward. Made my day. BTW, you can tear the post to shreds here too if you so choose, which is why I wrote above that you could stay here and comment away.

Apparently the "problem" "we" (I'll get to who "we" might be) have is more of a bad campaign strategy by the Republican Party than something slightly worse.

Read again, John. I wrote: "First, because our mistreatment of prisoners/detainees is wrong. Second and less importantly, because it's bad politics."

kudos to you Charles.

I'm with Edward and Bob M: I thought the post was good, and I commend Charles for putting it up there. I would have thought that 'cowardly' would have been to post it here but not at RedState.

lily: I would have thought that 'cowardly' would have been to post it here but not at RedState.

Given that his post at RedState was chockablock full of lies about Amnesty International, repeated the blunders he's consistently made interpreting the Geneva Convention, and made no reference whatsoever to the commenters here who helped him figure out what was actually going on... no, I can quite see why he wouldn't want to post it here. ;-)

Oops. Hilzoy, not Lily. Sorry.

Jes: Bomb-throwing is cute but not particularly productive. Could you please step the rhetoric down a few notches?

Anderson: Thanks, Jonas. But why aren't the Taliban qualified under 3d Geneva, (I)(4)(A)(1)?

Which was more or less question, too. Likewise, some Afghan irregulars could, potentially, qualify under (I) (4) (A) (6) [did I do that right?], which stipulates that POW status also covers:

"6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war."

Since Afghanistan is technically non-occupied and some (though not, by any means, all) of the Afghani irregulars seem to be both carrying arms openly and respecting the laws and customs of war -- although I'm not sure if this a general handwave or a specific term of art -- they might be covered here. It depends, though, on any of a number of things whose factuality (let alone legality) I'm not sure of.

[As an aside: I don't see any text in the original Geneva convention regarding non-signatory parties, and there's internal evidence indicating that they don't consider the Conventions at all binding on signatory/non-signatory interactions. I have no idea what this does to the "illegitimate government" argument vis a vis Nazi Germany but I thought I'd throw that out there.]

The question of POW status under the Geneva Conventions is far from the entire issue. Contrary to what some people seem to think, unlawful combatants do in fact have rights under the GC.

My impression is that GC IV, which deals with protection of civilians, applies. Anarch quoted the key definition above, but I'll repeat it:

"Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."

The text makes clear that this definition is not restricted to those who have not engaged in hostile actions. It also says, of those who have engaged in hostile actions:

In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be.

Note again, that this is not about POWS. It is about everyone. Humane treatment is required.

Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.

It seems that the primary consequence of being an unlawful combatant is not the loss of rights to humane treatment, but that the participation in combat by itself constitutes a crime. Thus an unlawful combatant can be punished, even executed, for actions which are legal for a regular soldier. But this can only be done after a trial, conducted under specified rules. A tribunal of two captains and a major, or even two colonels and a general, doesn't count.

And here's a vaguely amusing article from 2002: Geneva Convention to cover Taleban, quoth the White House. Money graf (which is exactly what Jes and I had posited above):

The White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said that although the United States did not recognise the Taleban as a legitimate government, it had decided to apply the Geneva Convention because Afghanistan was a signatory of the treaty.

Quite famously, Japan was not a signatory to the Geneva conventions, however, the US unilaterally decided to treat the Japanese in accordance with the conventions. This discussion was interesting, especially for the fact that a slight change in wording made such a big difference.

Bernard Yomtov,

It seems that the primary consequence of being an unlawful combatant is not the loss of rights to humane treatment, but that the participation in combat by itself constitutes a crime. Thus an unlawful combatant can be punished, even executed, for actions which are legal for a regular soldier.

This is the point I'vem been trying to make all along!

But this can only be done after a trial, conducted under specified rules. A tribunal of two captains and a major, or even two colonels and a general, doesn't count.

Where are the specified rules? Between this broken keyboard and dial-up, I'm having a hard time doing research.

Anarch & Anderson,

Here's the White House announcement about the status of the Taliban, emphasis mine:

In addition, President Bush today has decided that the Geneva Convention will apply to the Taliban detainees, but not to the al Qaeda international terrorists.

Afghanistan is a party to the Geneva Convention. Although the United States does not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate Afghani government, the President determined that the Taliban members are covered under the treaty because Afghanistan is a party to the Convention.

Under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, however, Taliban detainees are not entitled to POW status. To qualify as POWs under Article 4, al Qaeda and Taliban detainees would have to have satisfied four conditions: They would have to be part of a military hierarchy; they would have to have worn uniforms or other distinctive signs visible at a distance; they would have to have carried arms openly; and they would have to have conducted their military operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

The Taliban have not effectively distinguished themselves from the civilian population of Afghanistan. Moreover, they have not conducted their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. Instead, they have knowingly adopted and provided support to the unlawful terrorist objectives of the al Qaeda.

Being "covered" by Geneva does not mean you will retain POW status no matter what you do. You have to meet the four requirements outlined previously which applies to regular armed forces as well, under the Hague Laws of War.

There's a reason why no American expected POW status in WWII when they did covert operations - it's because they did not meet those four requirements. Subsequent revisions to Geneva no longer allow their immediate execution - but now POW status is granted on an interim basis until the illegality of their actions is proven. I don't think that is a hard case to make against the Taliban.

Bob McManus: I enjoy reading Cella, too, in a grim, joyless sort of way. He's a superb writer of lucid prose. And I believe that folks on the Left and the Right could benefit by emulating his discourse. And, I know he is talking about "intellectual" treason against Western civilization.

That said, the words "treason" and "heresy" are all very fine sitting in the clear aspic of Cella's intellectual chronicling of the utter decimation of western civilization by barbarity inside and out, but I see by reading many of the other commenters and diarists at Redstate, just as an example, that mobs are forming, torches are being lit, and the gates of academia, the press, and liberalism, and many of our institutions are about to be stormed and destroyed in very literal and non-intellectual ways.

See, it makes little difference to me any longer after the deliberate coarsening and sacking of civil discourse within our civil institutions by the Gingrich/Luntz juggernaut whether the word traitor is thrown in my general direction by Cella the intellectual seer, or by some of the more one-dimensional tough guys (many of whom infest the halls of Congress) who immediately think "firing squad" when Cella sings his grim rhapsody.

Words and their implications have meaning. I hate the song "Kumbaya" as much anyone in Tom Delay's Party. I don't want to "engage in discourse" about whether my views or the views of my Party, or my barbaric friends, or my elitist friends, or my friends who manage to be both elitist and barbaric simultaneously on ANY issue in this country are "traitorous" or "heretical" any longer. My inner posting rules are violated and the accuser and I will very literally will go into the literal street and literally fight with literal fists or ANY literal weapons they choose. Cella can bring his keyboard if he likes.

Also, your "more ambitious agenda", even within the law, if I may read your mind a bit, will be met by government-sponsered bloodshed by the radicals who run today's Republican Party. Unlike the majority of Republicans here and elsewhere, whom the radicals have scorned and will demonize as well when the time comes, these people are in it for keeps and either the entire culture is transformed, or they will burn the culture down. They aren't going to stand in front of a microphone and blubber like Richard Nixon in the face of a Constitutional challenge and the jailtime you desire.

Unless, of course, the rhetoric of the past 25 years is the high-pitched squealing of cowards like Gordon Liddy (who was just in it for the talk-show gig), which it probably is.

So, maybe I should go read some Chesterton, too. And, chill out. Thanks for listening, or not listening, as the case might be.

Jonas,

The rules seem to ones of basic fairness. They are stipulated in the Fourth Convention, the one I quote above. They include right to counsel of one's choice, right to present evidence, including calling witnesses, right to an interpreter, right to various forms of notice of charges.

Again, these rules have nothing to do with POW status. The Fourth Convention is not about POW's:

Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.

In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be.

The Convention also has rules about punishment, and in particular about the death penalty:

The penal provisions promulgated by the Occupying Power in accordance with Articles 64 and 65 may impose the death penalty against a protected person only in cases where the person is guilty of espionage, of serious acts of sabotage against the military installations of the Occupying Power or of intentional offences which have caused the death of one or more persons, provided that such offences were punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory in force before the occupation began.

I take this to mean, at least, that someone caught in a non-combat situation probably could not be executed just by virtue of not having POW status.

Standard disclaimer. IANAL, and especially not an expert on the Geneva Conventions and related matters. My comments are based simply on my reading of these documents.

But I enjoyed the Paul Cella mentioned above. I believe he sets a standard for political discourse many on the left could do well in emulating.

I enjoy reading Cella, too, in a grim, joyless sort of way. He's a superb writer of lucid prose. And I believe that folks on the Left and the Right could benefit by emulating his discourse.

Are you two talking about Cella's diary entry that quotes Whittaker Chambers? If so, put me down as being in sharp disagreement with your evaluations. The entry is empty posturing, meaningless pomposity. It says nothing.

I welcome and challenge y'all to go over and converse with the other side.

There is nothing that can be said to reach people who are incapable of acknowledging that all men--not all Americans--are created equal, whose souls are so stained by hate and fear that they think torture and abuse are excusable, and who think atrocities are necessary to prevent more atrocities. That there are principled conservatives willing to speak out against these things gives me hope. That so many of the commenters at Redstate apparently are not gives me no desire to engage them: they will have to reclaim their humanity for themselves someday; it is not mine to give back, and no words of mine will suffice to do so.

Bernard, you write:

"The question of POW status under the Geneva Conventions is far from the entire issue. Contrary to what some people seem to think, unlawful combatants do in fact have rights under the GC.

My impression is that GC IV, which deals with protection of civilians, applies."

Unless I am completely misunderstanding you, your impression is wrong. Combatants aren't covered under the sections which deal with the protection of civilians because comabtants are engaging in combat. Civilians are the ones that don't engage in combat and are not part of the armed forces. That is why you have two separate conventions, one for combatants and a different one for civilians.

The rules for civilians are not lost by non-signatories. The rules for combatants are reciprocal for signatories.

The post is nice, but is glaringly lacking. Shorter BD -- we have a problem here (without a moment's reflection on why the problem exists) which we have to deal with (which is disingenuous when there is an avoidance of an examination of the cause of the problem).

Maybe CB will, at some point, actually reflect for a moment why it is that these abuses have become such a problem under the Bush-run war on terror; i.e., there has been a affirmative policy in favor of abuse (there is no other way to spin "extraordinary rendition").

Is it courageous for a conservative to actually admit there is a problem instead of mouthing the usual lies to the contrary? If so, that's setting the bar for intellectual honesty way too low. The problem is not simply that abuses have occurred, but why they have occurred. Admitting that abuses have occurred is only the first baby step on the path of Republican rehab.

Its the same as if BD wrote a post about how the budget deficits are, in fact, a problem without ever mentioning the significance of the Bush tax cuts and fiscal policy. Imagine the silliness of proposing a bipartisan commission to study the deficit problem?

As for a bipartisan commission regarding the abuses, I would like to know who would be appointed from the Repub side that would even acknowledge that a problem exists. If any prominent Repub officeholder were to repeat what BD has said, they would get the Voinovich treatment.

Bernard Yomtov: Well, I can't speak for Bob McManus, mainly because there may have been another wheel within his many wheels, but the part of my off-the-deep-end rant regarding Cella's rhetoric was a feint with the right hand for a little misdirection.

I disagree with you in one aspect: Cella's prose says nothing in a hypnotically mesmerizing fashion. I'm nearly convinced by him that the evils of birth control on college campuses, for example, should be met with the same rhetorical force as the evils of Al Qaeda.

I then I realize it's the identical degree of rhetorical posturing for both instances.

Sebastian,

You are not misunderstanding me. You may be correct, but my reading of the Fourth Convention suggests otherwise. Read Article 4, defining who is covered. Then note that part of that Article clearly considers people such as spies, saboteurs, and unlawful combatants as "protected" with the meaning of the Convention.

For example, Article 5 speaks of "protected persons" who are "definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State." Similarly, the Articles that prescribe rules for trials clearly allow for the possibility that the crime charged is an attack against military personnel. Isn't that what an "unlawful combatant" does?

Indeed, Protocol I defines a civilian "as any person who does not belong to one of the categories of persons referred to in Article 4 (A) (1), (2), (3) and (6) of the Third Convention and in Article 43 of this Protocol. In case of doubt whether a person is a civilian, that person shall be considered to be a civilian."

In other words, anyone not entitled to POW status.

Article 45 of the Protocol goes on to say:

Any person who has taken part in hostilities, who is not entitled to prisoner-of-war status and who does not benefit from more favourable treatment in accordance with the Fourth Convention shall have the right at all times to the protection of Article 75 of this Protocol. In occupied territory, any such person, unless he is held as a spy, shall also be entitled, notwithstanding Article 5 of the Fourth Convention, to his rights of communication under that Convention.

Article 75 reiterates many of the protections of the Fourth Convention, including, among other things, protections against torture. To anticipate, the Protocol does refer to those entitled to "more favourable treatment under the Fourth Convention." I believe this refers to special protection to be afforded to the wounded and other special cases.

There are people who are not covered by the Conventions, but they are enumerated at various places. It seems to me that, aside from these individuals, the soldier/civilian distinction is intended to be exhaustive.
Your interpretation suggests that there is a limbo, neither soldier nor civilian, that some people occupy, and that those people have no protection whatsoever under the Conventions. That seems unlikely on the face of it. After all, this is not the first time in history that irregular forces have engaged in combat. Surely the Conventions would say something about this limbo you describe if they thought it existed.

Okay, legalistic interpretation of the Geneva Conventions aside, I have a question. Instead of reccomending a panel to investigate allegations of torture and such, why not just... y'know, stop torturing people? Seriously. Save the investigation for after we stop it from happening any more. Executive orders saying that ll detainees must be treated humanely, move entire new crews into Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, all the other camps, cordon them off for the investigations, and keep all the people who had been working there available for interviews. Like cops do with other crimes, though most of the kinds of crimes cops deal with aren't quite as large scale.

Stop it, THEN investigate. Not the other way around.

BTW, much of my information comes originally from this article by a Red Cross lawyer. It's quite informative.

To bed now. Swiss Teams tomorrow. Need my rest.

"Cella's prose says nothing in a hypnotically mesmerizing fashion. I'm nearly convinced by him that the evils of birth control on college campuses..."

My second attempt tonight, I am trying not to drone or ramble.

I myself have been known to go off the deep end on a Texas tax provision. Cella's prose nearly always says that ideas matter. I admire him for his effort to hate the sin and not the sinner. Read him carefully. How do people of good will err so grievously? Lord only knows.
There are people shallow and self-centered who charm their way into high office. There are people of such great compassion...well, 2 x 4 and mules come to mind.

Maybe I am a lousy judge of character. But I see in Cella what I see in Katherine: a great pain. I do not pity them; it is a blessing. But I cannot hate a man who suffers so profoundly.

Just out of curiosity, did anyone ever pin down Cella's opinion on atheists in office?

bob mcmanus: But I cannot hate a man who suffers so profoundly.

I know what you mean: but I tend to feel rather differently about a man who relishes homophobic abuse of visitors to his site.

dmbeaster: Is it courageous for a conservative to actually admit there is a problem instead of mouthing the usual lies to the contrary? If so, that's setting the bar for intellectual honesty way too low. The problem is not simply that abuses have occurred, but why they have occurred. Admitting that abuses have occurred is only the first baby step on the path of Republican rehab.

The sad thing is that the collective state of mind over at RedState, which where it acknowledges that prisoners are being tortured tends to collectively agree that this is a good thing because they're bad people, merely taking one baby step with lots and lots and lots of bolsters probably does look, to Charles, like a terribly courageous thing to do.

I'm not sure where CB gets the idea that only a few of the many prisoners have been mistreated. Sure only a few have died from their mistreatment, but stories of severe beatings seem to be quite common.

I'm also not sure what the prison population really looks like in Guantanamo, much less Bagram. Some 53 Afghans were recently released, and I suppose these could be Taliban. They could as well be civilians.

That's the other assumption that no one should make about our prisoners. There are folks who are not alleged to have ever fired a shot, to have ever handled a weapon, who were arrested in places other than Pakistan or Afghanistan. These people are combatants?

Take the example of http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A3868-2005Mar26.html>Kurnaz. Not Taliban, not in combat, not apparently a member of AQ in any sort of formal way.

Even take the example of KSM. He's alleged to be a combatant in the same sense that Paul Wolfowitz is a combatant. Or, and I say this because I'm not sure exactly how the AQ structure worked, maybe more in the sense that Richard Perle was a combatant wrt Iraq. You wouldn't expect a uniform. He can't be a signatory -- only nations can sign treaties. Is he being tortured? Would anyone like to bet that he isn't?

Or how about this: suppose you've got a Saudi college student who takes a vacation to check out Afghanistan in August 2001. Goes to a religious establishment that happens to have a relationship to AQ. Enjoys the religious services, never sees or hears anything about fighting anyone. (In fact, suppose further that as the only son, he has a fatwa exempting him from any obligation to engage in jihad). So the 9/11 strike occurs, and the borders close, just as his vacation is coming to a close. With the help of fellows he met at religious services, our Saudi student sneaks across the border into Pakistan. Gets picked up by Pakistani authorities a few days later, for which a bounty is paid to an anonymous informant.

Civilian? Combatant? Unlawful combatant?

Civilian? Combatant? Unlawful combatant?

terrorist. guility. commence waterboarding - ticking bombs, doncha know.

I welcome and challenge y'all to go over and converse with the other side.

I picked a couple of what I thought were pretty boneheaded statements (meaning "totally contrary to facts") by commenters and challenged them in a way I thought fell well short of disrespectful, and the answers I got were...nothing. Nobody even corrected my spelling.

Very disappointing.

Charles, your invitation is refused (not respectully, please note) for two reasons:

1) I've never been one to stare into the contents of an outhouse in August, so I'll pass on viewing Redstate.

2) Your behavior in the threads on prisoner abuse, spinning, bullshitting and lying madly to support whatever the administration wants, has made it quite clear that what you say isn't worth reading.

There is an eerie disconnect between content and manners, isn't there?

We on the Left are counselled to polite when speaking about a President and an Administration who lied us into a war, countenanced torture, and suspended Constitutional law.

We're told to be civil to people who don't care that the war was based on lies, don't care that it's chewing up our soldiers, don't care that the Administration has no discernable strategy for getting out of Iraq, don't care that it's made terrorism worse instead of better, and don't care that it's become a multi-billion graft operation for Halliburton et al.

We're told to be civil to people who don't care that the "WoT" has mostly been manifested by curtailment of civil liberties, from the minor indignitites at airport security scanners to the imprisonment and torture of people never charged with any crime, never allowed counsel, and never convicted of anything. We're told to be civil to people who support "disappearment," torture, and murder.

We're told to be civil to people who call us traitors, and who long for the day when we're actually treated like traitors.

We're told we mustn't say the word 'fascist,' and really shouldn't call Bush a liar. Because that just makes us "Bush haters."

And, heaven knows, there's no good reason to be a "Bush hater."

Because all he did was lie us into a war, countenance torture, and suspend Constitutional law.

It's not as if he got a blow job and lied about it. Yes, I remember how "polite" conservatives were to Clinton, about Clinton, and to Clinton's supporters. I remember when the people who demand courtesy to Bush, courtesy about Bush, and courtesy to Bush's supporters had no trouble, none at all, vilifying Clinton in the most juvenile and lurid terms; many of them doing so on the op-ed pages of American newspapers and on TV news.

I remember how Clinton's attempts to track down Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were dismissed - by conservatives, by commentators, and by the GOP leadership - as wag-the-dog distractions from the vital business of impeaching a President for lying about a blow job.

I can't help but wonder how different the world would be today if the same people who today nod like dashboard doggies at everything Bush says and does had extended one-tenth the same trust and support to Clinton when he was chasing OBL and AQ.

And I can't help but wonder, if it was proper and appropriate to hate, vilify, and impeach a President for lying about a blow job, what is the proper and appropriate attitude towards a President who lied us into a war, countenanced torture, and suspended Constitutional law.

Oh, today's NYT has a http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/05/international/europe/05prisoner.html?>Kurnaz story too.

thanks, CaseyL.

Jesurgislac & CaseyL,

You guys fight the good fight.

Late to the fray, but I thought I'd add my $.02 here: and, atypically, it will be as a defense of Charles and his Redstate post. FWIW, I tend to agree with the bulk of his arguments: the "problem" "we" have with the issue of prisoner abuse (real, which is bad enough, and perceived, which is also a serious issue, if not as awful) - can, and probably will, have serious repercussions to the US' ability to effectively combat Islamicist terrorism and anti-Americanism worldwide.
I disagree, though, on his focus of rounding on Amnesty International, though, and his reflexive trashing of the whole organization (as he did on his prior post here) for their poorly-thought-out (and exaggerated) "gulag" analogy: which, IMO, was a bit too much of deflectionism: begging the whole issue of our detention policies. However, his Redstate post does atone for this lacuna, in a way: issues of torture, abuse and detention ought not (never) be framed solely in terms of "effectiveness" or as political "gotcha" points: these are - as Sebastian H. has posited in these pages often - moral issues (whatever other effects they may have) - and a serious look at them from someone who is a conservative and war supporter can only be a beneficial thing.
Alas, though: as to "commenting at Redstate": notably little, AFAICT, to see there: some thoughtful comments, but I couldn't help notice that the two longest comments were one from a "drag-'em-out-and-shoot-them" advocate; the other a screed on the awful perfidy of even raising an issue defined as "one-sided blathering from the hate-America crowd.". (with no contadictory opinions offered).

The Administration dealt with the 1994 Convention Against Torture by focusing on what constitutes “severe pain or suffering” and “intent” as defined by the US. Basically, if the interrogator did not intend to torture the interogatee, and the technique applied did not really, really hurt, it’s not torture. This seems to me to be a rather subjective interpretation and provides for a rather large margin of error? Maybe CharleyCarp can help out here?

Anarch (from your 4:11 comment),

I am certainly not a lawyer or a legal scholar, but what struck me from reading the relevant documents from the Administration was the lip service to the spirit of the GC while at the same time the attempts to find a way out of it. I thought, if they are so interested in maintaining the spirit of the law, why not apply the letter?

Nate,

You asked, “why not . . . stop torturing people?” Maj. Gen. Dunlavey, commander at Gitmo, offers this as partial explanation on 11 October 2002: “I am fully aware of the techniques currently employed to gain valuable intelligence in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Although these techniques have resulted in significant exploitable intelligence, the same methods have become less effective over time. Based on the analysis provided by the Joint Task Force 170 Senior Judge Advocate, I have concluded that these techniques do not violate U.S. or international laws.” You may also be interested in reading a paper called “Torture Redux: The Case for Robust Interrogation” written by Lt. Col. Michael Pearson while attending Canadian Forces College (available online).

otto: You'll forgive me, I hope for being skeptical of a vague statement by the commander of Gitmo, who could be held criminally accountable for the torture going on there, where he tries to justify it. In a transparently false fashion, since a number of the techniques apparently used at Gitmo do markedly violate international law, and if they don't violate US law, it's only because of extremely "flexible" interpretations by people like Gonzales. And give how well the War On Terror is going, I'm probably going to have to doubt the good intelligence we've gotten from torture. Especially given the fact we have't even bothered to try and find out if any of the people in Gitmo are civilians, Al Queda, Taliban, or pizza delivery.

And, effectiveness aside, as has been mentioned upthread, torture's a moral issue. Torture is Wrong. Fullstop. We are the United States of America. If we are to be the Good Guys, we cannot do things that are Wrong. We should not be doing things that are Wrong. Especially when they're counterproductive and hurt the War On Terror more, by radicalizing the moderates across the Arab world, and giving Al Queda etc the greatest propaganda coup they could have hoped for. In addition to the general harm it's doing to the US image, and the soul of our country.

So, in summary, we shouldn't be torturing people. This seems amazingly obvious, but I guess it needs to be repeated. The people responsible for authorizing torture should be rounded up and held accountable. The torture should be stopped. Torturing prisoners goes against everything that America stands for. The fact that we're even HAVING this debate is terrifying, and terribly depressing. Have we really sunk so low, and become so paranoid and inured to evil?

Charles Bird,

Thanks for both of your posts.

It may help your arguments to try to get past your propensity for objectification. It is possible to make your arguments without setting up your political opponents as two-dimensional strawmen that are defined by your standards. For example, you wrote:

-“Because we have aggressively responded to 9/11 and have aggressively removed Saddam Hussein, we are more exposed to criticism by those who are anti-US, anti-Bush, anti-war or anti-what-have-you.”

-“The anti-Bush crowd has seized the issue and they're not going to let go. The liberal agenda is to damage, neutralize or impeach Bush.”

Apart from the first sentence not being an entirely accurate description of why many on the left have challenged the Administration and/or its policies, is it possible, just possible, that some of those who criticize the GWOT, US foreign policy, treatment of detainees, etc. do so for reasons other than anti-US or anti-Bush hatred? Is it possible that the “liberal agenda” has other things in mind other than to damage Bush? Is it possible that such critique about what some may find to be objectionable might be a pro-US stance, offered in what liberals might see as the best interests of the nation? Or are these characterizations of liberals meant only to appeal to a certain audience?

From your 6:17 comment:

-“Apparently the "problem" "we" (I'll get to who "we" might be) have is more of a bad campaign strategy by the Republican Party than something slightly worse.”

-“Read again, John. I wrote: "First, because our mistreatment of prisoners/detainees is wrong. Second and less importantly, because it's bad politics."”

I think John Thullen’s impression of your focus here was not out of line. After the two sentences quoted above from your post, the entire rest of the paragraph deals with the less important point. One might conclude from this emphasis, that it is your second point that is the more important. Interestingly, such quantitative focus formed the basis of much of the condemnation of AI.

“Mr. Hart certainly does not think of himself as a Christian, yet all his thinking is formed by Western Christianity. He thinks in either/or, that is, one-God terms. ‘Must be one thing or the other’ he tells himself, ‘it’s all very simple . . .”

-“Ah Pook is Here” William S. Burroughs

Nate,

Yes, yes. I offered the quote and the mention of the paper (“Torture Redux”) not as my opinion or support, but as part of the evidence of how one arrives at torturing folks. It was precisely because of issues of justification and accountability that Dunlavey sent his request up the chain of command. Lt. Col. Beaver, Staff Judge Advocate at Gitmo, added this to Dunlavey’s request: “I recommend that interrogators be properly trained in the use of the approved methods of interrogation, and that interrogations involving category II and III methods undergo a legal review prior to their commencement.”

-“So, in summary, we shouldn't be torturing people.” Not everyone thinks so. My intent was to try to help answer your question so we can all figure out why.

Otto:

Sorry for the misinterpretation. The whole torture things creeps me out. It's f***ing TORTURE.

And the most common justifications I've seen for torture, at least online, have been "ticking bomb" scenarios (which apply to people who've been imprisioned for years how?), "they're bad men who'd happily do the same to us", and... well, revenge, basically.

I'll probably go and read that paper at some point, or at least as much of it as I can stomach, but reading the first part, where it talks about "Setting in place a carefully structured and controlled framework with a graduated series of increasingly severe interrogation techniques for specific use against the most hardened captured errorists is an effective means to counter the threat." I can already tell it doesn't apply to what's been going on. There isn't a strict structure of rules, it hasn't just been applied to "the most hardened terrorists", and so on.

Nate,

No problem. As we all know, there’s quite a bit that does not translate to text.

Yes, the “ticking bomb” scenario is bunk because it is primarily used as a justification for what one was planning to do anyway and because of many of the assumptions it contains. Actually, I suppose that perhaps some who rely on that argument are more concerned about moral questions than one often gives them credit for. Or else why would they be so concerned about offering a rationalization? (It reminds me of the debate on the decision to drop the bomb on Japan and the position taken by some on the right that its use saved a million American lives, was the only way that Japan would surrender unconditionally, etc. If it was not such a horrific weapon that scared the hell out of folks across the political spectrum and if its existence and use did not contain moral implications that needed to be dealt with, especially by those who were in favor of its use, I suspect that there would be no need to justify its employment.)

Some authors I’ve been reading over the past few years who treat issues of torture and related topics in which you and others might be interested: Jean Baudrillard (“The Spirit of Terrorism,” “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place”), Giorgio Agamben (“Home Sacer”), Guy Debord (“The Society of the Spectacle”), Paul Virilio (“Ground Zero,” “Pure War,” “Strategy of Deception”), Slavoj Zizek (“Welcome to the Desert of the Real,” “Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle,” “Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?” and his many articles published in The London Review of Books (some available online)).

otto: -“The anti-Bush crowd has seized the issue and they're not going to let go. The liberal agenda is to damage, neutralize or impeach Bush.”

That also presumes, implicitly, that it is incorrect to want to damage, neutralize or impeach Bush. One of the three, at least, seems perfectly legitimate to me.

Also, good reading list there otto. Are most of those articles or books? If articles, where can they be obtained?

Nate: Sorry for the misinterpretation. The whole torture things creeps me out. It's f***ing TORTURE.

This reminds me of Arthur Silber's primal scream on the old Light Of Reason about why torture is wrong: “Because">http://coldfury.com/reason/comments.php?id=P369_0_1_0">“Because we’re f***ing human beings“.

Anarch,

All the titles are books. The London Review of Books has a website where many of their published articles can be read without a subscription. A relevant one from Zizek is "Are We in a War? Do We Have an Enemy?" from May 2002 (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n10/zize01_.html)

we have a problem here (without a moment's reflection on why the problem exists)

There are plenty "whys" in the links, dm, and there are plenty of reasons as to how it came to this. The commission could get into that as well.

I'm not sure where CB gets the idea that only a few of the many prisoners have been mistreated.

I'm not sure where you got the idea that I got the idea that only a few were mistreated, Charley. There's no mention of it here, and quite frankly I don't have the faintest idea on the numbers who've been mistreated.

I'm not sure where you got the idea that I got the idea that only a few were mistreated, Charley. There's no mention of it here, and quite frankly I don't have the faintest idea on the numbers who've been mistreated.

He may have gotten the idea from your Redstate post

Some will say that the issue of prisoner/detainee treatment is not that big of a deal. After all, we've had tens of thousands go through the system and only a small fraction have died or were mistreated.

I realize that the dodge is that you don't know exact numbers, so your 'quite frankly I don't have the faintest idea on the numbers' is not wrong. But I think this is the sort of thing that you usually attribute the adjective "Clintonian" to, is it not?

CharleyCarp: “I'm not sure where CB gets the idea that only a few of the many prisoners have been mistreated.”

Charles Bird: “I'm not sure where you got the idea that I got the idea that only a few were mistreated, Charley. There's no mention of it here, and quite frankly I don't have the faintest idea on the numbers who've been mistreated.”

Charles Bird,

I suspect that CharleyCarp got this idea from what you have written on the subject, such as the following:

From your post at Redstate:
“After all, we've had tens of thousands go through the system and only a small fraction have died or were mistreated.”

From your comments in “Amnesty Take 1783”:
“and then she morally equates those atrocities to the imprisonment of a few hundred combatants”
“The genocide in Sudan (tens of thousands murdered and hundreds of thousands uprooted) is of lesser importance than a few hundred captive militants held by the US military.”
“If that's the tack, then AI better change their mission statement, because clearly the rights of a few are more important to them than the rights of millions of others.”

From your comments in “The Amnesty Travesty”:
“Morally equating a few hundred unlawful enemy combatants with the millions who died under the reign of Stalin is so irresponsible and so out of touch that Ms. Khan's judgment and leadership is too suspect for any reliance.”
“the human rights of a few have become more important than the human rights of a multitude of others.”

Your discrediting of AI is based on your assessment that their report wrongly focused on a “few” in US custody while many more suffer at the hands of other nations. This numbers game, this quantitative comparison, is the bedrock of your conclusions. Without being able to make a comparison between the “few” and the “multitude of others” your condemnation of AI is significantly weakened. If you “don’t have the faintest idea on the numbers who’ve been mistreated,” why does the assumption that “only a small fraction have died or were mistreated” while detained by the US form such an integral part of your position?

Sorry, Liberal Japonicus. I didn't realize you already addressed this when I posted my comment.

No worries otto,
one example could be discarded as an anomaly, 7 is a bit harder to explain away.

otto,
In your 9:11 comment, you brought up two sentences I wrote. The first one I'm still okay with because we have exposed ourselves to more criticism--worldwide criticism--by various folks with various "antis". The second sentence I should have qualified. Not all folks who are anti-Bush have seized on the issue, and not all liberals have as their prime agenda to to damage, neutralize or impeach Bush.

As for my emphasis, I wrote that the political equation was less important and I meant it. On the moral issue, either people are going to understand that the way we've treated detainees is wrong or they're not. Sebastian and QandO made a convincing case and I chose not to reiterate. The moral issue should really be enough. I wrote a lengthier explanation on the political angle for that segment who didn't agree with me on the moral issue but could be persuaded on the bad politics of it.

otto,
From your post at Redstate:
"After all, we've had tens of thousands go through the system and only a small fraction have died or were mistreated"

That's taking me out of context. The preceding sentence: "Some will say that the issue of prisoner/detainee treatment is not that big of a deal." The sentence I wrote pertains to the rationalization that others are making, a rationalization which I disagree with. The other quotes that you pulled dealt specifically with Gitmo and AI's "gulag of our times" nonsense.

7 comments in the immediate wake of the current discussion where you say 'a few' or 'a small fraction' or some such combination and you claim to have no idea where CharleyCarp got the notion? And then argue that because you are talking about AI, that invocation of 'a few' doesn't carry over? Unbelievable.

I would also note that your post at Redstate is named 'Amnesty Travesty Part II'. If it is wrong to draw on your characterizations of the AI discussion for the purposes of determining the actual extent of your knowledge and beliefs, how can anyone actually discuss your post given its title?

LJ, judging by the URL, the post was called "Amnesty Travesty Part II" over here for a while (probably a very short while) as well, but then changed to "We Do Have a Problem".

Charles Bird,

In re 6:38: Fair enough.

In re 6:46: My point was, perhaps because of your previous statements and the quantitative focus of your condemnation of AI, there may have been a reason for CharleyCarp’s question. The sentiment and assumption behind the sentence, “After all . . . only a small fraction have died or were mistreated” seemed to be in keeping with your overall argument. I was thinking of asking you in the previous comment if in this sentence you were still speaking of others’ rationalization, but it appeared to be compatible enough with your other writing that I figured that it was your opinion as well.

Charles, The Poor Man rips you a new one here.

Jack,
Poor Man's rant of me is illogical, nonsensical and foolish.

CB:
Agree with you here (mostly). Andrew seems to have composed his screed without actually reading your material very closely - and his dump on Sebastian is truly uncalled-for.
Oddly, as I read it, the main difference between your approaches seems to be only that he dumps on the Bush Administration for each and every prisoner-abuse failing, and you hold off.

Sorry for the delay in doing this: my computer crashed, so I went away and made a cup of tea.

Moving a sub-thread belonging to Hilzoy's post over here, at Slarti's request and because it seems the right thing to do:

Sulla said: Von posted ..... The administration’s detention practices are abhorrent because it erodes our credibility with Muslims who otherwise might be sympathetic to our cause

I said: No, that was Charles Bird. ;-)

To do Von justice, I think that while he's got a little too obsessive over not calling a gulag a gulag, he recognizes that the administration's detention practices are abhorrent, period.

It's Charles Bird who argues that the administration's detention practices are only abhorrent because they're bad PR with the Islamic world.

Charles Bird reacted (to me, not to Sulla): That is a complete distortion, mischaracterization and smear. Please retract, Jes.

I responded: Charles & Slarti: I believe that "bad PR" was the entire point of Charles' post here, linked to from [here - this post]. Also note, Charles, that if you're calling for a retraction, it's Sulla you need to see about it: he attributed your views to Von, which struck me as unfair.

St responded: Jeez, Jes, I hate to say it, but I think that this sentence from the linked Redstate post contradicts you:

Why [do conservatives have to confront this issue]? First, because our mistreatment of prisoners/detainees is wrong. Second and less importantly, because it's bad politics

You may be of the opinion that the political angle is what CB was really going after; I might even be inclined to agree, were I in an uncharitable mood. But the text is the text, and objectively, your characterization of his post is not accurate.

I think that's all. If I've missed any comments, sorry.

Okay, my response to St:

If Charles Bird really thinks that "our mistreatment of prisoners/detainees is wrong" then he shouldn't be spending so much of his time slamming Amnesty International for saying that the US is mistreating prisoners/detainees. Yet he's doing just that. Before that, he was spending a lot of his time slamming and slandering Newsweek for reporting (accurately) that US soldiers had desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay. Plainly, from Bird's own behavior, he doesn't care all that much about the US mistreating prisoners: he cares about not having US mistreatment of prisoners publicly talked about. That is what he complains about most often.

Two, in his RedState post the "problem" he kept talking about was in fact most often the "problem" that this image of the US presented to the Islamic world. The "problem" of how to get the Bush administration to stop doing these things is not something that appeared to concern him much, beyond suggesting that a bipartisan Presidential commission be set up to investigate it. (Not stop it; just investigate it.)

Objectively, my characterization of his post is far more accurate than Bird's characterization of Amnesty International... and uses the same criteria Bird is using.

Charles, if you'd like me to retract, I will. But first you have to explain why I shouldn't judge your posts by the same criteria you've been using - except *grin* I've been using those criteria more accurately to judge you than you have been using those criteria yourself.

But please explain: what exactly is wrong about judging you by what you actually write about, and noting where you direct most of your criticism and your most hostile language?

I would expect people who are otherwise Republican but regard systematic abuse and torture as un-American to be doing some or all of the following (not necessarily in this order):

- Bring up the offenses at every appearance by officials at the top, and demand answers about them.

- Support the efforts of officials in the Democratic party to obtain full information and bring the perpetrators to justice.

- Shun officials and private individuals who condone torture and abuse.

- Review their own past support for the people, institutions, and policies that brought the injustices into being, and publicly acknowledge their own errors of judgment, misplaced trust, and so on - without trying to smuggle in "but on the other hand" or any other rationalization.

- Refuse to support other activity by the officials who seem responsible and by their superiors, no matter how worthy, until there is a full accounting for the wrongs done and the punishments delivered those who prove guilty.

- Leave the party.

I'm just not seeing it.

Nor am I pulling all this out of a hat. We do have examples. Zell Miller's departure from the ranks of the Democrats, for instance, involved a lot of very public complaint about a few issues he deemed most important and then a decisive move away from a party he felt he couldn't support. In terms of content, I completely disagree with him, but in terms of process, I think that was dead-on how a person of afflicted conscience should act.

I can find some examples of individual Republicans who say "I can't support this anymore" and separate themselves from the party until and unless there's justice for these war crimes. But I'll be darned if I can see anyone in Congress willing to make is a serious issue, or anything like a general concern among the rank and file that manifests in any practical way. And, well, talk is cheap. I would give up half or more my despair if only I could see people doing something about it all.

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