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December 06, 2005

Comments

I have some other stuff in the hopper, but this one irritated me enough that I put it at the top. I am curious to see the response, particularly from the editors. Not the best writing job, but I was moving quickly.

Haven't read Blanton's post, but I'd guess it contains some references to the things that they do that are worse. I haven't thought things through in general to the point where I'd say: non-citizens have exactly the same rights as citizens, but I do think that as regards torture, policy and law ought to agree regardless of circumstances.

As for your piece, Charles, I've got little or no time to critique. Redstate seems to be slashdotted at the moment, so inclusion of some key excerpts might be useful. Having laws against prisoner abuse, though, is not going to keep prisoner abuse from happening, but having the law be clear and specific might be a good start. Not being familiar with the UCMJ, there may be some work to do there, too, as regards treatment of prisoners (regardless of status). Some rules preventing the CIA, for instance, from having unsupervised access to military prisoners, for instance, might be in order.

With you until:
"then either put them before a firing squad or let them rot in a jail cell for the rest of their lives."

Presumably we'd let the ones without good evidence against them go.

Rilkefan: I do not think that you can presume that, but it would be nice.

I simply do not understand what is so hard to figure out about the importance of having the higher moral ground.

Good post Charles.

However ...
"How much better it would be if we took them to Gitmo, put them before a competent military tribunal if need be, treat them humanely, interrogate them relentlessly, then either put them before a firing squad or let them rot in a jail cell for the rest of their lives."

I'll agree with rilkefan. I think you need to edit this statement to add "and release, with apologies, those who are not found to be guilty."

"it makes him and his administration look hypocritical when he says one thing and those under him do another"

They don't "look hypocritical," they are hypocrites. Actually, they are liars, because Bush says his policy is to "treat detainees humanely," when he and the other agents responsible know that this is not the policy, and that (many) detainees are not treated humanely.

Charles, re your first paragraph:

The North Vietnamese said precisely the same thing about McCain but couldn't quite kill him either.

"Whether BLANTON is a fool or charleton in dog-mode is exactly the point" would have been a better finish for the first sentence.

Also, a suggested edit for your sentence in the last paragraph: "how much better it would be if we took them to Gitmo, put them before a competent military tribunal if we can't get away with an incompetent one, treat them humanely, interrogate them relentlessly, and then treat them inhumanely."

It's less wordy.

I agree with the rest despite all of your horrific traits which are too numerous to mention. ;)

What, are you afraid if you agree with McCain on one thing, the rest of might think you agree with him on everything?

We know by now.

Oh, I get it, you were handling Blanton's tender doggy feelings with mesh gloves.

Smiley to you; grrrr to Blanton who persists in defecating on the carpet.


"In his own words, President Bush's policy is to treat detainees humanely"

Sorry, but no. The President's words are to treat detainees humanely. The President's actions are to engage in torture and inhumane treatment of detainees (whether by the CIA or subcontracted to other countries), to fight in Congress for the right to continue to do so, and to lie and obfuscate when questioned on the subject.

Which speaks louder as to his actual policy?

Blanton who persists in defecating on the carpet.

As an affectation, I prefer "egesting". Mostly because no one else does.

Slarti - thanks for providing my new word for the day. I hadn't seen that one before.

i see that at least a few of the armchair warriors at redstate are former soldiers who have gone through SERE training. their service to this country should be recognized, and i commend them for serving.

that said, otherwise it's a pretty foul thread. two points dominate: the conduct is not torture, and torture is allowable given the stakes.

now, threads on the usefulness of various interrogation techniques, and their relationship to US law, frequently sound like virgins talking about sex -- full of enthusiasm and ignorance.

the general public does not know what happened at Abu Ghraib. nor do we know the details of Kalid Sheik Mohammed's suffering.

what we do know is that Al Qaeda has not struck successfully in the US since 9/11; that AQ has struck successfully elsewhere in the world (London, Madrid etc.) since 9/11 and that the US has been utterly unsuccessful in penetrating the iraqi resistance(s).

so we can pretty easily conclude that whatever we're doing isn't working all that well either in crippling AQ or the iraqi insurgencies.

as for the effect of all of this on the rule of law, only time will tell. but The Agitator is a very good blog on the militarization of american police work and the ongoing evisceration of the 4th amendment.

i'm a california democrat; i have virtually no say in who will be the next president. i'd be very interested to hear from the conservatives who the republican nominee should be.

"egesting"

E-gesting would be what Blanton and a few others at Redstate do in e-mail.

Adding to my list of Presidential actions from my prior comment:

to promote or seek the promotion of advocates for policies of torture and inhumane treatment (e.g., Gonzalez, A., Miers, H., Negroponte, J.), to assert Presidential perogatives with respect to torture as part of the conduct of war which no other branch of government has the right to investigate (Congress) or assert jurisdiction over (the courts).

Can anyone add to this list?

"I see that at least a few of the armchair warriors are former soldiers..." etc.

No comfort there. It seems to me that having a barking match with the tough dogs and then finding out they at one time might actually have levitated from the L-Z-Boy and ripped out the throat of the poodle down the street lends a certain thrilling raised-hair-on-the-back-of-next-under-the-dog-collar dimension to the argument.

Kind of like the Czar felt when the regulars got back from the World War I front. You know: "I said do torture, not like torture."

Presumably we'd let the ones without good evidence against them go.

Fair enough, rilke. I added a small update.

So it's not just a matter of will after all, but also of moral and sound policy well implemented?

I haven't read everything Charles has ever posted or said in comments (mostly because of the hail of snark that follows), but did he really say will is sufficient for victory? As opposed to necessary, I mean?

Slarti: I think the post that gave that impression, rightly or wrongly, was the one in which he said:

"Improvements to our strategy and tactics can surely be made, but success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more."

And while I'm commenting on this thread: good post, Charles.

Ah. Well, that would explain a lot. I'd tend to disagree with that, but I'd also tend to toss it into the poorly-communicated slagheap until such time as it was clear that Charles did in fact mean that exactly.

If I was only as smart as the last stupid thing I said, then I'd be well under the limit for doing the sort of work that I do. Apologies in advance if I've by in some way or another called Charles stupid.

Slarti: I think the post that gave that impression, rightly or wrongly, was the one in which he said:

"Improvements to our strategy and tactics can surely be made, but success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more."

Since this seems to be an unending sticking point, I'll let someone else speak for me: "I know, and I try to give that individual the benefit of the doubt and read that to mean that without that will, then we cannot succeed, which would be a true statement."

Since this seems to be an unending sticking point...

Charles, let me speak for only myself in saying that for the last three years I have feared that should failure occur in Iraq, and the dire consequences of that failure come to pass, blame will be placed on those of insufficient enthusiasm for the war.

The whole "ultimately depending on our will" pokes a sensitive spot with me, at least, because it looks a lot like mental preparatory work for blaming the failure on "insufficient will" on the part of critics of the war. Which would be ironic, considering that many who opposed the war did so because they thought it unwinnable in the first place and were aware of the costs of failure.

Well drawn line.

The whole "ultimately depending on our will" pokes a sensitive spot with me, at least, because it looks a lot like mental preparatory work for blaming the failure on "insufficient will" on the part of critics of the war. Which would be ironic, considering that many who opposed the war did so because they thought it unwinnable in the first place and were aware of the costs of failure.

Oh, it's more than just a little mental preparatory work. It's the real, live Dolchstoß getting limbered up. Go re-read the Redstate thread. This is clearly the intent. "The Left is stabbing our valiant soldiers in the back!"

Or better yet, read Trevino's moronic "No End But Victory" site. The only enemy being targeted over there is the internal enemy. You, and me, and anyone else who criticizes the "war effort."

These people really, genuinely, believe that Vietnam was "lost" on the home front. They're preparing to rewrite the history again here, just like in 1975: it was the Enemy Within that cost us the victory.

I knew I'd regret wading into that Redstate thread. I try very hard not to dehumanize my political opponents, but when I see an entire thread full of people cheerleading and supporting the use of torture, it becomes very difficult to regard them as anything other than repugnant monsters, the kind that really ought to go find a 3rd world dictatorship that better suits their warped vision of patriotism.

I haven't thought things through in general to the point where I'd say: non-citizens have exactly the same rights as citizens,

I may well misunderstand you, but you do not really mean that it might be a good idea to have different laws for citizens and non-citizens do you?

I may well misunderstand you, but you do not really mean that it might be a good idea to have different laws for citizens and non-citizens do you?

There already are different laws for US citizens than for non-citizens. What I was thinking of, though, was more along the lines of protections afforded by the Constitution. And if you'll read a bit more closely, you'll notice that I didn't say that I thought such differences in treatment were a good idea so much as I hadn't had time to consider situations other than treatment of prisoners. I'm not so much in favor of giving noncitizens the right to vote (or run for President) in the US, for example.

CB: Yes, I did say that, and I do realize that that sticking point is being abused by many.

However, there are two comments I want to make in reference to it.

1. The right has been misquoting, misinterpreting and taking quotes by people on the left out of context on a regular basis. Examples would be almost anything Kerry said last year, and the recent brohaha over Murtha. This gives you a slight idea how it feels.

2. The whole thing would have been resolved fairly easily by your just admitting that your phraseology was not the best, rather than trying to argue the point over and over.

I assumed we were talking about the justice system - and I asked because I was curious, not because I wanted to put words in your mouth.

Tourists are non-citizens. And criminals who are arrested in other countries for crimes commited in the States. Foreign students, foreign employees....

The right to vote is an entirely different discussion IMHO, but I am married to someone who is not a Dutch citizen and that has an effect on my opinion :)

Check, dutchmarbel. Sorry if that came off as snooty; it wasn't meant that way, but on rereading, I really need to have a rhetorical martini or two.

The whole thing would have been resolved fairly easily by your just admitting that your phraseology was not the best, rather than trying to argue the point over and over.

I will readily stipulate that, john. And to your first point, too.

Just for the record, Lindsey Graham is still completely full of it.

Firing squad or life in prison.

That's a pretty tough go, even for people who were combatants in the Afghan civil war.

As for the suggestion that competent tribunals be convened, I'm afraid that the possibility of justice may have been lost. Much evidence is hopelessly tainted by torture. Other evidence has been lost. And, of course, the mistreatment prisoners have suffered can never be undone.

(I heard a story today at the prison, not about a client. Guy was in a hospital in Pakistan, recovering from a serious wound to the leg. The doctors had planned to do some surgery, to replace a bit of bone. Instead, an orderly sold the patient -- an aid worker, not a combatant -- to the US for the $5k bounty. US soldiers rip the bandages off. After a while the guy gets gangrene. In the US hospital, they tell him that they could still do the bone graft, but that it's too expensive. So they amputate his whole leg.)

Instead, an orderly sold the patient -- an aid worker, not a combatant -- to the US for the $5k bounty. US soldiers rip the bandages off. After a while the guy gets gangrene. In the US hospital, they tell him that they could still do the bone graft, but that it's too expensive. So they amputate his whole leg.

Well, there's a guy we probably ought to lock up for the rest of his life. Because I'd be willing to bet he now has a real grudge against the USA.

Winning hearts and minds, one gangrenous leg at a time. It's the Global War on Terror!

Some stipulations:

Terrorists are not prisoners of war. They are, frankly, not entitled to the protections guaranteed under the Geneva Convention.

A firing squad or life in prison seem, to me, to be perfectly good sentences to hand out to people found to be guilty of planning or committing acts of terror. String 'em up, or if you're morally opposed to capital punishment, lock them up and throw away the key.

That said:

We're now in the business of grabbing people off the street and flying them to secret locations for brutal treatment and interrogation if we think they might, maybe, be connected, in some way, however tangentially, to some planned or actual act of terror.

By "in some way, however tangentially", please include -- their name is similar to the name of someone we think might know something of interest; or, they attended the same mosque as someone else we're suspicious of; or, somebody else we're holding gave up their name to exact revenge for a bad university grade.

"Lean forward" is the buzzword. Grab them first, then figure out if they have any responsibility, or even connection, to any kind of threat. Grab them, strip them, drug them, hide them, threaten them, chain them, freeze them, burn them, beat them. Let the dogs at them. If we make a mistake, dump them in Albania after we erase any possible record of where they've been for the last few months. If they die from, for instance, crucifixion by strappado, ice them down so we can falsify the time of death and pass it off as a heart attack.

At worst it's what, a few dozen guys? A few hundred? You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. Grow up and smell the coffee. Don't you remember 9/11? Don't you know that everything has changed?

We maintain a system of offshore prisons, a more or less covert airline, and, apparently, a small army of people skilled in kidnap, abduction, and abusive, coercive interrogation. We do this because we think it will keep us safe.

It won't keep us safe. And, it's not only wrong, it's evil. It's corrupting, pernicious, and wicked. It's not wrong because it is ineffective, because it sends the wrong message, or denies us the "high moral ground". It's wrong because it's wrong. Full stop, end of story.

My old man and my father in law spent a big chunk of their youth in harms way, far from home, in WWII. My uncle, my father's closest friend in his youth, is buried somewhere in Germany, nobody knows where, killed while on a reconnaisance mission during that same war. They're gone now, and I'm glad, because if they knew what was being done in the name of "freedom" and "America", they would puke.

I curse George Bush and every member of his administration. Every single damned one of them, without exception. They are reckless, irresponsible, mendacious liars, prodigal wizards of bullshit, infatuated with illusions of their own historical significance, scornful of those who disagree with them, lovers of the power that accrues to their office but willfully ignorant of its responsibilities. Stupid, foolish men and women, every one of them, arrogant and proud, full of self-regard, utterly devoid of humility or circumspection. They will ruin this country.

Charles, I appreciate this post, but IMO you're wasting your time trying to change the minds of Bush's supporters. Just read the responses you got on RS. Your concerns fall on deaf ears.

It is time for responsible people of every party and persuasion to withdraw their support for this incompetent, careless, reckless administration. We're stuck with Bush for three more years, but next year we can take his majority in Congress away. I'm not talking about Democrat vs Republican -- vote for whatever party you like -- but do not vote for anyone who will bend over for Bush the way the current crop of useless, spineless, calculating weasels have.

Enough is enough.

Thanks -

"Terrorists are not prisoners of war. They are, frankly, not entitled to the protections guaranteed under the Geneva Convention."

No, for the most part they are common criminals:murderers. How does Israel treat failed suicide bombers? The rest of your post explains very well why we should not create a broad new category( or extend an old very narrow one), because it can be so easily and infinitely abused.

I think this is the very foundation of abuse, where the torture and mistaken renditions etc becomes possible. In fact, once you concieve of rightless humans so designated by Presidential whim, everything becomes possible.

But apparently this argument is a non-starter.

It won't keep us safe. And, it's not only wrong, it's evil. It's corrupting, pernicious, and wicked.

Russell, I think you're dead-on right here. The father of the conservative movement, Edmund Burke, worried openly about how overseas efforts would distort honest debate about domestic values.

Many reasons, pragmatic and moral, have been profered against torture, from the often cited Israeli conclusion that information extracted from torture is usually worthless to the McCain-style idea that if the US holds a position of moral superiority in detainee-treatment, we'll be better able to leverage good treatment for our own POWs.

These days, I'm worried about the domestic scene. Those willing to parse, parse and condone abusive treatment for "them" are a created set: in some senses, they did not exist before the possibility was set before them.

This war--more specifically the political tactics of this war--is laying waste to political discourse in this country.

We're stuck with Bush for three more years

Only if our Congress continues to connive at extension of incompetent tyranny. Probable, but not necessary.

This war--more specifically the political tactics of this war--is laying waste to political discourse in this country.

Yes, it is. And not just on the Right. One more hallmark of George W. Bush's legacy. Historians will look back on this period with disgust. If the Republic survives it.

russell:

No -- thank you.

See, if I was going to pick a time to shut up, this would be a good time, because russell has arrived and used up all the good words, in the proper order, and spelled correctly.

I thought there was provision in the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of enemy combatants,[ not actually prisoners of war because it is not a declared war country against country.] It would surely be advantagous to treat these combatants reasonably, because of who we are , not because of who they are.

Debbie(aussie), that's one of the questions our Supreme Court is going to have to deal with in the Hamdan case it'll be considering next spring. At the Court of Appeals, the panel split 2-1 on the question of what the nature of the war is, in Geneva terms. Judge Williams, a conventional conservative appointed by Pres Reagan, thought that the Third Common Article applied because the war against AQ in Afghanistan was distinct from the other "wars" we have now, and not against a country, and was thus not an international conflict. He was outvoted by Judge Randolph and then-Judge (now Chief Justice) Roberts, who bought the theory of a single unified international war.

I expect the briefing in the case to be absolutely first rate, on all sides (a number of amici briefs are sure to be filed) and the questions about what is war, and what is this thing, to be dealt with in any number of ways.

I do not understand why the government wants to have this case, by the way. Unlike many of the Guantanamo prisoners, Hamdan conceded that he is an enemy combatant. His challenge is basically to the procedures that will be used to try him. They could announce procedures that even a blind man would see meet all international requirements -- no matter what law applies -- and get on with it. They'd have to give up using hearsay evidence, evidence obtained by torture, and have to use the standard procedures for use of classified information in a trial. Unfortunately, we have a government that is more interested in establishing Executive supremacy than in "bringing terrorists to justice." (If Hamdan is acquitted, they still claim to be able to hold him until the "war" is "over" -- a claim that is not at issue in his case before the Supreme Court).

I'd guess that the word Charles was looking for was more in the vicinity of "commitment" than of "will", but that would be putting words in the mouths of others, and I've noted on more than one occasion that I don't care for that much. Therefore I note that that word is much more applicable to the situation as far as I'm concerned. Will is a fleeting idea; commitment is one's word.

What we ought to commit to, on the other hand, is a subject far too large for me to go into at this time.

Careful, Slarti, you're treading in Karnak award territory.

"Will is a fleeting idea; commitment is one's word."

No, I think the distinction is simpler than that.

When your prospective spouse has only love to offer you, then you want a commitment.

When they have a lot of money besides, then you want a will.

"When they have a lot of money besides, then you want a will."

Where there's a will, there's an heir.

Careful, Slarti, you're treading in Karnak award territory.

I like awards, as long as they're not shaped like body parts.

Fragile...that sounds Italian.

"I like awards, as long as they're not shaped like body parts."

What do you have against The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate?

I thought there was provision in the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of enemy combatants,[ not actually prisoners of war because it is not a declared war country against country.]

I thought so too. Does not the Fourth Geneva Convention deal with prisoners who are not POW's, including those who have engaged in hostile actions (it specifically mentions spies, for example), and require generally humane treatment and reasonable judicial proceedings?

This is not to say that harsh punishments, including execution, are not allowed, just that there are some rules in place.

I haven't seen this discussed much, so perhaps I have misunderstood.

Terrorists are not prisoners of war. They are, frankly, not entitled to the protections guaranteed under the Geneva Convention.

I agree, Russell, that they are not prisoners of war, but they are entitled to GC protections.

Charles, I appreciate this post, but IMO you're wasting your time trying to change the minds of Bush's supporters. Just read the responses you got on RS. Your concerns fall on deaf ears.

There are some deaf ears, but there are quite a few conservatives who are in solidarity with me. My objective is to provide the naysayers some auditory enhancements in the form of good reasoning. I think I'm in the minority with the editors, but I'm not a token, and it's a fight worth fighting. Victor Davis Hanson put out a good one today, and here's how it ends:

Our restraint will not ensure any better treatment for our own captured soldiers. Nor will our allies or the United Nations appreciate American forbearance. The terrorists themselves will probably treat our magnanimity with disdain, as if we were weak rather than good.

But all that is precisely the risk we must take in supporting the McCain amendment — because it is a public reaffirmation of our country's ideals. The United States can win this global war without employing torture. That we will not resort to what comes so naturally to Islamic terrorists also defines the nobility of our cause, reminding us that we need not and will not become anything like our enemies.

Also, the latest news is favorable. McCain is going to get what he wants, with no CIA exemptions and only minor face-saving language for the administration.

Will is a fleeting idea; commitment is one's word.

Commitment is a good word, Slarti. I also think sustained will (which I've used before) is better and more accurate than just plain old will.

CB: I like to quote you used.

I think it was foolish for some to argue that if we torture then the enemy is more likely to also torture our people. Hey, that's the game they already play.

However, it is about what this country stands for in the long run. It is not about reaping some rewards from our enemies or our allies. It is about being who we are supposed to be.

For many on this site, we are not who we are supposed to be in other areas as well. For me personally, by invading Iraq we already betrayed some of what we are supposed to be.

Nor will our allies or the United Nations appreciate American forbearance.

LOL, so what's next? Should we start appreciating that the US don't rape all the women in the countries they occupy? It's hard for us to exactly specify the area's of American forbearance these days.

Nor will our allies or the United Nations appreciate American forbearance.

I'm somewhat baffled as to what Hanson meant by this line: does he think that "our allies" and "the UN" are going to get upset if we don't torture people? Like, are we, covertly, now the world's main torture subcontractor, and those "allies" are going to be p*ssed off at having to do it themselves?

(I meant the above graf to be ironic - on reflection, I sadly conclude that it's probably not so far-fetched a concept)

Anyway, CB, thanks for the link re the lastest on Sen. McCain's "anti-torture" proviso: somehow, given the seemingly overwhelming support for McCain's bill in both Houses, it's hard, now, to see even the Bush White House actually eliminating these guidelines, still less risking the firestorm a torture-related veto would unleash.
A small victory, maybe, but at least something.

Charles, I appreciate this post, but IMO you're wasting your time trying to change the minds of Bush's supporters. Just read the responses you got on RS. Your concerns fall on deaf ears.

It is time for responsible people of every party and persuasion to withdraw their support for this incompetent, careless, reckless administration.


Exactly. Its gotten to the point where you can't be a supporter of the Republican administration and also not, by default, be a supporter of torture and the deceitful lying by Bush, Rice, et al. concerning the issue.

Its become hypocritical to be for Bush and against torture. And its such a basic issue going to the soul of our country that just living with the dissonance concerning the issue also doesn't cut it.

"I haven't thought things through in general to the point where I'd say: non-citizens have exactly the same rights as citizens,"

I'd point here to the crucial distinction between moral rights and legal rights. I'd argue that clearly all human beings have the same, inalienable, moral rights, whereas what legal rights they have is a matter of geography, jurisdiction, and politics. What legal rights anyone should have anywhere is, more or less by definition, debatable.

Dutchmarbel writes: "I may well misunderstand you, but you do not really mean that it might be a good idea to have different laws for citizens and non-citizens do you?"

I'm unclear: when can I pick up my unemployement check from the Dutch government? Or call upon the Dutch consul to intervene in my relations with U.S. governments?

Does Dutch law, in fact, treat citizens and non-citizens identically? Can I pick up my Dutch passport tomorrow?

In other words: what?

Followup: I've read this comment, dutchmarbel, but I fear that unlike Slartibartfast, I don't understand, well, any of it. It's highly likely this is entirely because I'm being dense. Sorry.

"I like awards, as long as they're not shaped like body parts."

Does that mean you do or don't like the Hugo Awards?

to be fair to dutchmarbel, many laws apply equally to citizens and non-citizens, criminal law most notably.

and many constitutional protections apply equally to citizens and non-citizens. compare, for example, the rights secured by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, which cover "persons" compared to the 15th amendment right to vote, which applies to citizens.

a long string of court cases recognize that non-citizens, including illegal aliens, are covered by the protections of the Constitution which inure to all persons.

A clarification. I said this:

Terrorists are not prisoners of war. They are, frankly, not entitled to the protections guaranteed under the Geneva Convention.

Bob McManus made this reply:

No, for the most part they are common criminals:murderers. How does Israel treat failed suicide bombers?

And Charles replied with this:

I agree, Russell, that they are not prisoners of war, but they are entitled to GC protections.

The GC mandates protection of basic human rights for all people held during time of war regardless of their status. I am, completely, in agreement with that.

The protections are somewhat stronger for those held as prisoners of war. I am also in agreement with that.

I don't believe that terrorists are entitled to prisoner of war status. I emphatically believe they are entitled to the kind of basic, humane treatment mandated by the GC for all detainees regardless of status.

There should be a transparent process for determining who is, and who is not, a lawful or unlawful combatant. Neither lawful nor unlawful combatants should be subject to torture.

Since the meaning of "torture" has been redefined by the US to mean only physical abuse, and only that physical abuse that causes extraordinary levels of pain, I would further say that neither lawful or unlawful combatants should be subject to deliberately degrading and dehumanizing treatment. Not because they are splendid people, deserving of deference and kid gloves treatment, but rather because we believe in fundamental human rights and don't do things like that.

Abdel Rahman planned the first bombing of the WTC. He's now in jail, and will be there for the rest of his life. He found his way there through the excellent efforts of the NYPD, the FBI, and the US legal system. In spite of the sensitive nature of much of the information related to his case, he received an open and public trial. Things that were sensitive from a national security point of view were presented in camera. The system worked perfectly well. I find both that process and that outcome proper and just.

I recognize that there are, thankfully, many conservatives who oppose torture. Yourself, Charles, also John Cole and Sebastian Holsclaw. Others as well.

I also believe, emphatically, that if conservatives don't care to descend into some corrupt, homegrown form of jingoistic authoritarianism, it's time for them to withdraw their support for George W Bush. He's not a good President. As was perfectly expressed by Molly Ivins, he and his crew are not interested in governing, they wish to rule. That's not the way we do things here.

With that, I'll stop picking on Bush and his crew in this venue. I more than appreciate your post, and look forward to reading more from you in the future.

Thanks -

I think it might be easier if, instead of 'legal rights', one refers to them as 'human rights', which, while based on moral rights, are actually honest to goodness legal rights. Of course, there is a large argument as to whether signing a UN treaty actually means adhering to the clauses therein. (an interesting tussle about that is going on over here concerning a friend of mine, Debito Arudo), but using the term 'human rights' helps somewhat to avoid the notion of foreigners picking up unemployment checks and the like.

Does that mean you do or don't like the Hugo Awards?

Sometimes a rocket ship is just a rocket ship, Gary.

I'd point here to the crucial distinction between moral rights and legal rights. I'd argue that clearly all human beings have the same, inalienable, moral rights, whereas what legal rights they have is a matter of geography, jurisdiction, and politics.

Mostly agree, partly disagree, totally too tired to argue. As far as most people are concerned, a moral right absent acknowledgement in law is pretty worthless. But I was thinking of the legal kind when I said what I did, so that whole discussion is less crucial than it might otherwise be.

The problem with adopting "human rights" as a useful term in discussing legal rights is that it's relatively content-free as to what it specifically refers to, absent referring to a specific legal or human right, it seems to me.

I'm unsure there's much value to debating what the "human rights" of a generic person are, without specifying a source of derivation, and/or a controlling authority.

I'm probably just misunderstanding, though. And I have a near-fanatic bias towards specificity, in general, to attempt to minimize, if not avoid, confusion and misunderstanding.

Russell, I think it would be helpful to avoid leaping from descriptions like 'unlawful combatant' to 'terrorist' and back. Obviously some terrorism is unlawful combat, and some unlawful combat is terrorism, but it's easy enough to describe conduct that would amount to one without also being the other. And Gary, I agree that one should try to be exact with categories, and I'll go you one better -- one ought to link the categories to the conduct of the person involved.

In the 1980s, the US armed and supplied several groups who fought against the Russians in Afghanistan. Recruits from around the Arab world joined this fight, and we were encouraged by this. Did these people wear uniforms? I do not believe they did. Did they otherwise act in ways that, under current US doctrine, would entitle them to be considered lawful combatants? I believe that we would now consider these men, then our allies, to have been unlawful combatants. Some may have been terrorists I suppose, but most were engaged in what we considered then, and I think fairly, a legitimate resistance to foreign occupation.

Fast forward a few years, and the Russians are gone. The factions have fallen out, and continue to fight each other for a decade or more. Foreigners join each side for brief periods, mostly out of idealism (and longing for adventure -- the heroes of the 80s fight with the Russians in mind) and both sides get considerable support from foreign countries (one side from Russia).

Terrorists? Not yet, it doesn't seem. Nobody on either side is really wearing uniforms.

There is a terrorist attack in the US in which a very few -- two dozen, say -- people involved in the Afghan fighting are even peripherially involved. Does this convert everyone who went to Afghanistan to take part in the Afghan civil war into a terrorist?

The US joins the Afghan civil war on one side, and now everyone that is fighting, or has in the past fought, on the other side becomes an enemy combatant. Even if they never bore arms against the US, or contemplated doing so?

The Afghan civil war is basically over. Or as over as it's going to get. Is it not time to send home people who went to Afghanistan to take part in it?

The Afghan civil war is basically over. Or as over as it's going to get. Is it not time to send home people who went to Afghanistan to take part in it?

I think a question here is that if they went from their native country to Afghanistan, possibly for terrorist or combatant training, would it be likely that they would go elsewhere, say Chechnya, if released? How do you sort that out?

to be fair to dutchmarbel, many laws apply equally to citizens and non-citizens, criminal law most notably.

Thanks Francis, criminal law is mainly what I was referring too. Combined with the rights granted under the national justice system, as described in your post.

When I say they should apply equally I mean on American territory which for me includes places like American detention centres: places that might be in other countries but that are under total American control.

And Gary: for a Dutch unemployment check you do not have to have Dutch citizenship. You *do* have to meet the criteria (live and work in the Netherlands for a specific amount of time).

The problem with adopting "human rights" as a useful term in discussing legal rights is that it's relatively content-free as to what it specifically refers to, absent referring to a specific legal or human right, it seems to me.

While not completely spelled out (in large part because they don't have a centuries-old body of common law to back them up), 'relatively content free' is not necessarily true

link

When rights are embedded in international law we speak of them as human rights; but when they are enacted in national law we more frequently describe them as civil or constitutional rights. As this illustrates, it is possible for a right to exist within more than one normative system at the same time. The human rights movement aspires to see its international norms enacted in the constitutions and laws of countries around the world.

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