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July 07, 2006

Comments

I'm a little surprised that Andrew McCarthy considers himself a legal expert, given his performance in Pretty in Pink.

Be that as it may, 911 changed everything. We learned that oceans cannot protect us. We are fighting an enemy that is unlike any we have faced before. It knows no rules, no boundaries, and will stop at nothing to kill us. What the black-robed tyrants did here is no less an affront to our sensibilities as a nation than the 911 attacks themselves.

As far as Andrew McCarthy, I saw this coming in Mannequin.

As far as the rest, I'll deal with it later.

There are two attitudes toward the law available.
One is that anything not proscribed as illegal is permitted. That the law is above us somehow, parental and mechanical.
The other is a recognition of the art and human nobility behind the rules - that these things are made by human beings, with all the flaws that entails. Made out of nothing and held together by will and ideal.
The first one begets shrill attempts at crafty self-defense that rely entirely on the letter of the law - or its absence and its loopholes - and inhuman absurdities like the suggestion that universal moral codes need only apply to active signatories; and even then.
The second one creates responsibilities that the individual conscience answers to and bears.
It's out of exactly those responsibilites that the laws were written in the first place.

What really gets me is that the argument about civilian casualties kind of goes against US action in many instances. Dresden, Tokyo, A-bombs, the US air war in general. Air bombardment has essentially the same effects on a civilian population as car bombing. I just find these people to be horribly, horribly stupid. Out of one side of their mouths they advance the notion of American Exceptionalism and superiority, and from the other make claims about how the unfairness and cruelty of war needs to be fair and equal. God forbid there be an atrocity gap.

"They will keep doing these things to us no matter how scrupulously we follow the law, no matter how decently we treat Al Qaeda prisoners. They don't deserve any protections under Geneva."

I have a feeling that there is a "so, " here in the critic's thinking. It won't work being decent to them, therefore they don't "deserve" freedom from torture, arbitrary arrest, secret accusations, etc.

The idea that we have to "deserve" freedoms in order to have them is contrary to the old liberal principle that most political parties in the west pay lip-service to: that it is restrictions to freedom that must be justified, rather than freedom itself.

But then again, our entire societies' thinking about punishment goes against this liberal principle. To say that a man deserves to be in jail, or to pay a fine, or to die is simply immoral, if it is used to give ourselves the right to do that to him. It doesn't concern us at all what a man ultimately deserves. We must leave that to God. If we want to imprison, fine or kill we can solely support it on the grounds - and to the extent - that it is necessary to preserve our own freedoms, not on emotional statements about what people "deserve".

Al Qaeda didn't sign or ratify the Geneva Conventions, and has no intention of ever following them. They massacre civilians, they torture and behead captives. They will keep doing these things to us no matter how scrupulously we follow the law, no matter how decently we treat Al Qaeda prisoners.

Since al-Qaeda is not a nation/state, how can this be relevant?

Be that as it may, 911 changed everything. We learned that oceans cannot protect us.

I realize that many in the blogosphere are young enough not to have grown up in the shadow of the Soviet nuclear threat, but don't they teach recent history in school anymore? Haven't they coverd that period from about 1948 to 1992?

Our oceans weren't going to protect us then either and we weren't all peeing in our pants about it. In fact, the threat then was far more real and far more dangerous and yet we managed, at least mostly, to keep from pulling random people out of their beds and torturing them for information that they didn't have.

I suggest the neocons screen this film if their high school education was so deficient.

Moonbats, what do you propose we do with the terrorists at Gitmo? Give them therapy? Check them into a halfway house?

These are people who would happily behead all of us if they could. Who would smuggle suitcase nukes into the country and blow up New York or Los Angeles (if they could).

I repeat: what do you propose we do with them.

Leonidas: well, not torturing them would be a start. Then: put them in front of a tribunal to determine which of the following categories they fall into:
a) Random Afghan peasant picked up by unscrupulous bounty hunters - answer, release with compensation and massive apologies;
b) Regular AQT soldier - answer, interrogate humanely, hold as PW until the end of the war, allowing letters home, Red Cross visits, privacy and so on, and then release;
or c) AQT member who has committed some crime under US (or other country's) law - answer, try them (or extradite them).

Now, do you think there's a fourth category I have missed? If so, please describe it, and why you think i) that anyone in GTMO falls into it and ii) what should be done to them.

Maybe it would be nice to first figure out which of the people we have as our guests in luxurious, Cuban resort are actually terrorists.

Unsurprisingly, Leonidas and I are at odds over this one. The existence of Jeffrey Dahmer does not license us to, for instance, eat him alive, or perform other retributions upon his living (or dead, but let's not go there) body. Similarly, the crimes of various jihadis does not permit us to violate our own moral code by visiting punishment on them that we would otherwise constrain ourselves against. That's making your ethics a function of someone else's, and therein lies peril.

We can, however, try them, find them guilty, and execute them. Or keep them in prison for time indefinite. Or we can simply shoot them in combat.

While, to be sure, releasing those found innocent.

IIRC, Gary called this.

(What, y'all don't check trackbacks?:-P)

Completely unsurprised, me.

Leonidas is still around? I thought we had gotten back in the habit of banning habitually disruptive trolls?

These are people who would happily behead all of us if they could

when did records of their interviews, brain-scans, trials and convictions become public ? i'd like to see that stuff.

Try reading all of the comments, cleek.

Or, since the alternative is that you just don't have all the information, know that Leonidas writes at scrutator.net, and know that scrutator has just revealed itself to be a collection of spoofers.

Or just one spoofer. With spoofers, you just can't tell.

Try reading all of the comments

i have no idea what that's supposed to mean. if you have an issue with me or my comments, just come out and say it.

I have a question for Katherine or other Geneva Convention experts out there. Do the Conventions make any distinctions between citizens of an occupied country fighting (out of uniform) against the occupying power, and citizens of other countries who travel to the occupied country in order to fight the occupier? In other words, when we capture non-Iraqis or non-Afghans, respectively, in Iraq and Afghanistan, do the Conventions categorize them differently than natives of those countries?

Try reading all of the comments

i have no idea what that's supposed to mean. if you have an issue with me or my comments, just come out and say it.

Well, if you'd read the very NEXT comment, it should explain all. Which is why I wrote it. To, you know, save you from expecting meaningful answers from someone who's not speaking in earnest to begin with.

Slarti, I think it would be more helpful to have advised Cleek to click on the link in Matttbastard's comment. (Which I just did, so I understand where you're coming from now, but I admit I didn't before.) To me "read all the comments" does not necessarily mean "click on all the links in all the comments" - especially not a link provided without explanatory text.

Point taken, J.

Anyway, it should be clear by now that Leonidas is, or was, a poser.

Well, if you'd read the very NEXT comment, it should explain all. Which is why I wrote it. To, you know, save you from expecting meaningful answers from someone who's not speaking in earnest to begin with.

so, when you told me to read all the comments, you were referring to a comment you had not actually written yet. fantastic.

yes, Leonidas is a troll; that's obvious from his own comment - i don't need other people to figure that one out for me. and, no, i don't expect meaningful answers from him - which is why my reply to him was, umm, sarcastic.

Poseur or not, he's succeeded in derailing the conversation in this thread.

ok, not a troll. a 100% accurate spoof. kinda defeats the point of parody, if you can't tell it from the real thing, IMO.

I was never able to take Leonidas seriously, though there was always the possibility that he was a real conservative who was 12 years old. Unfortunately nowadays it is nearly impossible to make a parody that isn't saying something a significant portion of the right wing actually believes (or pretends to believe, anyway).

I think that at least one implicit point in the hyperventilating is that the Geneva Conventions apply to nation states and that since Al Qaeda's people aren't really fighting on behalf of a nation state, then they're not entitled to Geneva Convention protections.

Andrew: I think that at least one implicit point in the hyperventilating is that the Geneva Conventions apply to nation states and that since Al Qaeda's people aren't really fighting on behalf of a nation state, then they're not entitled to Geneva Convention protections.

The Geneva Conventions can apply either way (assuming this is "al-Qaeda people" taken in Iraq or Afghanistan). If taken "on the battlefield", the Geneva Conventions require that the detaining power treat the captive as a prisoner of war until a competent tribunal shows that he is not: in which case, as when a prisoner is not taken "on the battlefield", the Geneva Convention protecting civilians applies, and the prisoner is entitled to a fair trial. Once a prisoner has by a fair trial been established to be guilty of acts of terrorism, then they can be sentenced accordingly. But even then, the Geneva Conventions apply.

The idea that condemned criminals are exempt from Geneva Convention protection is wrong: this doesn't mean they can't be tried and sentenced, but it does mean that they fall inside the justice system, not outside it.

As someone else pointed out in an earlier thread, we don't argue that a Boy Scout can't be entitled to the protection of the Geneva Conventions because the Scouting movement isn't a nation state.

kinda defeats the point of parody, if you can't tell it from the real thing, IMO

Actually, that's the entire point of spoofing. Right-wing discourse has become a parody of itself -- the best way to demonstrate that, in my opinion, is to say things that are obviously crazy but still passable as real right-wing talking points.

In the time I spent spoofing, I was stunned by how often something I said here, or on Scrutator, or on Protein Wisdom or Volokh (which I think has the stupidest commenters overall) as a joke actually became a real right-wing talking point within a few days. I don't think it started with me, but it is striking that if you try to come up with the most ridiculous off-the-wall right-wing idiocy you can that you will quickly find other people saying it in all seriousness.

To pretend that real debate is possible when one side traffics in nothing but pure idiocy is to engage in the worst kind of naivete.

Slartibartfast:

We can, however, try them, find them guilty, and execute them. Or keep them in prison for time indefinite. Or we can simply shoot them in combat.

While, to be sure, releasing those found innocent.

Well said! All the calls for us to become as bad as or worse than) those we're fighting against on the grounds that "Well, they're bad too, so why not us?" scare me. It's good to see somebody on the conservative side of things continuing to argue that we need to be better than the worst of the Muslim world.

Leonidas: you did a good job.

I don't think we need to be better than the worst of the Muslim world, Prodigal, just as good as we say and think that we are.

"in which case, as when a prisoner is not taken "on the battlefield", the Geneva Convention protecting civilians applies, and the prisoner is entitled to a fair trial."

Right and wrong. They are entitled to a fair trial, but that isn't the same as a civilian trial and you are being imprecise about "the Geneva Convention protecting civilians applies".

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.

This supports your contention but with a few asides.

"To pretend that real debate is possible when one side traffics in nothing but pure idiocy is to engage in the worst kind of naivete."

If that is going to be your approach here, please do not continue commenting. It is not consonant with what we are trying to do on this site.

I was going to say something like that, but I hung up my nightstick a while back. Nice to know that the contrary-to-posting-rules aspects of that comment were evident to someone other than me, though.

Gotta agree with Sebastian and Slart here.

Leonidas: you did a good job.

Posted by: hilzoy | July 07, 2006 at 01:29 PM

Are you being sarcastic?

I just...don't...know...anymore...

I agree with Sebastian, Slartibartfast, Gromit, and SomeOtherDude.

All we need is for Charles Bird to appear out of nowhere and agree with me agreeing with the quartet above, and miracles will probably ensue.

I don't think we need to be better than the worst of the Muslim world, Prodigal, just as good as we say and think that we are.
I'd argue that achieving the latter would ensure the former as well.

I think so too, but to me, that's rather beside the point.

"ok, not a troll. a 100% accurate spoof. kinda defeats the point of parody, if you can't tell it from the real thing, IMO."

I never was quite able to believe Leonidas was real because of the absolutely complete and perfect stupidity of the comments, and the use of not just cliche, but absolutely classic cliches strung together one after another, like glittering beads on a thread.

Just about no one is that immaculately stupid. Leonidas had the quality of a robot.

(Style always outs; it's a shame more people don't or can't read for it.)

KCinDC: "...though there was always the possibility that he was a real conservative who was 12 years old."

That seemed to be the only other possiblity, but the style didn't really match a 12-year-old's, either.

Leonidas, any particular reason to pick today to unmask?

I also agree with S,S,G, et al. I was skimming and missed the part of Leonidas' comment that everyone responded to, which I agree about.

I thought he did a good job of impersonating a particular sort of commenter. Not one of my favorites, but there we are.

And to try to be clear: "kinda defeats the point of parody, if you can't tell it from the real thing, IMO."

Yeah, it was possible. There's a point buried in that.

On the current front page of Scrutator, I kinda like this from GOP4Me:

Kenneth Lay is the Socrates of our times, the St. Thomas More of the early 21st century. His innocence transforms his loss into martyrdom; the blood of martyrs demands retribution. The moonbat media moguls that hounded this poor man’s every waking moment must suffer as he suffered, in jail or Guantanamo. It is the only way to restore justice to America.
But I like absurdist humor now and again. This isn't quite up there with Fafblog!, but it's good.

Well, I've been to Resdstate.com and Leonidas certainly has been doing his homework.

I understand that torture (even the torture we claim not to be doing,…wink, wink) is a great way, to express to our enemies, that we are very serious and...and a wonderful way to spread liberty and democracy.

God bless America, death to her enemies and all that.


We unmasked ourselves because we just don't have time to do it anymore. I'm going to start blogging regularly for a local political blog (which shall remain nameless) as well as canvassing for a couple local candidates. Ditto for GOP4Me (minus the local political blog).

I will say that I think this is a very good blog -- certainly, the posts themselves are generally excellent. Some of you commenters take yourself way, way too seriously, though. You're not that intelligent and at times it lapses into idiots using big words a la the comments at Volokh (which at times are even more ridiculous than the ones at Scrutator). Lighten up. You're not curing cancer.

That's not aimed at all of you, only at the ones who incessantly refer to "posting rules".

"That's not aimed at all of you, only at the ones who incessantly refer to "posting rules"."

You shouldn't be so mean to hilzoy.

I'm hoping that this is another spoof, and not Leonidas' actual personality. Imagine not being able to hang this one up.

That's different -- Hilzoy's in charge of the posting rules. It's when mere commenters start referring to posting rules that it seems pathetic to me.

Leonidas: It's when mere commenters start referring to posting rules that it seems pathetic to me.

Well, I'd agree I'm pretty mere (and I can do pathetic almost as well as my cats). But many of the regular commenters here are far from mere and far from pathetic.

Indeed, one reason why (I think) that Obsidian Wings functions as well as it does is that people on the same "side" are willing to remind each other of the posting rules.

But I'm sorry I compared any of you to Volokh posters. That was a low blow. There's not one of you who can compare to the great Clayton E. Cramer (check out his blog if you want another reason to pray a meteor destroys life on this planet).

This is a good blog with good comments.

Anyway, I'm out of here for now, but next time someone starts spewing suspiciously idiotic right-wing garbage....

...we'll suspect it's a spoof. Thanks for that.

So when are Malkin, Coulter, and Power Line unmasking?

"So when are Malkin, Coulter, and Power Line unmasking?"

And can we lay bets on which species are under which masks?

Human, human, and human, alas. :-(

"It's when mere commenters start referring to posting rules that it seems pathetic to me."

Why?

I've never understood why the Right was so insistent that any combatants anywhere not fall under Geneva protection.

What's so terrible about treating prisoners humanely, legally, and in accordance with the rules of civilization? Why does it matter that they wouldn't do the same, if given the chance - our conduct is supposed to live up to our standards, not give in to the same sadism and bloodlust we scorn them for having.

And tossing out Geneva standards didn't even "work" in any pragmatic, strategic sense: blowback came swiftly, and keeps on coming.

I don't get it. I'd like to think there's more to the anti-Geneva position than sheer vengefulness, but I have yet to see the position argued on any other basis.

I rarely refer to the posting rules. It would be like calling the cops before the big heist.

Hey, I'll have you know that several of my comments have cured cancer..... in mice. They were New-age mice and they had to travel to Tibet to receive the comment treatment while repeating the mantra "God, I'm scared of cancer", ... but these were desperate rodents with significant money to spend and I don't take Medicare... for ideological reasons, which basically have to do with the fact that my Lotus payments are so exorbitant.

I wish I could claim I know The Scrutator was a hoax; I did some ventriloquist knock-offs the last time Leonidas was here ... but I did not know.

Fool me once ... and you, uh, don't get back on the Magic Bus... or something.

"And tossing out Geneva standards didn't even "work" in any pragmatic, strategic sense: blowback came swiftly, and keeps on coming."

I don't understand this comment. Which blowback came quickly? Am I to believe that kidnapping and beheading American citizens was retroactively caused by US Geneva violations? I'm all for using the Geneva Conventions as the process to eventually punish spies and saboteurs, but I'm not sure what you mean by blowback.

John: if any blog comments cured cancer, they would surely be yours.

Seb: I don't want to put in for a Karnak, but if I had written that comment, I would have been referring to the immense damage done tou our moral standing, and thus, very directly, to our national interest. But then, I'm not sure I would have used the word 'blowback'. So I think I'll just go back to being me.

I think the fact that terrorism has increased many hundreds-fold, and the reports that the US is now regarded as more of a threat to the world than a help, are as damaging (if not more damaging) types of blowback as atrocity tit-for-tat.

But, more immediately and specifically, I wonder how many Iraqis are willing to come forward to volunteer information, now that they know they risk not only retaliation from insurgents but also imprisonment, torture and death from US forces.

I'm not sure what "blowback" means in this context, but a direct and absolutely predictable result of the US decision to torture prisoners for information in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere directly compromised trials of people accused of terrorism in any country where evidence obtained by torture is not admissable. Which means that people who may actually be guilty of terrorism would have to be released. Of course, torturing prisoners was only the most gross violation of the Geneva Conventions and international law that the US has committed, and, as CaseyL points out, was undoubtedly one of the reasons why the US occupation of Iraq has cost so many lives and is grinding along in miserable failure.

As a specific example: the four "civilian security" men who were killed in Fallujah over two years ago, may have been targetted in a direct act of revenge because they had tortured Iraqis. No one knows, because the identity of the "civilian operatives" who can torture Iraqis immune from the military justice system and from the US civilian justice system (and of course absolutely exempt from Iraqi justice) would never be revealed. But analysts of the incident argued at the time that it appeared as if the attack on the convoy specifically targetted that vehicle, and certainly the atrocities committed on the corpses of the four "contractors" (which I gather is the polite word for mercenaries) looked like a specific hate-filled vengeance rather than a general kill-Americans.

If that was revenge for a relative killed or tortured or raped, that was very direct "blowback". And the vengeance taken by the US on the city of Fallujah over the next year - the uncounted civilians slaughtered - was also direct "blowback".

Glad you enjoyed the blog, Hilzoy. I agree with many of you that serious discussion is vital, but in our society, it tends to be mockery or satire that creates more of an impression. I actually enjoyed posting as a rational, moderate right-winger, for no other reason than it really helped to strengthen my own arguments when discussing things with people with whom I disagree. You should all try it sometime -- it's a very interesting exercise.

I said I was gone, but I can't resist, even though I know this isn't funny and likely violates posting rules: "blowback" is what George Bush got from Larry King last week in return for granting him an interview.

"if any comments cured cancer, they would surely be yours."

Well, I would like to admit now, since we're all coming clean, that the studies reported in the medical journals were deliberately skewed to show medical benefit. Many replications of my treatment regimen actually CAUSED cancer. Other side effects included mental confusion, apoplexy, and pains in the posterior regions of the congenitally serious.

I was trying to keep this under wraps until after my company went public, but I was afraid the New York Times would sully truth with Truth.

The jig is up. Unless the Bush Administration says it is down, and I would watch who you believe.

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