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July 21, 2006

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Not to mention that it would be awkward for this "argument" to do a tally of which side has tortured more of the other's prisoners to death.

What really bothers me about this is that if history is any guide, Republicans will be topping this in ten years, so what kind of stuff will they be doing by then?

Thanks for this series. I have found it very informative. The Seton Hall Guantanamo Report statistics leave me pretty much speechless.

I'm considering this as a test case for Andrew. I am in favor of secret prisons so that Al Qaeda or Hizballah or Hamas cannot kidnap and extort the US into releasing those prisoners, for instance Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. Now if you completely accept hilzoy's line of thinking, then the US govt should make KSM whereabouts widely known, and to have a trial in whisch KSM's lawyers can inquire into the methods and intelligence sources of how he was seized. This to me is as absurd as Britain subsidizing Abu Hamza Al Masri, because he is under extradition from counties that have the death penalty.

Now this whole mess in Lebanon got started because terrorist groups, Hamas and Hizballah, have fouind that they can extort the rlease of terrorist prisoners by kidnapping nd killing Israelis. I don't want to put the US in this position, but that's just my take.

I am in favor of secret prisons so that Al Qaeda or Hizballah or Hamas cannot kidnap and extort the US into releasing those prisoners, for instance Khalid Sheikh Muhammed.

How is does the secrecy of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed's prison prevent AQ from kidnapping a US soldier and demanding an exchange now? Surely the only important factor is knowledge of his capture.

Remember kids, if the terrorist do it, it must be okay.

I don’t know what it takes to get people to recognize this

nothing short of a complete overhaul of human nature.

I don't want to put the US in this position, but that's just my take.

what makes you think alQ and friends aren't already taking hostages and demanding prisoner exchanges ?

Katherine, not hilzoy--forgot to make that clear when I first posted this one. Sorry.

I'm quite certain that the lack of ICRC access to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad does nothing to prevent Al Qaeda from wanting or trying to take U.S. soldiers prisoner. Fortunately, our military is very very good at preventing this.

Courts martial are fine by me, and are used to dealing with classified evidence, having juries with security clearance, etc. If we can get convict people in the U.S. and sentence to them for 30 years for playing paintball in Virginia, it seems like we ought to be able to convict KSM.

I am also conceivably okay with some form of military commissions that modify the court martial--but it would be have to be the kind that people like retired Admiral John Huston supported, not the kind that causes the prosecutors to quit in protest.

I also would like Dave's explanation as to how not knowing where the prison is is supposed to prevent al Qaeda from kidnapping people and demanding exchanges.

DaveC has no explanation. It is just more drivel -- any evil we perpetrate is OK because we are fighting evil. Evil used to combat evil is OK -- it's all just war.

Man -- these people sure love evil.

But if he is going to try, I would like an explanantion as to why it is OK to constantly lie about the nature of the detainees (i.e., they are all the worst of the worst) in order to justify a policy that denies them all rights.

DaveC: I am in favor of secret prisons so that Al Qaeda or Hizballah or Hamas cannot kidnap and extort the US into releasing those prisoners, for instance Khalid Sheikh Muhammed.

Well, Dave, if it's okay for the US to kidnap people and hold them in secret prisons, how can it be wrong for Al Qaeda or Hizballah or Hamas to do it? So you want the US to have secret prisons in order to stop Al Qaeda or Hizballah or Hamas from doing something that you don't think is wrong for them to do. Why?

This is one of those things about which I feel impotent rage.

Alas, Katherine, I don't much care. I understand that there are folks, possibly quite a few, that got dragged into this dispite being at least _relatively_ innocent. But the stakes for me and mine are such that I'm willing to accept bad things happening to them in order to suppress the dangerous folks I don't like. By historical analogy, there were quite a few inductees into the Wehrmacht that would rather not have been, and more than a few Germans who ended up getting caught by Allied bombs or bullets despite never having the slightest wish for a war. Shit happens. I view the expected value of terrorist strikes negatively enough to be willing to accept a great deal of collateral damage in supressing them. including the sad sacks listed above. Try again.

But the stakes for me and mine are such that I'm willing to accept bad things happening to them in order to suppress the dangerous folks I don't like.

Please to be demonstrating that what we're doing is actually suppressing the dangerous folks you don't like.

Bernard --

So, if your house got blown up and your family killed, it'd be OK if it was only "collateral damage"?

Yeah, it's only OK if they're sand niggers. They aren't human anyway.

Bernardo: But the stakes for me and mine are such that I'm willing to accept bad things happening to them in order to suppress the dangerous folks I don't like.

That reasoning justifies any terrorist action. Sure, some of the Americans who died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were innocent. But, as far as al-Qaeda were concerned, the stakes for them and theirs were such that they were prepared to accept bad things happening to innocent people in order to suppress the dangerous folks they don't like.

By historical analogy, there were quite a few inductees into the Wehrmacht that would rather not have been, and more than a few Germans who ended up getting caught by Allied bombs or bullets despite never having the slightest wish for a war.

BTW, is there any ratio of innocent/not-innocent that would cause you to reconsider the policy under question? It doesn't sound like it at the moment.

Alas, Bernard, the shit that is happening is not happening to you. You might not be so glib if it was.
One of the things that strikes me about administration supporters, besides the fearful approach to life, is the lack of a sense of porportion. As many people were killed in our coup in Chile as died in 911 and, during the years of repression which followed, even more Chileans lost their lives and everybody lost their liberty. Our suffering is no worse than theirs and probably less. However Chileans don't talk about how the coup changed everything and they don't hyperventilate about wars to save civilization from Milton Friedman and they haven't invaded Canada to strike a blow against American aggression. We've done the equivalent of all that plus sacrificed our reputation and our principles, all so people like you can convert self-pity and fearfulness into hubris.
How people react to the information presented by Katheine is a good indication of their basic values.

Paging Ms. Arendt, Ms. Hannah Arendt. Please pick up the white courtest phone.

But the stakes for me and mine are such that I'm willing to accept bad things happening to them in order to suppress the dangerous folks I don't like.

I'll ask you, tough guy, the same question DaveC never wants to answer: If we could end terrorism tomorrow -- forever -- by putting a bullet in the brain of your youngest child, would you do it? Would you let me do it?

I mean, cripes, "I am willing to torture innocent people, yea, even unto death, to protect me from terrorists?" What kind of magical wish-fulfillment garbage is this? I'm reminded of Homer and Lisa:

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm. Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad. Homer: Thank you, dear. Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away. Homer: Oh, how does it work? Lisa: It doesn't work. Homer: Uh-huh. Lisa: It's just a stupid rock. Homer: Uh-huh. Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you? [Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money] Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock. [Lisa refuses at first, then takes the exchange]

And as for this "stakes being high enough" malarkey, the stakes were several orders of magnitude higher during the Cold War. The USSR could, at any moment, have killed most of the population of the United States within about 15 minutes.. Al Qaeda has managed, what, being generous and including overseas operations, ~5,000 in a decade?

Exactly Phil. Maybe it is because I live in OK, but I pretty easily realize I am more likely to be hit by a domestic terrorist than a foreign one, and yet I would rather we not start randomly rounding up U.S. citizens, including sad sacks like me, and secretly detaining them.

By historical analogy, there were quite a few inductees into the Wehrmacht that would rather not have been, and more than a few Germans who ended up getting caught by Allied bombs or bullets despite never having the slightest wish for a war. Shit happens. I view the expected value of terrorist strikes negatively enough to be willing to accept a great deal of collateral damage in supressing them. including the sad sacks listed above. Try again.

I think you're the one who should try again.

Wehrmacht soldiers, conscripts or not, were real enemies, actually trying to kill allied soldiers. Further, if they were captured they were entitled to humane treatment. So you are comparing them to people who, in many cases, were never any threat whatsoever, and maintaining that they are not entitled to humane treatment.

That makes no sense at all.

You talk about damage to civilians in combat zones, but that's not what's going on here. These detainees are not in a combat area. They are being held under circumstances which give us plenty of time to investigate their situations promptly and fairly, and in which they present no threat. We have every opportunity to avoid "collateral damage."

I'm considering this as a test case for Andrew.

How can I resist such a generous offer?

In a perfect world, I would have no particular objection to secret prisons as long as we treated those we held there humanely and we had procedures in place to make sure that the people we held there did, in fact, belong there. When we grab someone like KSM, if we can keep that capture secret, it may give us other intelligence advantages. So, if we could meet my other conditions, I wouldn't complain about secret prisons.

However, it's an imperfect world, to put it mildly. And the facts certainly seem to point to us not treating detainees humanely nor making any great efforts to make sure that those we've detained should, in fact, be detained. Given that, allowing the government to retain the power to put people into secret prisons strikes me as an unbelievably bad idea.

The road to Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions, and I think our conduct in the GWOT demonstrates that quite effectively. I think that President Bush and his administration honestly believe that they are only doing what needs to be done to fight terrorism. Yet in that pursuit they've convinced themselves they hold powers that no executive should be permitted to hold, and they've permitted acts that I consider wholly in opposition to the ideals and beliefs this country was based on. Granted, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, but when you're standing hip-deep in egg shells, that's a sign you should rethink your recipe for omelets.

If we're to win this war, we're going to have to hold the moral high ground. Unfortunately, it appears that we've got a ways to go to get there, and the fact the terrorists are worse is only evidence for how far we've fallen that we can pride ourselves on being better than them.

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