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November 18, 2010

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so, too, do proponents of military commissions urge the adoption of a justice system ...

military commissions fit better with the delusion that TWoT is a military matter. the thusly-deluded can't allow this stuff to get into the civilian courts because then TWoT might become a criminal matter, not a military one. and if that happens, they will no longer be able to get that little tingle in their pants when we bomb a bunch of brown people.

and that's an important tingle - not mention a necessary one, if we want to be able to justify spending a trillion dollars a year on "defense".

On 9/11 the United States lost its collective mind. I have no idea if we'll ever find it again.

and by "not mention" (which makes no sense in many ways) i mean "and also".

I think it's more a matter of the rigidity of positions rather than rigidity of ideology. Ideology is infinitely flexible- eg conservatives can support budget-busting spending and tax cuts, and moments later cast themselves as uber-deficit-hawks.
But people generally won't own up to holding mistaken positions. At best they'll adopt some fig leaf difference between their mistaken position and the one that turned out to be correct. At worst they'll stick with a bad choice long after it's shown to be wrong, or misremember their original position to fit the new reality.

Trade Your Heroes for Ghosts

Did you exchange a walk-on part in a war for a lead role in a cage?

On 9/11 the United States lost its collective mind.

Eh, I think the mask was finally pulled off and any remaining strings holding back the insanity were removed that day. It was a long time coming and we were lucky it didn't happen earlier. Irrational fear combined with American exceptionalism and overwhelming military might is a very dangerous combination. Ask the Iraqis.

As usual, I blame Nixon, whose putrid stench on the American body politic continues to this day (see, e.g., recent comments by Roger Ailes, media advisor to Nixon's 1968 election campaign). If he had spent a few years in federal prison we might have headed off alot of this, but alas...

You mean NPR = Nazis?

Which is totally true. NPR was as bad as the Nazis and, in turn, the Nazis were only as bad as NPR.

On 9/11 the United States lost its collective mind.

I think, no more than some people lost it during the Cold War, or earlier periods. In the 60s some in the US government wanted us to attack our own civilian and military targets and blame the Cubans. In the 30s, there was a nascent attempt by some business leaders to overthrow the US government and install a military dictator (similar to fascist activity elsewhere in the world).
Which is more worrisome to me than if this were some unheard-of aberration. Furthermore, while Ive heard calls for the pitchforks to come out, I suspect that it's just as (if not more) likely that the head of any pitchfork-wielding crowd will be a homegrown fascist rather than a labor leader.

Carleton, agreed.

You mean NPR = Nazis?

You better believe it.

Just last week, bands of NPR staffers in brown shirts came to my house with clubs and knives and forced me to buy a tote bag.

We ignore them at our own peril.

Deeply disheartening is right.

I liked the Capone analogy - good one.

Greenwald goes into details on this. What is forgotten here is that the Obama administration made it clear in advance that even a full acquittal, even proven innocence would not have meant that Ghailani would be set free but that in that case the executive would have taken him into custody (the original and proper term here would be Schutzhaft, of course). Excuse my Godwin but that is exactly how the Nazis handled unfortunate acquittals that occasionally happened in their courts. The acquitted would be seized even before leaving the courtroom by the Gestapo and transported 'to Dachau' (=concentration camp).
So, not only do those (primarily) on the Right attack the rule of law in order to smear the administration but the administration itself plays a charade. The only thing missing is 'shot while trying to escape'. What is worse, the hypocritical demagogues or the hypocritical cowards?

This is a good point, and one that I should have addressed.

The only sliver of defense for the cowards: given how the GOP is relentlessly demagoguing even a GUILTY VERDICT!!!! and how complicit the "liberal media" is (NY Times?), it's at least understandable why a politician would be timid on such matters.

Not excusable, but understandable.

Imagine if the so-called "conservatives" and tea partiers that are supposedly so concerned with the integrity of the Constitution were to argue IN FAVOR of the rule of law, rather than vociferously for its abandonment at every turn?

"What is worse, the hypocritical demagogues or the hypocritical cowards?"

I vote (and voted) for hypocritical cowards. As we know, if there's a major terrorist attack, and Obama has let a Guantanamo detainee go, he will be kicked out of office immediately. Whatever problems the hypocritical cowards may have, the Nazi comparisons to them are much less compelling than the Nazi comparisons to the hypocritical demagogues.

Hypocritical cowards being better, not worse, to clarify.

There is, however, one glimmer of hope on the horizon. I think that a lot of the attitude towards trials, accused criminals, etc. stems from the popular culture. Specifically, the overwhelming prevalence of TV shows like Law & Order -- where the accused are almost always guilty and the challenge is to get a conviction.

But this fall, "The Defenders" got revived. For those of you who are too young to remember, there was a show of the same name 40-50 years ago. Also featuring defense attorneys working to get their innocent clients acquitted.

I expect that cop shows will continue to predominate on TV. But it is encouraging that the other side is getting a little air time as well. The longest journey begins with a single step....

and how complicit the "liberal media" is

oddly, NPR's take on this was basically the same as yours. i was pretty amazed they didn't go for their typical "some say..." approach.

Um, cleek, Nazis, so...

"What is forgotten here is that the Obama administration made it clear in advance that even a full acquittal, even proven innocence would not have meant that Ghailani would be set free but that in that case the executive would have taken him into custody."

Exactly. Try to recall that Obama is one of those "torture-advocates and others that favor discarding Constitutional assurances of fair trials".

Try to recall that Obama is one of those "torture-advocates and others that favor discarding Constitutional assurances of fair trials".

Well, Brett, then who are those that criticize his approach as being too soft and too deferential to the Constitution?

Or better yet, how would you describe those that criticize his approach as being too soft and too deferential to the Constitution?

I mean, have you checked out any right wing news sources/blogs?

They're jumping up and down blaming him for coddling terrorists.

Eric, I am not somehow obligated to agree with conservatives on everything.

People should, with few exceptions, be entitled to trials. And if they get acquitted, they should damned well go free. This includes accused terrorists.

After all, if we admit exceptions to these rules, what's to stop the government from declaring anybody it wants to, say, extra-judicially execute, of being a terrorist?

Nothing, apparently.

Truly strange times we live in. I'm too young to have experienced McCarthyism but from what I've read and seen I imagine that the level of demagoguery has to be roughly equivalent. What's missing is a modern day Edward R. Murrow to alert everyone to the damage the demagogue is doing to the country. The right and left wings of this country now exist in echo chambers of "news" like Fox and Daily Kos, misreading opinion for fact.

When one regularly demonizes anyone who disagrees with him, as has happened on both sides of the aisle, reasonable men will not pursue politics leaving the honest citizen with the likes of the current and future Congress.

People should, with few exceptions, be entitled to trials. And if they get acquitted, they should damned well go free. This includes accused terrorists.

After all, if we admit exceptions to these rules, what's to stop the government from declaring anybody it wants to, say, extra-judicially execute, of being a terrorist?

Nothing, apparently.

Right the hell on.

The whole "enemy combatant" thing is crap to begin with. It refers back to Quirin, which itself was crap. It was crap then, and it's crap now.

Ghailani got a fair and reasonable trial. He's going to jail for 20 to life. In any sane world, that would be a total and absolute victory for "our side", which is to say, American civil society and the rule of law.

And yes, by God, as Brett alludes to, if our adherence to the rule of law means some terrorist gets off on a technicality, then that is what should happen. Given the choice of preserving our heritage as a nation, and making sure any given terrorist is locked up, *our clear preference should be for preserving our inheritance as a nation*.

Hands down.

When I read the reactions to the outcome of the Ghailani trial, I wonder what the hell people think this country is about.

There is no American ethnic identity. There is no American religious, or social, or cultural identity. Being American is not about being capitalist, or a free-marketeer. It's not even about being safe in our beds at night.

Go ahead and read the damned Constitution, none of those things are in there.

It's about sovereignty of the people, about self-government, about limits on the power of any individual person or institution, and about the rule of law. That's what it's about.

Piss it away, and you won't get it back.

False equivalency alert! You cannot seriously be comparing Fox News with the Daily Kos, I guess I now know why the Dems are losing the PR war so badly.

And as for "regularly demonizes anyone who disagrees with him" unless you are going to provide examples just asserting that it 'happens on both sides of the aisle' doesn't really cut it. Now I will admit that I get my news filtered but it is pretty clear that one side is doing a heck of a lot more demonizing than the other.

Well, we can at least agree that it truly is 'strange times we live in'.

In the last military commissions trial, which involved Omar Khadr, the detainee pleaded guilty to murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying, and received an eight-year sentence. He'll serve the first year at Gitmo, then he'll be transferred to Canada where he could be eligible for parole after serving two thirds of his sentence. That was actually one of the harsher military commissions sentences -- David Hicks got nine months, Salim Hamdan got five months. And we're supposed to view Ghailani's minimum sentence of 20 years as a "failure"?

Of course the military kangaroo court could ignore the fact that Omar Khadr was a child soldier who was threatened with rape in his initial interrogations at Bagram Airbase - the conviction was made possible because the judge decided that the kid's confessions made under torture could be set aside but the interrogations of the boy in Guantanamo Bay in which he repeated what he'd confessed under torture in Bagram were admissable.

Let's also not forget that the "murder" committed was that of killing a US soldier in a firefight: the US military's claim that when a child soldier throws a grenade and kills someone in American uniform this is a violation of the laws of war and the child deserves to spend his life in jail (the actual sentence of the commission was 40 years, not to include time served) is an utter failure of justice.

What heritage as a nation are you passing on, when US military "courts" rule that a teenage boy fighting US soldiers is a war criminal because he killed one and seriously wounded another?

In the UK, victims of torture are receiving compensation from the British government in a belated acknowledgement of what has been public knowledge for years: British government agents knew that the CIA and the US military were torturing British citizens and legal residents and did nothing to prevent it. Being an American ally is costly: morally, financially, and in every way possible.

I was re-reading some of the comments I made in late 2008 and 2009 about Obama's decision to condone torture of prisoners by the US: and thinking, well, I was prescient: Obama approves torture by the US military, Bush admits that he authorized torture in his published memoir... and the US public is so used to the idea by now that of course the US military tortures prisoners, it's barely worth a gasp of outrage.

Looked it up: Age 15 when he was captured. Let me think back to when I was 15: Did I know that you weren't supposed to murder people? Yup.

Actually, were you, in this country, as a civilian, at the age of 15, to murder some people, you probably would get a worse sentence.

But, yes, the laws of war privilege governments relative to private sector actors. Deliberately so. The laws of peace, too; Were I to try even half the stuff the government does legally, I wouldn't see daylight until I was in my 80's...

Age 15 when he was captured. Let me think back to when I was 15: Did I know that you weren't supposed to murder people?

"murder" ?

what a blithe and disingenuous description of what happened.

Looked it up: Age 15 when he was captured. Let me think back to when I was 15: Did I know that you weren't supposed to murder people? Yup.

Did you also know how the Geneva Conventions might apply to your actions should, say, China invade the U.S. by force and you wanted to violently resist them as they stormed through your hometown?

Murder, right.

Unfortunately, "Wrongful" in the "wrongful killing" definition of murder, more or less boils down to, "Didn't have a government's permission."

And, if China invades the US, whether or not I get the benefit of the Geneva convention when shooting Chinese soldiers is not going to be a concern of mine. Frankly, it's not going to be a concern of China's, either... Or else the status of Tibet would be rather different, wouldn't it?

Unfortunately, "Wrongful" in the "wrongful killing" definition of murder, more or less boils down to, "Didn't have a government's permission."

oh, so you were using the technical, legal (as described in section X, paragraph Z of document Y), meaning of "murder", when you were talking about things that 15 year olds are expected to understand. gotcha.

I think we're forgetting what is truly important to the country as a whole, namely that Richard Cheney never end up in the dock at the Hague. Therefore, no public trials, and at most, sotto voce acknowledgment of having tortured. Makes perfect sense to Liz.

And, if China invades the US, whether or not I get the benefit of the Geneva convention when shooting Chinese soldiers is not going to be a concern of mine.

You do realize that you just proved the point that people were trying to get through to you, right?

Self-awareness. Empathy. Get some.

But this fall, "The Defenders" got revived. For those of you who are too young to remember, there was a show of the same name 40-50 years ago. Also featuring defense attorneys working to get their innocent clients acquitted.

That's a good thing. Our culture already leans much too heavily in the direction of "tough on crime" at the expense of "innocent until proven guilty".

A similar comparison occurred to me recently when I picked up the new Disturbed album, Asylum. Disturbed has often--fairly, I think--been compared to pre-douchebag Metallica, and this album really demonstrates that. There are songs that hit a lot of the same topics Metallica did in their early albums, and one of them--Innocence--is explicitly about defense attorneys who make piles of money keeping the guilty out of jail.

Contrast this with And Justice for All, which focuses on bought-and-paid-for "justice" more generally, but with some of the lines very pointedly being about innocent people wronged by that system.

I do love Disturbed, but Innocence struck me as a red flag for the shifting attitudes of our culture towards the presumption of innocence.

Unfortunately, "Wrongful" in the "wrongful killing" definition of murder, more or less boils down to, "Didn't have a government's permission."

This is a lie.

See the Third Geneva Convention on the status of irregulars. "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" are treated as combatants and entitled to PoW protections.

Well, that's the theory. But few invaders give a digestive final product and, if they win, it does not matter whether someone else does.
I get the impression that shooting at US soldiers (or mercenaries working for the US) is considered a crime per se by those in charge (and influential parts of the media), uniforms be damned. In case of doubt the enemy soldiers are not acknowledged as legitimate because their government is declared illegitimate.

Wish You Were Here is probably my favourite Floyd song. There was the Brain Damage/Eclipse bit off of DSOTM that only made sense if the chemicals were all aligned, and The Wall was pretty much a demonstration of how to spend 45 minutes and millions of dollars in order to communicate what could have been better communicated in two minutes with three chords and a verse-chorus-verse, but Wish You Were Here is alright. It usually makes me cry when I listen to it.

That I like it just a bit less than the sound of someone going obviously insane on The Madcap Laughs probably says something bad about me.

As for the show trial, here's how it works. The government decides someone is guilty. Then, after they have decided on the question of guilt, they have to decide whether or not to have a kangaroo court so we can all pretend we live under the rule of law.

The idea that the conviction should be seen as a "dramatic triumph for our criminal justice system" is ridiculous. If a prosecutor charges someone with 285 crimes, and 284 of them result in acquittals, there is an extremely dangerous person involved, and it is not the defendant.

Shine on you crazy democracy.

Oh, come on -- "Brain Damage" is great!

May I present you with your new secretary of justice Mr.Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and attorney general Mrs.Alice Pleasance Hargreaves née Liddell.

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