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 Monday, 03 January 2005
Monday, 03 January 2005 21:08:45 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

This scary article (found through instapundit and discussed on The Regular) ignores the real underlying problem of whether we as a people want to engage in the conduct of permanent imprisonment of individuals without any recourse or due process. Without any checks or balances. Is that really the kind of people we are?


God I hope not!


Regardless of where the prison is, and who administers the facility, we are talking about taking people and locking them away until death. People who have had no opportunity to present their case, no opportunity for explanation, no recourse at all. Some random soldier in the heat of battle decided their fate and boom, they are doomed forever.


I am totally in support of imprisonment for convicted terrorists and war criminals. That makes obvious and complete sense. But the word “convicted” implies meaningful justice and recourse, something that isn’t guaranteed in the situation under discussion.


Considering that the US itself was born out of the actions of a bunch of “unlawful combatants”, you’d think we’d give this a bit more thought. But then again, our founders knew damn well that, if caught, they’d have no recourse from their government – which is part of why they decided to fight.


Ultimately we are just following the tradition set forth by the government we overthrew in the 1770’s by engaging in this type of activity. Don’t believe me? Consider that what we are talking about here is to


  • “render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power” in the context of dealing with these prisoners by denying them access to anything but military tribunals.


By working with foreign powers, this permanent prison will be established


  • “combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws”. By sending these people to foreign countries we avoid any protection (and presumably appearance of responsibility) from US laws, customs, morals or ethics.


In any case, we are certainly choosing to follow these dictums:


  • “depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury”
  • “transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences”


Each of these is a complaint lodged against the King of England in the Declaration of Independence. It might almost be said that after just over 200 years we are back to where we were before the Revolutionary War, though now we are the British. Long live King George!

Comments [6] | | # 
Monday, 03 January 2005 22:05:07 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I’m not condoning the choices made by the Bush administration in using the weasel excuse of “enemy combatants” to detain these people. However, that said, there is a fundamental difference between the situation prior to the American Revolution and this one. These people are not being denied justice by their own government, but by an enemy government. They are not US citizens (AFAIK, none of them are) being stripped of their rights nor are they clear cut prisoners-of-war according to the Geneva Convention. I’ll grant you that this seems a small consolation, but it is an important fact to remember.
Tuesday, 04 January 2005 10:09:00 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I agree that the situation is not the same. They are not us, and we are not them.

However, there is an ethical decision being made here on our behalf. Since we the people are the government, the weight of this decision is on our collective shoulders.

The decision is whether we wish to impose on others a set of practices that we specifically fought against in the creation of this country.

In this context I do not think it matters whether these people are US citizens or not. They are people, and in the preamble it is quite clear that we are all endowed with equal rights.

We may decide, as a people and a nation, that only US citizens are endowed with inalienable rights and that the rest of the world can go suck on it. But if this is our decision, then the (current) primary justification for the war in Iraq is faulty, because we are there to give them freedom – to allow them to gain access to these inalienable rights.

Personally I find it incredibly hypocritical that we would deny people their inalienable rights, regardless of circumstance. That we would arbitrarily decide that these people are subject to no law, not US, not international, nothing. That they are essentially not human, and are not entitled to basic human rights.

The Bush administration has charted a course in this area, and it is a course that is intrinsically unethical.
Tuesday, 04 January 2005 15:23:31 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
As you know, inalienable rights only go so far. Imprisonment by definition curtails one’s right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness and in some cases, life. Thus, it isn’t possible to detain someone without putting a damper on at least two of the three.

The government’s stance is that Gitmo prisoners are akin to a prisoner-of-war, but not quite (whatever that means). In a standard war situation, it is my understanding that prisoners would have no right to legal council or due process, only humane treatment until the end of the war. One could easily argue, as the Red Cross has, that we have already crossed the line of humane treatment and I’d agree.

In a standard war situation, prisoners would be returned to their home country at the end of the war. This is where the government’s stance is pretty shaky. They are implying that these prisoners are like prisoners-of-war and thus the US has the authority to hold these people until the end of the war on terror which of course may not have an end. It is this logic I find distasteful.

I don’t have the answers to this puzzle and am feeling my way along as many other people are. I find it difficult to accept that you can go to war against a technique. IMO you can only go to war against a nation-state. Therefore, since these people are not represented by any government, they are not prisoners-of-war and should be treated as criminals. That said, I have no idea how criminals, devoid of a government, were handled in this country prior to 9/11. Assuming you are not given the scarlet “T”, what rights are criminals with no government given? I would be surprised to find out that they were given legal rights equal to that of a full-fledged citizen.

Given your statements about Iraq, perhaps it would more accurate to say that we are helping the Iraqis to attain a greater level of freedom rather than pure freedom outright. Pure freedom of course is anarchy.
Tuesday, 04 January 2005 22:10:50 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Thomas is right in one thing at least - these people should be treated like any other criminal - they should be put on trial, the evidence of their possible guilt weighed by an unbiased jury, and then punished or released as the court determines is appropriate for each case. To do anything else is to take a step down a dark road. A step that cannot be untaken once the path has been chosen.

Are we the people that are supposed to represent a shining beacon of freedom to the world? Or are we just another empire?

This is a blood curdling precedent to set. The Bush administration is essentially saying that these people - whom they tell us are terrorists and 'illegal combatants' captured on the battlefield (and we all know that the Bushies never keep secrets or lie about anything) are too dangerous to ever be released. Therefore, they will be held in prison by us, but not in our country, without ever facing a trial. Don't you find that thought scary?

Even more scary is that they just slap the label of 'terrorist' on anyone they feel they can, and there is every indication that this has included citizens of the United States as well as many of our allies. And remember, the same military that's saying these people are 'dangerous terrorists' is the same military that said the same thing about all the other 'dangerous terrorists' they held without charges or representation for years and recently released saying "We were wrong, they were never dangerous".

What I find so scary about this is not so much what they are doing now, but the fact that they have this precedent now. Who are they going to label a 'terrorist' next?
The Evil Cub
Wednesday, 05 January 2005 00:39:08 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Technically, there is a precedent for holding prisoners without trial. During the Civil War, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus to justify summary detentions. As planned for the Gitmo prisoners, the government used military tribunals to try these men instead of standard courts. The people tried during the Civil War were not prisoners of war but rather civilians suspected of aiding the Confederacy. The reason for not going through the courts at the time was because the North suspected that the courts would be filled with Confederate sympathizers. (Translation: they didn’t think they could get their conviction). BTW, much of this I got from this link:

The precedent of that period and its resulting trials set the stage for Bush’s justification of holding these prisoners with only the possibility of a military trial. One could easily argue that it was a greater travesty during the Civil War because they were fellow Americans being denied their right to a full trial. It seems clear that the real travesty was in letting Lincoln get away with this nonsense in the first place. That precedent has clearly weakened opposition to Bush’s summary detention of these "terrorists.”
Wednesday, 05 January 2005 11:30:14 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
And there were the concentration camps for Japanese during WWII, and other examples I'm sure.

And I don't disagree that prisoners of war are to be held until the end of the war.

But it is the administration's position that they are not, in fact, prisoners of war - and thus are not subject to international law in that regard.

Nor are they to be treated as US citizens would be, which makes sense, because they are not.

Nor are they to be treated as foreign nationals, which also makes sense, because they were captured as part of wartime action.

So the administration has conveniently arrived at a position where they can hold these people under no law, with no oversight. And it is pretty clear that they indend to abuse this ability by holding these people permanently.

My original point remains valid I think. The administration is actively attempting to treat this set of people in ways that we specifically fought against in the formation of our own country.

In each prior case, Lincoln, WWII, etc. the weakening of civil protection was eventually reversed. In the case of WWII concentration camps, there is still lingering guilt around what we did to fellow Americans at that time. And fellow German-Americans here in Minnesota (Lots of Germans here, and WWII was really rough on them. We even formed a Commission of Public Safety in part to protect ourselves from our own German-Americans.)

The point being that you are right. There are precidents. And there are precidents for each prior action being overthrown when sanity returned to the nation. As a people it is clear that we really _aren't_ fear-driven heartless monsters - we just get caught up in the hype of the moment and allow our government to make some really stupid-ass decisions that we regret later.

I merely suggest that _this_ time perhaps we should nip it in the bud and just not do the stupid thing up front, thus avoiding the guilt and regret later.

I'll type more later - at the moment I need to clean my rose-colored glasses.
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