Saturday, May 23, 2009

Compare & Contrast, Part 3

Senator Jim Webb, speaking to University of Virginia politics students, as reported by the Associated Press, April 10, 2007:
The United States should begin phasing out its detention center at Guantanamo Bay, where terrorist suspects are being held, freshman U.S. Sen. Jim Webb told a group of University of Virginia politics students Monday.

Webb said he agreed early in the War on Terror that such a facility was needed. "But there comes a point where people need to be dealt with through the legal system," Webb said. "I think that time has come."

About 385 men are imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Base in southeast Cuba on suspicion of links to Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Some have been held for more than five years.

After speaking to the students in professor Larry J. Sabato's class on American politics, Webb told reporters that the detainees should either be declared prisoners of war or charged in the American judicial system if the U.S. continues to hold them captive.

"We can't just continue to hold people in limbo without charges for this period of time and still call ourselves Americans," Webb said.
Senator Jim Webb interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week, May 17th:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to some of the other issues, because President Obama this week . . . shifted on the issue of military tribunals, even though he had been for them in the past, he heavily criticized the Bush tribunals, now he is bringing them back with some reforms. . .

Now you were also against the commissions during your campaign. Do you support what the president is doing here?

WEBB: I wasn't against commissions per se. . . If I said charged in the American judicial system, I would mean under the traditions of the rules of evidence and these sorts of things. But my view has always been that we need to move these people forward.

We need to find those people who should be held accountable and hold them accountable. And people who have been held inappropriately should be released.

But I don't believe that the situation with people in Guantanamo, as opposed to others who have conducted activities in the United States are the same. I think that the people who have been held in Guantanamo are being charged essentially for acts of international terror, for acts of war, and they don't belong in judicial system, and they don't belong in our jails.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This is what the commissions. . .

WEBB: And I don't believe -- I do, I do. But with this caveat, we need commissions like this because there are issues of evidence that you cannot take care of inside the regular American court system, classified information that might have an impact on how we collect intelligence and those sorts of things.

And there are facilities built in Guantanamo right now that are able to do that. . .

We spend hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions in Guantanamo to try these cases. There are cases against international law.

These aren't people who were in the United States, committing a crime in the United States. These are people who were brought to Guantanamo for international terrorism. I do not believe they should be tried in the United States.
I'll take door number 2.

See also Charles Krauthammer in Friday's Washington Post, Andy McCarthy on The Corner and blogger Wolf Howling.

(via the Wall Street Journal)


suek said...

The problem I see is that the war on terror is one in which there are not two (or more) specifically defined sovereignty which can declare war on each other, and then eventually sign a peace treaty or simply clearly lose. What we have is a war declared on _us_ by jihadists who are individuals of specific beliefs. So when will the war end? If what we have is an endless war, then in effect, these people are condemned to life imprisonment. Probably the right result for many of them, regardless of the condition of war.

Is that a problem?

How about the decision by the O that we won't use "enhanced interrogation"? Doesn't it seem that if we can't get information from those we capture on a battle field that there's little point in capturing them? The obvious result of that is that our soldiers will - of necessity - just kill them. Is that really a desired outcome?

I think some people are not thinking this thing through. Quelle surprise.

OBloodyHell said...

suek, you are correct -- the nature of this problem is somewhat different from previous conflicts that the Geneva and Hague conventions were designed to deal with -- to wit, all previous ideological conflicts occurred as a result of national-level disagreements (i.e., fascism-vs-socialism-vs-capitalism) as to "how to proceed".

This is the first ideological conflict in which national boundaries are only vaguely in play regarding. The so-called "nations" in question have only limited control within their own borders, and as a result are often not the responsible parties to the problem, but also victims of it.

That said, they do claim jurisdiction over the people in question, so they do need to take responsibility for them as a problem, and, if they cannot handle them on their own, show adequate responsibility to seek help.

If your brother goes out and threatens harm to someone, and you don't take care of him yourself (either through inability or choice), AND don't ask for help in taking care of him, then you will clearly find yourself in the midst of a situation as the police DO take action, often to your own personal detriment (if the cops break down your door to get at him, then shoot up your house in a battle as he resists, the cost of the repairs is not coming out of the public's pocket!).

This is hardly any different, in principle, than the USA's military taking "unilateral action" against Saddam.

The US has "personal" interests. We are entirely correct to act in defense of those interests if threatened and the threatening parties are not controlled by appropriate bodies (i.e., the UN, or national governments, etc.)

Carl said...

suek & OBH:

This conflict does differ from some prior wars. But I'm not sure it's a difference that makes a difference:

1) Yes, we don't know how long the war on terror will last, and thus how long those captured on the battlefield must be held. But at least at the outset, one never knows the duration of a war nor, therefore, how long POWs must be held. Though long predating the current legal environment, remember the Thirty Years' war and the Hundred Years' war?

2) The United States considered, and rejected, the 1977 Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, which would have extended presumptive POW status to guerrillas that fail to wear uniforms and rank insignia visible at a distance (compare Protocol I, Arts 43-44 with Geneva III, Art 4(2)). President Reagan called Protocol I "fundamentally and irreconcilably flawed":

"It contains provisions that would undermine humanitarian law and endanger civilians in war. One of its provisions, for example, would automatically treat as an international conflict any so-called "war of national liberation." Whether such wars are international or non-international should turn exclusively on objective reality, not on one's view of the moral qualities of each conflict. To rest on such subjective distinctions based on a war's alleged purposes would politicize humanitarian law and eliminate the distinction between international and non-international conflicts. It would give special status to "wars of national liberation," an ill-defined concept expressed in vague, subjective, politicized terminology. Another provision would grant combatant status to irregular forces even if they do not satisfy the traditional requirements to distinguish themselves from the civilian population and otherwise comply with the laws of war. This would endanger civilians among whom terrorists and other irregulars attempt to conceal themselves. These problems are so fundamental in character that they cannot be remedied through reservations, and I therefore have decided not to submit the Protocol to the Senate in any form."

Reagan was right: treating unlawful combatants as POWs would undermine the reciprocity rationale for the laws of warfare. The result would be an increased risk of war crimes against unarmed civilians and also--as suek says--tend to promote possible over-reaction by soldiers fighting terrorists.

Conclusion: We're fighting terrorists who "torture and behead soldiers and civilians, deliberately murdering unarmed innocents." Like pirates, they forfeit the protection of international law. Mere detention--whatever the duration--doesn't seem a disproportionate response.

suek said...

I don't want to get into an inappropriate discussion, but as background, Mass yesterday celebrated the Ascension. Memorial day was noted(barely)and the sermon was presented by the chaplain of the jail ministry for the local youth detention facility.

Her entire focus was that there were some young people whose lives were effectively being thrown away, because they had been given sentences of life imprisonment without parole. She offered nothing about the number of such individuals. She offered nothing about the crimes for which such a sentence was given. She offered nothing about recompense for the victims of these young people. She urged us to sign a petition for a bill that would revise their "no parole" to a review 10 years after the original sentencing to determine if the offender had changed, and if parole might be appropriate at some point. This was on the basis that these "children" were all victims of poverty and abuse in their formative years, and were, in effect, victims of their own crimes.

I almost got up and walked out. I have no doubt that most of these young men were indeed the victims of their environment, but are they therefore not responsible for their decisions?

There is no doubt in my mind that the effort of these liberals is to destroy the system of law by removing virtually all punishment of lawbreakers. And in doing so, destroy society in order to create the chaos that will permit a dictatorship.

After which, of course, they'll impose their own laws and destroy anyone who opposes them.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

suek - I have two Romanian sons whose abuse, neglect, and poverty in their early years tops just about anything the US has to offer. One is engaged, graduating from college, the other just joined the Marines. Obstacles and disadvantages are real things and should not be minimised. But neither do they control anyone's destiny.

Carl said...

. . . what AVI said.

Carl said...


Read Ralph Peters in Tuesday's NY Post.

OBloodyHell said...

> I almost got up and walked out.

You should have. Visibly, if not exceptionally rudely.

You should approach the pastor of your church, and make it clear that such policies are not supported by you, and challenge them to show that they are supported by the masses when proper codicils (such as yours) are applied.

And in the end, particularly if you are close to alone (you should not be) on this, you should push for change, or vote with your feet.

Remember, Obama was criticized for remaining in his church despite the clear and racist rhetoric being espoused.

This isn't quite as bad, but when you stay in a church that does not follow the dictates of your conscience, you have to examine that choice in a similar light.

As the saying goes -- "All that is necessary for Evil to triumph is for Good men to do nothing."