Friday, January 30, 2009

I would give the Devil the benefit of Law

In response to this McClatchy article about the Captain of the U.S.S. Cole saying "We shouldn't make policy decisions based on human rights and legal advocacy groups,'' a spirited debate sprung up on FARK.com regarding whether we should give suspected terrorists the benefit of Habeus Corpus or other rights.

I will confess that as I am not a Constitutional scholar, a lawyer or an expert in military law I am ill equipped to speak with any great authority. It is not any easy situation to rectify, made worse by the previous administration that simply had no strategy whatsoever and simply did "whatever was necessarily" to "keep us safe". But since we aren't operating in the shadows anymore we must take the bull by the horns.

There are criminals in Guantanamo. By various accounts 70 of the 270 are really bad guys. This is down from the over 600 who used to reside there. We let the rest of those people go because we really didn't have anything on them. With all the resources and the with the full and intimidating threats of the US of A pressed upon them we simply had nothing. I am sure they forgive us though.

Rumor, innuendo, suspicion. On that evidence we abducted people, held them in secret prisons, and tortured them.

On the flimsiest of connection to 9/11 and on dubious intel we waged a war on Iraq that has killed tens of thousands.

But we had to, you know, to keep us safe.

Look, thinking is hard. But maybe if we did it more we wouldn't be in this shit. I don't want to give any religious whack job with a desire to kill people a pass. But to ignore the law? To just go all Jack Bauer? Is that the answer? Will ignoring US law, international law and treaties work? Will that find and punish the guilty? George Bush thought so. He thought these men were evil.

But I would give the Devil himself the benefit of Law.

I offer this short clip from A man for All Seasons:

14 comments:

Ed said...

I think all crusaders should remember this speech. More so, if they know the play.

grim said...

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Anonymous said...

And how many of you truth seekers have served in the military? ... ... ... any time now. Unfortunately, Jack Nicholson was right, you Americans can't handle the truth--in this case, the truth is that terrorists are the Devil. Instead of posting a clip from a family movie, try posting a clip from an actual beheading of a non-combatant. Or, perhaps a few reruns of those planes, with real people on them, slammiing into the Twin Towers, with real people in them. Really. I dare you to post it. Let's put the discusison in context. No. I did not vote for Bush. But Obama is still looking for votes by closing Guantanamo. That is appeasement, not a complete solution. I do not have all of the answers either, but there is no need to be self-righteous when it comes to the people who want to kill us all.

Sir Constantine

Steve said...

I respectfully disagree. Franklin s quote above is in fact a good was of summarizing a complex issue. If you give up the rule of law and suspend your core principles, you have essentially done the work of terrorists yourself.

When a guy points a gun at you on the battlefield, you can shoot him. He is the enemy. When you find a group building bombs or sarin, you kill or arrest them. When a local thug turns in some schmoe from the next village for reward money and claims he's Taliban...what do you do? Is HE the devil? Should we send him to a secret prison in Romania, beat him and keep him in Gitmo 'just in case'?

And should you find one of the upper rank leaders. Do you imprison him without charge? Do you torture him until he gives up dubious intel? If you torture him, you cannot bring him to trial.

Here again the Bush system failed. In the old days, the CIA would find the bad guys and then assassinate them quietly. Why are some of these worst offenders still alive? I have no idea. I don't live in a fairy tale land. We used to use extraordinary rendition before, we just made sure we had the right guy before we did it.

If any of my ex-military friends want to chime in, feel free.

Anonymous said...

Now that's the spirit! A good, heated, but reasoned debate. Some time ago you asked what, if anything, should be done to improve your website. And, we have hit the proverbial nail on the head--namely, empowered, energized exchanges on controversial topics. Now that makes for an interesting blog. Nice. All my respect.

Sir Constantine

Anonymous said...

I'll be happy to Steve. I served 6 years, 5 of them overseas.You are correct to a point. Most Americans can't handle the truth. But tyhe truth isn't merely that we live in a world surrounded by walls. The truth is we have alot of enemies and a ever decreasing supply of friends.
Obama's closing Guantanemo isn't for the voters. It's for the world. It's letting them know that the shotgun approach to security that the Bush admin used isn't going to be used anymore.
And the fact is, we consider certain people non-combatants, others don't feel the same. Terrorists are the Devil? Sir Constantine are you calling for a new crusade? Because we still feel the effects of the last one.
Most people don't know what it takes to acheive security or to maintain it. We are wide open as a nation. We have many liberties but the cost of those freedoms is a lessening of security.
The fact is, if someone wants to kill you and is willing to trade their life for yours then you can't stop him. At least not passively. You want to wage a war? Let the warriors wage it. Not the tv audience or the politicians. Catch one of the upper echelon leaders? Find out what he knows and then a round to the back of the head. You don't give scum like that a day in court. But you do this when you KNOW who you have, not because Abdul at the 7-11 looks Islamic. Of course he does.
I was a MP, Constantine, what were you?

-Tim

grim said...

A lively debate is certainly fun. With no disrespect to the common soldier (but great disrespect for their leaders) here are some of my opinions:

The problem is that these enemy combatants are not evil.

There was a time, during the Revolutionary War that we were the insurgents. We used guerrilla tactics considered shameful at the time, being the weaker military / economy. The redcoats probably viewed the sniping and running colonists in the same way we view these insurgents. We, of course, view our colonists as heroes, just as the natives of other lands view their freedom fighters.

Now WE are the redcoats, marching through other peoples lands. Arguably, we too are bent on imperialist expansion of influence beyond our borders. Arguably, we too are hated righteously in many cases.

The blinders beside Americas eyes are an unstudied history book, with events we are thereby doomed to repeat, and an unwillingness to put ourselves in the shoes of another, both held in place by our greed, which we shamefully ignore due to the creature comforts it provides.

Furthermore, these insurgents believe they do the will of God, just as many of us do, just as Hitler and others before him did. Until this blight upon reason is rejected as patently false, combatants on all sides will continue their righteous killing, all the while oblivious to the barbarity and illogic of their deepest failing: The belief that their righteous acts harmonize with the will of God.

No imperialist empire survives forever, and beyond the allegorical aqueducts and roadways we bring, our deserved demise will be unmourned should we continue down this path.

Erika said...

There is far too much testosterone in the world.

Anonymous said...

Tim. Let me begin by expressing my genuine respect, all things being equal, for all men and women who have, or are, part of our military. All honor to them.

Now, a few points. First, I am not calling for a new crusade. That blood bath was done purportedly in the name of God, but, in my opinion, was really done for money, prestige and power. I sanction none of that.

Second, I have no bias against any Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Atheist, etc. I believe we are all fallable.

Third, while our blog host has called upon his military buddies to wiegh in, I was pleased to see that we are in accorfd when it comes to terrorists. You first say that if we catch one of their upper echelon leaders that we should find out what he knows. I am interpreting your entry to mean that we should find out what he knows by any means possible, including water boarding. If so, I agree. Further, you go go on to say that such a person should receive "a round to the back of the head. You don't give scum like that a day in court." I believe that you are advocating, in such a case, a summary execution and denial of a trial. Again, I agree.

Lastly, you indicate that you were a Military Police Officer and ask what was, or am, I. The theme of the blog is to "Give the Devil the Benefit of Law." What I was, and what I am, is an attorney. So, you see, I know the law, and I know the extreme shortcomings of the law. I would not give the Devil the benefit of the law. You and I agree that the Devil is not entitled to the same.

Sir Constantine

Anonymous said...

Let me start off by saying I am a student of history. Grim, I am well aware of the tactics used by ourselves and others in the course of conflict. I am not condemning them based on the tools they use. I am condemning them because they are the enemy. War is a ugly business, and while I have not been a participant in the current war, I was involved in multiple operations in our "peacetime" military.
You use the tools you have, that is the way of it. The mission of the soldier no matter which side he is on, is victory.
We have caused the deaths of civilians, this is unavoidable in war. We do not target based on civilian casualties though. That is inefficient. We target the enemy and their ability to make war. Yes civilians work in factories that we bomb. But that makes them contributors to the war effort.
Targeting civilian population centers to cause the most casualties isn't in our war doctrine. Don't lecture me on the effects of war btw. I am aware of the civil disturbances caused during war. But that isn't what we are trying for that is a regretable result.
We are in decline. America is collapsing, one need merely compare our history to most empire's and they will see we are in the decline stage. Reversible, yes it is but decline we are.
I truly believe we got into this war wrongly and now we are seeking a way out. I believe it is a different kind of blinder that hurts us. We refuse to understand other cultures and is that, not a lack of historical knowledge that prevents us from realizing that this war is a lost cause.

-Tim

Anonymous said...

Sir Constantine, Thank you for your words. My request asking who you were may have come off differently than I intended, but your question to the truth seekers felt like a accusation.
As I have said, war is ugly. But it is childish to think we will or have won by being nice. As a soldier, I just wanted two things, to do my duty and to go home when my duty is done. Soldiers are soldiers all around the world. I do agree with Ben Franklin though, since giving up "essential" liberty is acknowledging that the enemy has won. But all liberties aren't essential, and a little safety is in fact no safety at all. We have been living in a wide open country for decades, we are still wide open. I oppose the abuses of the Patriot Act but not it's spirit. As a lawyer I am sure you view the courtroom or negotiating table as a battleground. That is your field, your conflict. I do believe that simply arresting people with fragile evidence is wrong, but frgaile evidence can be used to open an investigation, to gather intell. You can learn so much by following the chain of evidence. War is not fougt by lawyers, and giving the enemy due process during the war is counter productive. After the war, then you have your trials. But first you need victory. And if you have a known combatant who is upper echelon, then learn what he knows and then decide if it would be more efficient to hold him, try him,trade him back or just shoot him. I am not an expert in the law. It has often in fact been said, that the last person you should ask a legal question is a cop. But I love my country. And if you show me a enemy that we have sufficient evidence stating he possesses intell that will save the lives of Americans or our allies(And I mean ALL allies.) then by all means apply the stungun to his testicles.Although I think drugs are more efficient than pain.
This isn't testosterone, this is the way it is. Media has brought to us information that makes us uncomfortable, but that is the way things have been for years. I'm sorry for rambling but I feel strongly on this. I've lost too many friends. I'm done.

-Tim

Anonymous said...

Tim. Thank you for your entries. I will confess that you did not misread my initial entry so much as I wrote it poorly. A major faux pas for an attorney. I further confess that at the time I issued my initial entry that I was angry. I had just reviewed the latest statement of account for the few dollars I have saved for my boys' college education and saw the continued ravaging to that account. I had also just finished reading about the two Obama nominees for high appointed office who withdrew their nominations because they have not paid their taxes. I want to see our President succeed, and was pissed off at those hypocritical, political jackasses that keep us moving backwards--on both sides of the aisle. That, combined with the general state of the economy, the world and the pressures of business and life, put me in an Ebenezer Scrooge state of mind. I think that was the "testosterone" that my wife was referring to earlier. (OK guys, that door is wide open, but please don't go there.) Tim. Welcome home. All my respect.

Sir Constantine (I'm done too--until the next blog.)

Erika said...

..as "home" is my world as much as the rest of the world is, let's just call my testosterone comment a double entendre...

grim said...

All good comments!

I just wanted to mention that I find it pleasant that people can exchange opinions without considering the questioning of their beliefs to be a personal affront. I regularly question my beliefs: If they don't stand up to questions, why do I hold them to be true?

Sometimes I even change my mind due to new information, or a better understanding. I try to do it when no one is looking though...

So question my statements, show the reasoning behind an alternate viewpoint. Who knows, I may just embrace your point of view.