Not a “terror suspect”

Michael Melia of the Associated Press reports today that:

A U.S. military tribunal convening Monday at Guantanamo will hear challenges from attorneys for a Canadian terror suspect accused of killing an American soldier when he was 15 — an age they say should disqualify him from trial.

Lawyers for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, who is now 21, argue in a motion on the hearings’ agenda that the judge would be the first in Western history to preside over a trial for war crimes allegedly committed by a child. …

Khadr is accused of hurling the grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, a Special Forces commando, during a July 2002 firefight at an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan.

Set aside the whole question of Khadr’s age here. Just consider that he is, in the above reports and elsewhere, being referred to as a “terror suspect.” And just what act of “terrorism” is he accused of committing? He threw a grenade during a firefight.

This is not complicated. Throwing a grenade at an opposing soldier during a firefight is not “terrorism.” That’s war.

(Lying troll prophylactic: Spare me the feigned outrage of pretending that this simple tautology is somehow a celebration or defense of Khadr. Nor do you or could you possibly really believe that this self-evident statement is in any way disrespectful of Khadr’s victim, the late Sgt. Speer. He was a soldier and he died in battle. Pretending that he wasn’t and that he didn’t — pretending, as this tribunal is doing, that he was not a soldier at all, but merely a victim of violent crime — strikes me as immensely disrespectful.)

Khadr is accused of fighting against American soldiers in battle. That would make him the enemy. It would make him a Bad Guy. But it would not, by any stretch, make him a terrorist. That’s not what “terrorist” means, nor is it something that “terrorist” can be twisted into meaning. Omar Khadr is not a terror suspect. He is either a prisoner of war or else he falls into the dubious category of “unlawful enemy combatant,” but the tribunal is not accusing him of committing an act of terrorism so let’s stop calling him a “terror suspect.”

This distinction matters. A grenade in a marketplace is terrorism. A grenade in a firefight is combat. To assert that throwing a grenade during battle is criminal is to assert that all war is a war crime and every soldier is a criminal. I cannot see any way of eliminating that distinction for the enemy without also eliminating it for ourselves and for our allies. That is not something we want to do.

And yet we’re already beginning to do just that. This post — like every post that even hints at the existence of any such rules or distinctions or criteria — will inevitably produce the complaint that I am arguing that America must fight “with one hand tied behind our back.” That phrase — “I refuse to fight with one hand tied behind my back!” — is apparently taken from Page 1 of The Nihilist’s Rulebook. (Nihilists, of course, shouldn’t have a rulebook, but that’s another distinction they’re proud not to understand.)

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Unless you think that every single one of the prisoners is innocent of all terrorism and war-crimes related charges
    In hundreds of cases, that’s already been shown to be so: and legally, of course, given that the US government is unable to prove them guilty, yes, every single one of the prisoners must be presumed innocent since they can’t proved guilty.
    And we will never KNOW, beyond a reasonable doubt, who of them have actually done something wrong.
    *shrug*
    I don’t think that’s particularly important, is it?
    And you are assuming that Bush wants to put anyone on trial.
    As I said: Bush & co didn’t want to put anyone on trial once it became clear that a trial could not possibly end well for them. As I recall, they gave up making noises about a trial in 2003.
    If he doesn’t want to put anyone on trial, then he would continue holding them even if he had enough evidence against them.
    And he has done just that. But, at least in theory, after 20th January 2009, it won’t be Bush/Cheney’s call any more.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    I do think that the guards who committed torture ought to be tried for it. But I don’t think that’s as important as putting on trial the people who gave the orders for torture. I’d go with an anmesty commission for lower-ranking military and government employees: guaranteed freedom from prosecution if they tell all. I’d much sooner see Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld on trial for their war crimes than a hundred sergeants.

  • bulbul

    A civilian, in plain dress, who is not a member of any organized (even ad-hoc) militia, has no right to take hostile action against even an invading army. Said civilian would be guilty of the vaguely defined crime of “unlawful combat,” which in domestic terms would probably be “attempted murder.”
    IIRC (mostly from Soviet sources, so take this with a grain of salt), this was argued by Henri Donnedieu, the French primary at the Nuremberg trials. Donnedieu believe that the entire French resistance – whether organized or not – was nothing but a bunch of (in modern terms) “unlawful combatants”. Needless to say, the rest of the tribunal disagreed. Also needless to say, the term and the concept of “unlawful combatant” is an invention of the Bush II White House spin machine, not actually a recognized legal concept. Keep that in mind.
    This whole issue relates to the question of what role you ascribe to the government and the regular army. Those who believe – like you seem to – that only the regular army has the right to defend the country seem to me to hold a very medieval (read: pre-French revolution) view of the world: the state/the government equals the sovereign, the army is the sovereign’s toy and war is a game monarchs play. Let those more versed in the subject judge whether this is truly the spirit of the Geneva conventions. I believe that it is, at least to some extent. For example, as the passage quoted by Lauren above, the Third Geneva convention insist that its protections only apply to those who carry arms openly. And it doesn’t afford any protection to those in occupied territories resisting the occupation.
    I would expect this medieval notion of warfare sounds quite foreign, even perverted, to American ears, considering all manners of irregular fighters on the Colonists’ side in the American Revolution. Much to my surprise, it does sound perverted to me. “No right to take hostile action against even an invading army”? All my Hussite-tradition-based education in these matters (which I thought hadn’t left a single trace and it astonishes me to see it come out just now) says “Fuck that!”

  • bulbul

    I do think that the guards who committed torture ought to be tried for it. But I don’t think that’s as important as putting on trial the people who gave the orders for torture.
    Paging Jack McCoy…

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    bulbul: “No right to take hostile action against even an invading army”? All my Hussite-tradition-based education in these matters (which I thought hadn’t left a single trace and it astonishes me to see it come out just now) says “Fuck that!”
    It’s certainly a legal interpretation favored by those who expect their soldiers always to be the invading army, and expect they themselves will never fight against invading soldiers. Which is to say: chiefly Americans.

  • Rosina

    No right to take hostile action against even an invading army?
    I feel this also applies to the concept of ‘child soldiers’. I have no liking for those who conscript (read ‘kidnap’) children into their armies. But if Britain were invaded, I wouldn’t reject the idea of 14-18 year olds joining in the resistance – particularly since they are likely to be the ones with the most weapons.

  • bulbul

    Jesu,
    absolutely. I’m wondering what the adherents of that interpretation would think of the heroes of “Red Dawn” :)
    Rosina,
    precisely. This also relates to that “medieval mindset” theory of mine. What are you defending? If it’s just our liege’s property, well then screw him and his lands, let’s go hide in woods until the boys in the fancy uniforms fight it out. But if your country is truly ours to keep, then it’s truly ours to defend. And that includes everybody.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Bulbul:
    absolutely. I’m wondering what the adherents of that interpretation would think of the heroes of “Red Dawn” :)

    Heh. Never heard of that film before. Yep: young unlawful combatants who ought to be prosecuted, because their fighting back makes things more dangerous for everyone else!
    It’s quite literally a Vichy argument – Raka’s claim that when “when civilians out-of-uniform fight soldiers, it increases the danger for all civilians” – that soldiers invading a country would otherwise take care not to kill civilians out-of-uniform. The notion that it’s the fault of the native inhabitants who fight back that the invading army kills the natives is… well, it’s extremely convenient for the invading army and their supporters back home.
    Rosina: But if Britain were invaded, I wouldn’t reject the idea of 14-18 year olds joining in the resistance – particularly since they are likely to be the ones with the most weapons.
    And if Britain were invaded, the notion that the invaders would just not harm Brits under the age of 18 is… ludicrous.

  • bulbul

    Jesu,
    Never heard of that film before.
    OMG, really? Then you must IMMEDIATELY not watch the movie and instead, try this 5-part masterpiece takedown of “Red Dawn” by scott of World O’ Crap.

  • Lauren

    Jesu: In hundreds of cases, that’s already been shown to be so: and legally, of course, given that the US government is unable to prove them guilty, yes, every single one of the prisoners must be presumed innocent since they can’t proved guilty.

    Come on, you really think that out of all the prisoners in Guantanamo, plus all the prisoners in the CIA black sites, plus all the ones that have been picked up in Iraq, not a single one of them ever conspired to plant a bomb in a marketplace? Statistically speaking, that’s nearly impossible. Even the Bush administration is not perfectly incompetant. Even if it were true, you couldn’t prove it. So don’t say you KNOW they are innocent. You don’t know, I don’t know, nobody will EVER know.
    Legally, we have to presume they are innocent, but assuming is different than knowing.
    I don’t think that’s particularly important, is it?
    Most people are less blase about releasing violent criminals.
    As I said: Bush & co didn’t want to put anyone on trial once it became clear that a trial could not possibly end well for them. As I recall, they gave up making noises about a trial in 2003.
    Lack of evidence is not the only possible reason the administration could have for not putting anyone on trial. Off the top of my head:
    They don’t want the prisoners to reveal how they’ve been treated.
    They don’t want the prisoners to reveal who else they might have seen in captivity.
    They don’t want to reveal classified material.
    They don’t want the prisoners to be able to pass coded messages to enemy forces still at large.
    They are waiting for a more favorable political climate
    They just like torturing people.

  • bulbul

    Lauren,
    Statistically speaking, that’s nearly impossible.
    If I were statistics, I would demand an apology right now. You do realize you’re saying “But since they’re in prison, they MUST HAVE done something wrong!”, don’t you? Pardon me while I puke.
    Even if it were true, you couldn’t prove it.
    Of course not. You can’t prove a negative, that’s why our legal systems are based on the presumption of innocence. Get familiar with the concept.
    So don’t say you KNOW they are innocent.
    Notice how Jesu didn’t say she knew. She said, and I quote here, “yes, every single one of the prisoners must be presumed innocent since they can’t proved guilty” (emphasis mine).
    Most people are less blase about releasing violent criminals.
    Violent criminals? Just a second ago you were saying that at least some of those illegally imprisoned people who have never been convicted of the crimes their being held for must be guilty of something and now it’s ALL of them?
    Even the Bush administration is not perfectly incompetant.
    After these past 8 years, I’m no longer sure.
    And it’s “incompetent”, by the way.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Lauren: Come on, you really think that out of all the prisoners in Guantanamo, plus all the prisoners in the CIA black sites, plus all the ones that have been picked up in Iraq, not a single one of them ever conspired to plant a bomb in a marketplace? Statistically speaking, that’s nearly impossible.
    If you mean: Pick up any several hundred men at random from the population of the Arabic-speaking world, and “statistically speaking” it’s nearly impossible that none of them ever “conspired to plant a bomb in a marketplace”, on what are you basing this estimate?
    And what difference should it make? You do understand the legal principle of “Presumed innocent until proven guilty”? Some of these men may in fact be guilty of crimes for which they could once have been convicted, had the US troubled itself to follow the correct legal procedure in any case. I can’t see how after five to seven years of extra-judicial imprisonment and torture of suspects, any of them could now be found guilty in a court of law. (Well, I can: the US government could present evidence obtained by torture without admitting to it, or just make stuff up. But proceeding against them according to the basic standard of justice would be impossible.
    So don’t say you KNOW they are innocent. You don’t know, I don’t know, nobody will EVER know.
    As bulbul said: what I ACTUALLY said was that they must be PRESUMED innocent – because they can’t be proven guilty. But, in multiple cases too many to list here, we do in fact KNOW that they are innocent – because even the US military tribunals, kangaroo courts intended to provided justification for continuing to imprison them, had to admit that there was NO EVIDENCE AGAINST THEM. In one notable instance, a British kid who had been accused of attending an al-Qaida training camp, his employers back in Tipton were able to show video evidence that at the time he was supposed to have been learning how to, I dunno, conspire against the US government, he was working in a bloody shop, for crying out loud. Other poor sods who had also been accused of attending an al-Qaeda training camp who did not live in countries where there are so many routine cameras all over the place as the UK were not able to show such conclusive evidence, but the US was unable to show any evidence the other way either.
    Most people are less blase about releasing violent criminals.
    Being kidnapped by the US government and called a terrorist and extra-judicially imprisoned for several years and tortured will not automatically make someone into a violent criminal, you know. Even if it did: that’s just too bad. You can’t keep someone locked up forever on the grounds that your initially locking up may have made them into a violent person who may commit crimes. (It can’t make them a “criminal” because “criminal” is applied to someone who has committed a crime, not to someone against whom a crime has been committed. I think you may be muddling the two.)
    # They don’t want the prisoners to reveal how they’ve been treated.
    Well, duh. So what?
    # They don’t want the prisoners to reveal who else they might have seen in captivity.
    Well, duh. So what?
    # They don’t want to reveal classified material.
    All governments have a habit of classifying material in order not to be publicly embarrassed by it at trial: the Bush administration is worse than most, it appears.
    # They don’t want the prisoners to be able to pass coded messages to enemy forces still at large.
    *giggles* That’s about the stupidest excuse anyone’s come up with, but I’m aware it’s not original to you. But it is stupid. It could apply only in instances where the al-Qaeda member had any important information to pass on. That could be true within three months of arrest, maybe – but after a year? No way.
    # They are waiting for a more favorable political climate
    Possibly: if so, we should all be scared. The “favorable political climate” in which the Bush administration could obtain a conviction despite having no evidence except that obtained by torture, would be that which was available in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. In fact (have you read The Gulag Archipelago?) the Bush administration’s desired system of “justice” really bears a strong resemblance to that of the Stalinist Soviets.
    # They just like torturing people.
    Same deal as above. Governments like torturing people when the objective is to put people in fear and subjection.

  • Majromax

    It’s certainly a legal interpretation favored by those who expect their soldiers always to be the invading army, and expect they themselves will never fight against invading soldiers. Which is to say: chiefly Americans.
    Now that’s unfair. I was talking about “lawful” versus “unlawful” combatant, and I deliberately avoided moral judgment. In my own, moral opinion, civilians certainly have a moral right to resist an occupying power. That resistance just may not be “legal,” under the Geneva Conventions. [I'm also ignoring whether it -is- legal or not. As pointed out, it's a nuanced case and not a slam-dunk one way or the other.]
    This is not a contradiction. Spies and saboteurs, vital tools of warfare, are equally not “lawful combatants.” When caught, they’re charged with espionage and sabotage — bona fide crimes. Unlike PoWs, they’re not simply held and released at the end of hostilities.
    Similarly, I can easily see an argument that civilians can resist in “unlawful” ways. They can hide amongst non-resisting targets, and they can try to deliberately blend in with innocents.
    In my view, the Geneva Conventions say that soldiers who “act like an army,” whether sanctioned and supplied by a government or not, are lawful combatants. Soldiers that “act like innocent civilians” are not lawful combatants. It’s quite likely that most (if not all) of those in the oubliette are lawful combatants by my suggested definition. [1]
    Again, let me reiterate: “unlawful combatant” does not always mean “wrong.”
    Regardless, this ignores my broader points. Even if everyone in the oubliette was truly an unlawful combatant, US and International law requires that they be charged with a crime, given a prompt and fair trial, and given consular access by their respective governments. None of this has happened, and the US is thus guilty of a far larger breach of democracy and due process.
    [1] — if nothing else, it seems somewhat farcical that unlawful combatants can “hold territory” and “have strongholds,” like the NATO says the Taliban and/or Al Quaeda in Afghanistan do.

  • Majromax

    It’s quite likely that most (if not all) of those in the oubliette are lawful combatants by my suggested definition. [1]
    Addendum: most of those in the oubliette that were actual combatants. Jesu and others have made the excellent point that a good fraction are outright innocent of being a combatant of any sort.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Majromax: Now that’s unfair
    And then you repeat the argument that, when the Germans invaded Belgium, it was unlawful for the Belgians to resist, and legitimate for the Germans to kill Belgians whose “crime” was sheltering the Belgian resistance, and unlawful for Belgians who intended to resist the Germans, and were in fact doing so whenever they could, to spend time wearing civilian clothing and walking the streets as if they were “innocent”.
    What exactly is “unfair” about pointing out that this is an attitude that only people who expect their soldiers to be the invaders, and expect never to be invaded themselves, would naturally take?

  • Majromax

    And then you repeat the argument that, when the Germans invaded Belgium, it was unlawful for the Belgians to resist, and legitimate for the Germans to kill Belgians whose “crime” was sheltering the Belgian resistance, and unlawful for Belgians who intended to resist the Germans, and were in fact doing so whenever they could, to spend time wearing civilian clothing and walking the streets as if they were “innocent”.
    It possibly was unlawful. It was also the right thing to do, and I applaud those that resisted. [1]
    Unlawful really just means “in violation of the rules of war.” Violating the rules of war, in the abstract, carries about as much moral weight as violating Robert’s Rules of Order in a Student Government meeting.
    Don’t make the mistake of confusing legality with morality. Laws are a guide, but sometimes they’re tangential to or indeed in opposition of the moral good. I believe that there was a “Batman” discussion above that pointed this out nicely.
    If, $DEITY of choice forbid, I were in a similar situation, I hope that I would have the courage to break whatever rule or law I had to in order to do the right thing.
    [1] — To be pedantic, the Germans weren’t exactly big on following the rules of war themselves. One could argue that since they already threw out the rulebook, the resistors didn’t have any rules of war left to break themselves.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Unlawful really just means “in violation of the rules of war.”
    Like aggressively attacking a country that is no threat to you but is of strategic value? Germans invade Belgium. US invades Iraq.
    Don’t make the mistake of confusing legality with morality.
    I don’t. If you are attacked by a criminal, you are both legally and morally entitled to defend yourself. The US attacked Afghanistan and then attacked Iraq. In neither instance could the US make a claim to be defending itself – neither Afghanistan nor Iraq had attacked the US, nor did they represent any threat to the US. Afghans and Iraqis were defending themselves against a criminal attack, just as Belgians who fought the invading Germans were…

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    If you are attacked by a criminal – “if you are the victim of a criminal attack” would have been a better way to phrase it. Either way: the US soldiers were on the wrong side of the laws of war: the Iraqis and Afghans, in uniform or not, were on the right side.

  • bulbul

    Majromax,
    That resistance just may not be “legal,” under the Geneva Conventions. [I'm also ignoring whether it -is- legal or not. As pointed out, it's a nuanced case and not a slam-dunk one way or the other.]
    I agree with your general point, but there is this one thing where you misrepresented both the language and the intent of the Geneva Conventions. Your exact words included the phrase “no right to take hostile action” and that’s just not in there. The Geneva Conventions in general and the Third in particular don’t speak of rights, but of obligations the Contracting Parties (or rather their armies) have to each other, especially when it comes to the treatment of prisoners of war (Third) and civilians (Fourth). Nothing in there covers what general population can or cannot do.

  • inge

    Jesurgislac: Unless the Bush administration plans to terminate its record-keeping by killing all their prisoners and all their guards, there will remain witnesses who can testify.
    Even if they plan to do so, they won’t be able to pull it off. More competent villains have tried and failed.
    Not much of a consolation, that.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    inge: Even if they plan to do so, they won’t be able to pull it off. More competent villains have tried and failed.
    I get the feeling that wouldn’t stop them. But I think it’s more likely that they’re just supremely confident that no one in the US with the authority to do it will support bringing them to trial for their crimes. So they won’t bother. And the sad thing is, absent a real and highly unlikely change in the US government, they’re probably right.

  • bulbul

    Again, let me reiterate: “unlawful combatant” does not always mean “wrong.”
    Again, let me reiterate: there is no such thing as an “unlawful combatant”. Either a person holding a gun is a member of the fighting forces and is covered by the Third Geneva Convention, OR they are a civilian and are therefore covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
    That’s it. Period.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    There was an exchange of dialogue between some Viet Cong general and a US general, that I can’t quite remember and am not going to take the time to look up. The US general boasted that in any pitched battle, the US forces had always won: the Viet Cong general noted that this didn’t matter: the Viet Cong had won the war.
    The whole “unlawful combatant” notion the US have dreamed up derives from that, I think: “Wait, wait! We’re better armed than you and we have better technology and if we can find you and identify you as a soldier we can kill you, no matter where you are! Wait, where are you? Who are you? Why won’t you let us find you! How dare you not behave according to the rules that would let us win! Wait – if you’re not following rules that would let us win, that means you’re breaking the rules, which means we don’t have to obey either. Hey, hey! that means we can kill you en masse and you can’t complain because you’re dead if you’re not lining up in a row to let us kill you we can bomb the villages we guess you live in and say the people who weren’t trying to fight us were ‘collateral damage’ and the people who were trying to fight us were ‘unlawful combatants’ – and we never ha”ve to figure out which was which.”
    It’s an excuse to kill civilians, that’s all.

  • Lauren

    If I were statistics, I would demand an apology right now. You do realize you’re saying “But since they’re in prison, they MUST HAVE done something wrong!”, don’t you? Pardon me while I puke. -bulbul
    Given a large enough sample of prisoners, and assuming that not all cops are crooked, some of the prisoners will be guilty. Not all, some. If your sample size is one prisoner and one cop, then you can’t make any reliable predictions based on statistics.
    You do realize you’re saying “But since they work for the CIA, they MUST BE dishonest scumbags!”, don’t you? Excuse me while I puke.
    Notice how Jesu didn’t say she knew. She said, and I quote here, “yes, every single one of the prisoners must be presumed innocent since they can’t proved guilty” (emphasis mine).
    Yes she did, back at 12:03 PM, where I argued that it was unknowable whether any of the prisoners were terrorists, and Jesurgislac argued that the truth would come out in due time.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Given a large enough sample of prisoners, and assuming that not all cops are crooked
    Big assumption to make, in this instance.
    You do realize you’re saying “But since they work for the CIA, they MUST BE dishonest scumbags!”, don’t you?
    You do realize you’re making more than a bit of a fool of yourself?
    There are three categories of prisoner in Guantanamo Bay.
    1. There are the prisoners who were taken “on the battlefield”. Those are unquestionably prisoners of war. To treat them as other than PoWs is itself a criminal act. Some of those prisoners may, by pretty much random chance, also be people who may have committed crimes. This is not relevant to their position as PoWs held by the US: it’s relevant to the country in which they are accused of committing a crime, if that country has evidence sufficient to bring them to trial. There’s a bunch of stuff in the Geneva Conventions dealing with this exact situation. This makes the Bush administration dishonest scumbags, to conflate being a PoW with being a criminal. It makes you confused, too.
    2. There are the prisoners who were kidnapped by Afghans or Pakistani, and sold to the US for a bounty. Only by random chance will any of them actually be guilty of anything: it’s not why they were taken prisoner. This is not relevant to their position as kidnap victims held by the US: it’s relevant to the country in which they are accused of committing a crime, if that country has evidence sufficient to bring them to trial. There’s a bunch of stuff in the Geneva Conventions dealing with this exact situation. This makes the Bush administration dishonest scumbags, to conflate being a PoW with being a criminal. It makes you confused, too.
    3. There are the prisoners who were kidnapped by the CIA from countries such as Bosnia or Ghana. These prisoners are not guilty of any crime: we know this because if there was evidence sufficient to get an extradition order, that’s how the US would have done it. There wasn’t, so they went the kidnapping route instead. Doing this makes the CIA dishonest scumbags, and if that makes you puke, hey, too bad: the bathroom is that way, don’t get it on the carpet, I’ll get you a glass of water to clean your mouth out afterwards.
    There are no other categories of prisoner in Guantanamo Bay.
    where I argued that it was unknowable whether any of the prisoners were terrorists, and Jesurgislac argued that the truth would come out in due time.
    Yes, I think it will, ultimately; the Bush administration may try to destroy all the records, but in the information age that isn’t as easy as they may think, and unless they also plan to destroy all the prisoners, there will still be those witnesses. Even if – gosh, how sad! there’s a sudden Ebola epidemic in Guantanamo Bay that kills off everyone there, the Bush administration was compelled by its allies to release some of the kidnap victims back to their home countries: those witnesses the Bush administration will have extreme difficulty getting to.
    It will be difficult, as it is still difficult to find information about prisoners sent to other extra-judicial detention camps where the authorities got cold feet when they realized their past misdeeds could catch up on them. But we do know a surprising amount about prisoners gone to gulags or to concentration camps or to death camps, even before mass records could be duplicated in minutes: I think we will know more, this time.

  • Chris

    I read that summary of “Red Dawn”, since I kept seeing it referenced on Sadly, No and wondered what it was all about.
    It sounds like a propaganda piece of the “first” water (anyone here read Karin Boye’s “Kallocain”? There was a chapter where the propaganda bureau has a seminar and someone points out how the best recruitment films have the protagonists dying as martyrs at the end, to prompt the viewer to action). I can see why it would have thrilled a lot of young teenagers, even ones who didn’t have any knowledge of or personal support for the political agenda (which is of course what makes it insidious as propaganda). Basically, it sounds like “Invasion USA” (the one that was on MST3K, not the one with Chuck Norris) for the 1980s.
    Still, I’d rather like to see it, if only for the scene where the dirty filthy commie actually prises the gun from someone’s cold dead hands. Oh, and the fact that it’s set in South Park. How come there are so few jokes addressing this?

  • Majromax

    Your exact words included the phrase “no right to take hostile action” and that’s just not in there. The Geneva Conventions in general and the Third in particular don’t speak of rights, but of obligations the Contracting Parties (or rather their armies) have to each other, especially when it comes to the treatment of prisoners of war (Third) and civilians (Fourth). Nothing in there covers what general population can or cannot do.
    You’re right. I shouldn’t have spoken of “rights.”
    Either a person holding a gun is a member of the fighting forces and is covered by the Third Geneva Convention, OR they are a civilian and are therefore covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
    I’ve been fooled by the “unlawful combatant” vernacular. Maybe I should have said “person eligible for Prisoner of War treatment.” (But PEPoWT is a lousy ackronym.)
    By my understanding of the Geneva Conventions, there are essentially three categories: [using typical examples of each. The boundaries are not easy to delineate.]

    Throw a grenade at a convoy during a battle: Prisoner of War treatment if caught. After the war ends, the soldier should be returned home with all deliberate speed. (Third Geneva Convention)
    Throw a grenade at a convoy from a school bus filled with children: non-PoW status. If caught, the soldier could be charged with a crime. This is the “unlawful combatant” by my earlier vernacular, although as bulbul pointed out that may not be accurate. (Fourth Geneva Convention applied to a “lawbreaker” in the occupying power’s eyes. Morality aside.)
    Don’t throw a grenade at all: civilian who shouldn’t be captured in the first place. This person should be released with all speed if captured by mistake. (Fourth Geneva Convention)

    People in category #3 shouldn’t be in the Guantanamo oubliette. People in category #1 should not be there either [it's a general prison on account of non-PoWs being incarcerated there.]
    People in category #2 probably shouldn’t be there either, because it’s absurdly far away from either Afghanistan or Iraq. Granting for the sake of argument that “it’s necessary for security reasons” (which I do not believe), people in category #2 should still be promptly charged with a crime and given full due process of law.
    Would you agree that this is a reasonable view of the Geneva Conventions, bulbul?

  • Tonio

    I’ve never seen Red Dawn. Was the movie really all that influential among future conservatives?

  • Lauren

    Given a large enough sample of prisoners, and assuming that not all cops are crooked
    Big assumption to make, in this instance.

    I guess I have a more optimistic opinion of human nature than you do. If you’re right, we are all doomed.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    I guess I have a more optimistic opinion of human nature than you do.
    You need to read about the Milgram experiments.
    The CIA were ordered to be crooked cops: so was the US military. People will do worse things than that just because they’ve been ordered to do it by an authority they trust.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    One of the kidnap victims in Guantanamo Bay writes:

    As for our news, we remain here for more than six years, and we still seek to proclaim truth, freedom and world peace. All of this takes place in a world which knows what is happening but remains silent and does little more than watch this sorry theater.
    By now, surely everyone knows the truth. The U.S. was the country that prided itself by bringing peace; now, sadly, instead it rains down violence and discord. Guantanamo is the most obvious example of this. We prisoners entered Guantanamo alive, many have left it alive, and some of us remain in it, seemingly alive ourselves. However, those who remain die every second of every day that we are here. All of this happens and the world remains silent.

    “A few days ago,” Meg Laughlin, Times Staff Writer writes, “I clicked on a computer photo of an “enemy combatant” at the detention center at Guantanamo, and I was shocked. It was someone I knew, a journalist named Sami al-Haj. – I’d met Sami at the Marriott in Islamabad in early December 2001. Like most of us there, he was a journalist going in and out of Afghanistan to cover the U.S. invasion after 9/11. – A tall African man in a white shalwar kameez the traditional billowy knee-length shirt and pants of Afghanistan, he stood out as he floated across the beige marble lobby of the hotel. His U.S. pals would see him coming, and yell, “It’s the al-Qaida reporter!” – At the time, everyone, including him, laughed at the silliness of the comment. But it ceased to be funny when he fell off the planet.”
    Somehow, it does cease to be funny: especially when you read nice kind Americans like Lauren arguing quite seriously that being held in Guantanamo means that you’re a violent criminal/terrorist, and that it “makes her puke” to have the CIA called “dishonest”.
    “By now, surely, everybody knows the truth” wrote Sami al-Haj, now on hunger strike. Lauren claims to have “a more optimistic opinion of human nature” than I do: but I think Sami has her beat all to hell, and from a cage in Guantanamo Bay at that.
    Via CabDrollery, via Sideshow.

  • Tonio

    Jesu, thanks for the information. What was the stated reason for al-Haj being sent to Guantanamo, and what do you suspect is the true reason? So far I’ve come up with these likely true reasons – al-Haj’s stories were critical of the Bush Administration; he had information that was damaging to the Administration; some CIA bureaucrat mistakenly confused al-Haj with an actual terrorist; or the CIA deliberately chose to make an example of him to create fear among Administration opponents abroad. Which one is right, or do you have any other likely true reason?

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    What was the stated reason for al-Haj being sent to Guantanamo
    Oh, you’ll like this, Tonio.
    The original charges against him were:
    1. He lost his passport years earlier and therefore had “inconsistencies in his travel documents”.
    2. He traveled extensively through the Middle East, Balkans and USSR.
    3. He was peddling Stinger missiles between Afghanistan and Chechnya.
    On those charges, he was kept in Bagram Airbase incommunicado between December 2001 and June 2002. “At first, he was held in freezing temperatures in a cage in a dark airplane hangar. Dogs attacked him, and he was fed tiny portions of frozen food. Then, in Kandahar, U.S. soldiers threatened him with sodomy, forced him to kneel on concrete floors for hours and plucked out every hair in his beard, one by one.” When in June 2002 he was sent to Guantanamo Bay, he was held there until 2005 on those charges, and then they were dropped.
    As of November 2007, he is charged with:
    1. Working for al-Jazeera, learning to operate a video camera.
    2. Assisting with three shipments of humanitarian goods to Baku, Azerbaijan, between 1996 and 1999.
    3. Numerous trips to Azerbaijan between 1996 and 1999 to deliver over $100,000 to the charity al-Haramayn. (A former head of the charity al-Haramayn had connections with al-Qaida, but the charity was considered legal by the US until May 6, 2004.)
    There are unsubstantiated reports that the US intends to release him soon.
    and what do you suspect is the true reason
    He was arrested because he had a funny name and worked for a nasty Arabic news source and had a passport against which questions could be raised. Then some other poor bastard under torture claimed that someone else called “Sami al-Haj” or something that sounded like that to American ears was selling Stinger missiles from Chechnya to Afghanistan. Then no one could bring themselves to admit there’d been a horrible mistake, because when the President and Vice President say that the only people in Bagram Airbase/Guantanamo Bay are “the worst of the worst” no one wants to give them the lie by saying “Hey, actually…” so you keep them in prison on the grounds Lauren explained: “Come on, you really think that out of all the prisoners in Guantanamo, plus all the prisoners in the CIA black sites, plus all the ones that have been picked up in Iraq, not a single one of them ever conspired to plant a bomb in a marketplace?” Statistically speaking, it’s nearly impossible that Sami al-Haj could be an innocent victim, so he stays in prison.

  • Lauren

    Still trying to figure out why you think praising a category means revering all its components, but criticising a component means condemning a category, Jesu. Let’s look at some examples:
    1.
    Dogs are good, but some dogs are vicious and dangerous. (A)
    This dog is vicious and dangerous, but most dogs are good. (B)
    2.
    Poor people are primarily the victims of circumstance, but some of them are suffering from the consequences of their own actions. (A)
    My friend, Pedro, never has any money because he is lazy and irresponsible, but most of the people in his building are hard workers who are doing everything they can to get ahead. (B)
    3.
    Many CIA agents are decent and well-intentioned patriots who honestly want to eliminate AQ and protect Americans from terrorist attacks, but their sadistic bosses are using the cover of patriotism and fear to undermine the rule of law. (A)
    Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri may have masterminded the attack on the USS Cole, but most of his fellow prisoners at Guantanamo are innocent of any terrorist activity. (B)
    4.
    All suspects are presummed innocent, but some of them are guilty. (A)
    I think G. W. Bush is guilty of war crimes and violating the Constitution, but I believe many of the people in his administration support the rule of law. (B)
    Do you see how in the statements labelled (A) I was able to praise a catergory while maintaining the possibility that members of the category could be criticised, but in the statements labelled (B) I was able to criticise an individual without condemning all members of their class?
    It’s called nuance.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Lauren, your defense of the CIA and the US military for only following orders when they kidnapped innocent men and had them tortured and imprisoned is noted. You may be called to testify that in your view “only following orders” is a good and sufficient defense against criminal acts. Plan your testimony carefully.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Lauren: “Given a large enough sample of prisoners, and assuming that not all cops are crooked, some of the prisoners will be guilty.”
    Makes me want to puke.

  • Tonio

    He was arrested because he had a funny name and worked for a nasty Arabic news source and had a passport against which questions could be raised…
    So you’re suggesting that the original cause was mostly or entirely anti-Arab prejudice? That was probably a factor, but in light of the information you presented, I suspect the chief motive was to spread fear and stifle dissent among foreign opponents of the Administration.
    The rest of your theory is almost certainly accurate.

  • Lauren

    Does “some” mean something different in British English? In American English, it means “a few,” “several,” “not all,” or “a small number.” In some contexts “many” is an antonym, but “all” is always an antonym.
    Take for example, the statement, “Some rectangles are squares.” From this statement, we can infer that “Not all rectangles are squares” is true, but “All rectangles are squares” is false.

  • hapax

    Jesurgislac: your defense of the CIA and the US military for only following orders when they kidnapped innocent men and had them tortured and imprisoned is noted.
    Umm.
    I really that’s a stretch, Jesu.
    Individual CIA agents and members of the military surely did those horrible things. They almost certainly did them under orders from senior officials. Those senior officials were very likely acting under the directions (explicit or implied) of particular members of the Bush/Cheney administration.
    All of those individuals are to be condemned, and should be arrested, tried, and convicted of ghastly breaches of U.S. and international law, for which any defense of “I was only following orders / fighting terra” should be considered inadmissable, inhumane, and inconceivable.
    BUT…
    I didn’t see anything in Lauren’s posts that would contradict any of the above. And I do see — not in so many words, but in implication, in tone — an assumption that ANY of the millions of individuals who are any way associated with the U.S. military, intelligence agencies, and government are irrevocably stained and condemned by the actions of the few (note I did not say “rogue”, I did not say “bad apples”), unless they have personally presented you with their “good person credentials” by protesting and publicly working against those actions in a way that suits your notion of how enormous complex institutions with labyrinthine structures and myriad competing goals should be changed.
    Perhaps I am mischaracterizing you. Perhaps I am misunderstanding Lauren.
    But somehow I do not find the repeated announcements of impending nausea to be particularly convincing arguments.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Tonio: So you’re suggesting that the original cause was mostly or entirely anti-Arab prejudice?
    Given the description of how he was arrested, I think the “original case” was “Here’s an al-Jazeerah reporter with something on his passport we can use to harass him about”. But possibly whichever poor bastard confessed about the Stinger missiles and implicated the next Sami al-Haj the US military could get hold of, came first. Hard to say. Or maybe someone sitting in a cosy office noticed that they didn’t really have enough to justify Sami al-Haj being held in Bagram Airbase and just wrote in something about Stinger missiles on the basis that it was a “statistical certainty” that he’d done something wrong and that would do.
    Lauren, I now have no idea what argument you’re trying to have. It’s Thursday, so I suppose I don’t have to. Flame away.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Ah, Hapax comes, shedding clarity and light.
    And I do see — not in so many words, but in implication, in tone — an assumption that ANY of the millions of individuals who are any way associated with the U.S. military, intelligence agencies, and government are irrevocably stained and condemned by the actions of the few
    Do you? Where do you see this assumption?

  • Tonio

    Given the description of how he was arrested, I think the “original case” was “Here’s an al-Jazeerah reporter with something on his passport we can use to harass him about”.
    You may be right, but I was asking why they felt motivated to harass him in the first place. Again, probably to stifle dissent.

  • cjmr’s husband

    …pizza oven almost warmed up…

  • hapax

    Ah, Hapax comes, shedding clarity and light.

    Why, thank you! /smile/
    Where do you see this assumption?
    Well, in the bit I quoted above, which certainly seemed like an over-reaction to Lauren’s post to me. And I grant that you certainly did begin by criticizing the appropriate villains, viz. “The Bush Administration” and “higher ups who gave the orders” and the like. But over days of heated conversation, this seemed to elide into “The US” in general, then to all USians as co-conspirators, via comments like:
    no one in the US with the authority to do it will support bringing them to trial for their crimes. So they won’t bother. And the sad thing is, absent a real and highly unlikely change in the US government, they’re probably right.
    and that all members (not just individuals) in the CIA and US military are guilty of following illegal orders, via comments like:
    The CIA were ordered to be crooked cops: so was the US military. People will do worse things than that just because they’ve been ordered to do it by an authority they trust.
    alluding to the highly questionable Milgram experiments, and not noting the quite substantial percentage of people who in fact refuse to follow such immoral orders.
    Now, as I stated above, it’s perfectly possible I’m misunderstanding you. Perhaps you are applying a certain shorthand in your references that I’m blind to.
    I would be delighted to have you state that this is the case. Because, if so, you and Lauren have (as near as I can tell, Lauren may feel differently) no disagreement at all, and we can have our regular Thursday flamewar over pizza, instead.

  • Lauren

    Of course, only after I post do I realize that while I have been assuming it was the “Some of the prisoners will be guilty” part of the statement that Jesu had problems with, it is equally possible that it’s the “assuming that not all cops are crooked” part that is the problem. If Jesurgislac is nauseated by the thought of an honest cop, then there’s not much for me to do about it but shrug my shoulders and say, “I know honest cops, and I believe in honest cops, and I have faith that eventually the honest cops will prevail.”
    But I don’t expect my testimony will persuade.

  • Ursula L

    And I do see — not in so many words, but in implication, in tone — an assumption that ANY of the millions of individuals who are any way associated with the U.S. military, intelligence agencies, and government are irrevocably stained and condemned by the actions of the few
    Well, shouldn’t they be?
    If you voluntarily associate yourself with an organization, it is reasonable to be considered in the light of what that organization is doing.
    And the US military is an organization which prizes having people commit violence, in obedience to orders, and without those people having personal knowledge of information that assures that the orders are appropriate, moral and legal.
    The problem starts with the commitments made when entering the military – you are asked to promise to obey orders, with the understanding that you must obey immediately, even if you do not know that the order is moral or legal. In making such a commitment, you’re condemning yourself to be judged as morally inept.
    Many people in the military are in positions where they don’t happen to be confronted with the actual carrying out of atrocities. But all of them have agreed to the rules which demand that the people doing these things do them, and which condemn those who refuse to act violently absent solid personal information that it is moral, appropriate, legal and necessary.
    The very concept of doing something because you are “following orders” is morally questionable – when asked why something is done, a specific answer should be available. If the only reason to do something is “orders”, then it shouldn’t be done. The military (pretty much every military, not just the US) takes the most morally questionable human action – violence against other humans – and specifically creates a culture and expectation that a person will do this action without adequite information to determine if the action is right. So someone in the military must be treated with skepticism, when it comes to their ability to act in a morally responsable manner.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Hapax: But over days of heated conversation, this seemed to elide into “The US” in general, then to all USians as co-conspirators
    I think you missed an important caveat: I said “no one in the US with the authority to do it will support bringing them to trial for their crimes”. That’s a very different matter from saying “all USians are co-conspirators”, now isn’t it? Right now, Donald Rumsfeld is a private citizen: he’s wanted for trial in Germany: he could be sent there, if anyone in the US with the authority to do it would agree to have him extradicted.
    Right now, Bush and Cheney could be impeached for their crimes. Who in the US with the authority to do it is in fact supporting their impeachment?
    Recently, Michael Mukasey declined to say that waterboarding was torture. He was then up for the post of Attorney General. Who in the US with the authority to do it decided they weren’t going to appoint as Attorney General a man who was unclear about whether or not waterboarding is torture?
    Out of McCain, Obama, and Clinton – one of whom, it seems likely, will be the next President – do you honestly hand-on-heart think any of them will have Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld investigated, indicted, and tried for the multiple crimes committed around Guantanamo Bay?
    Lauren said emphatically that the idea that all the CIA and US military involved with kidnapping and otherwise rendering “suspects” to Guantanamo Bay were “crooked” made her puke. I don’t actually care about the state of Lauren’s digestive system. The notion that you can be involved in the extra-judicial arrest and rendition of prisoners to concentration camps in an honest, patriotic way… that just seems bizarre to me.
    Yeah, there were doubtless grunts who were peripherally involved who really didn’t know. There were low-level soldiers assigned to Guantanamo Bay who worked their stint as guards and did their job and didn’t see any way to protest it and tried not to be involved in any of the more criminal brutality, and I find it hard to blame those people all that much.
    But what Lauren seems to be saying is that it matters enormously to her that the CIA agents and US military involved in the rendition of prisoners to Guantanamo Bay must, some of them, have been involved honestly, must really have thought that their prisoners were nasty evil terrorists, must have had good reason to think this – must have had some prisoners who were genuinely guilty and who were really truly deserving of being sent there. This matters to her more, it appears, than the many innocent men who didn’t deserve it.
    And the answer is, what I consistently (above) said: No. Bagram Airbase and Guantanamo Bay and the various CIA “black prisons” round the world are a crooked process; they’re fundamentally dishonest, illegal, criminal enterprises. Remember the first John Grisham novel, The Firm? The vast majority of the lawyers who went to work for that firm were decent, responsible, honest men who would never have become involved in organized crime… except that they got hired by a fundamentally dishonest, illegal, criminal enterprise. The only way to avoid becoming a criminal, faced with a situation like that, would in fact be to leave the Firm. Lauren’s ideal of honest work in a criminal enterprise is just, plain wrong.

  • hapax

    The problem starts with the commitments made when entering the military – you are asked to promise to obey orders, with the understanding that you must obey immediately, even if you do not know that the order is moral or legal. In making such a commitment, you’re condemning yourself to be judged as morally inept.
    Ursula, have you ever received US military training? Do you know anyone who has?
    If so, you know that this is lying BS. EVERY member of the US military receives extensive instruction and training on their responsibility, duty, and correct procedure to disobey and report illegal orders.
    Now, there may be to some degree military culture that works against this explicit instruction. But I assure you, it is not universal, and is at least officialy discouraged.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    B-b-bold b-b-begone! But what Lauren seems to be saying is that it matters enormously to her that the CIA agents and US military involved in the rendition of prisoners to Guantanamo Bay must, some of them, have been involved honestly, must really have thought that their prisoners were nasty evil terrorists, must have had good reason to think this – must have had some prisoners who were genuinely guilty and who were really truly deserving of being sent there. This matters to her more, it appears, than the many innocent men who didn’t deserve what happened to them.
    And the answer is, what I consistently (above) said: No. Bagram Airbase and Guantanamo Bay and the various CIA “black prisons” round the world are a crooked process; they’re fundamentally dishonest, illegal, criminal enterprises. Remember the first John Grisham novel, The Firm? The vast majority of the lawyers who went to work for that firm were decent, responsible, honest men who would never have become involved in organized crime… except that they got hired by a fundamentally dishonest, illegal, criminal enterprise. The only way to avoid becoming a criminal, faced with a situation like that, would in fact be to leave the Firm. Lauren’s ideal of honest work in a criminal enterprise is just, plain wrong.

  • hapax

    bold begone!


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