Monday, February 09, 2009

Obama administration backs state secrets defense of extraordinary rendition and torture

So much for change.

ABC News:

The Obama Administration today announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush Administration in the lawsuit Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.

The case involves five men who claim to have been victims of extraordinary rendition — including current Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, another plaintiff in jail in Egypt, one in jail in Morocco, and two now free. They sued a San Jose Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, accusing the flight-planning company of aiding the CIA in flying them to other countries and secret CIA camps where they were tortured.

New York Times:
During the campaign, Mr. Obama harshly criticized the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees, and he has broken with that administration on questions like whether to keep open the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But a government lawyer, Douglas N. Letter, made the same state-secrets argument on Monday, startling several judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Is there anything material that has happened” that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary M. Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.

“No, your honor,” Mr. Letter replied.

Judge Schroeder asked, “The change in administration has no bearing?”

Once more, he said, “No, Your Honor.” The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,” and “these are the authorized positions,” he said.

The Telegraph:

Mr Mohamed, 30, an Ethiopian, was granted refugee status in Britain in 1994. He was picked up in Pakistan in 2002 on suspicion of involvement in terrorism, rendered to Morocco and Afghanistan, tortured and then sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2004. All terror charges against him were dropped last year.

Two High Court judges last week said they wanted to release the full contents of a CIA file on his treatment but they held back seven paragraphs of information after David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, argued that it could compromise intelligence sharing with the US.

A British official, who is regularly briefed on intelligence operations, said: "The concern was that the document revealed that intelligence from the British agencies was used by the Americans and that there were British questions asked while Binyam Mohamed was being tortured.

"Miliband is being pushed hard by the intelligence agencies to protect the identity of those involved."

The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed's genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, "is very far down the list of things they did," the official said.

(Via the Volokh Conspiracy).

Glenn Greenwald writes of this that "Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability--resoundingly and disgracefully."

18 comments:

Wakefield Tolbert said...

Of course he backs such. Just as one supposes members of either party or most any ideology (besides some Dutch Stoner hippy dippy shit-for-brains groupie) would also. Just as I anticipate Obama, regardless of my disdain for his hot air and jabber on most issues and his egalitarian twaddle, would also seem to support:

A) Breathing

B) Eating

C) Sleeping.


The security of this nation is a more stable feature, and depsite the murmbers on PMSNMC to the effect of Kum Ba Ya and holding hands and a Rodney Kingish smirk about getting along, the fact is that this area is, shall we say, less malleable than economic policy.

Either we defend ourselves.

Or we don't.

After all the slush and gush--those remain the only valid options.

Perhaps then, the morons who placed the Messiah in office on Hopey Changemass crapola would prefer that Obama did NOT defer to the magical realm called "reality"--and instead reverted, ever so liberally--back to the Cloud Cuckooland Alice in Wonderland realm where Islamists get to have their Koran's and special feast meats handed to them on platters, with white gloves. Literally.

That's the winning ticket! Pay homage to Islamist paranoia's and psychopathies, and offer them literal kid glove treatment on par with how the London Times is offered to His Lordship on Downing Street?

Obama is a marxian warlord steeped in radicalism, to be sure. And the path to Euro style milkwater socialism that will in the very end be our undoing is on the way.

However, giving credit where due, I'd say that once he scanned the intel reports over coffee and Marlboro lights one morning, his Harvard brain kicked in and realized that the lords of terror can get some handy handling once in a while on the side under cover of darkness. And not to mention that no serious legal scholar truly thinks that the "spirit" of an age means that Geneva applies to headhackers and gutrippers for Allah.

Dig?


Take the full monty of good tidings where you find it, chief.

Rendition is good news for getting info out of otherwise recalcitrant headhunters engaged in Jihad.

Ya see, Geneva has a dark side:

It is not supposed to protect--and indeed warns against--those who take advantage of our judicial systems and protections to carry out acts of terror.

On the day they have uniforms, belong to a nation, and don't hide under the skirts and markets and kids toys of the civilian populace, I'll consult Geneva.

Wakefield Tolbert said...

I meant "KORANS" (plural)

Not, "Koran's" (possessive)

Though to be sure, possession of more and more cultures is on the way in any case, so it makes little difference.

Jim Lippard said...

So it's your position that we either defend ourselves or not, and there are no methods or tactics which should ever be off limits for the former position?

I take it that you would also favor removing the Bill of Rights from the Constitution, by the same reasoning?

Wakefield Tolbert said...

In the first matter of thing, I'd actually "favor" YOU reading the post again.
ch
The "spirit" of an age and the current hoop over "rights" of which these, God, how can I say this nicely.....um...."defendents" are NOT entitled to, has no bearing and receives no bearing from Constitutional law.

Period.

The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which was the contraindication/compromise to what the anti-Federalists felt was too much federal level power, appy to US citizens. Noble as they are, they are not applied even to Frenchmen, else our supreme court would have told the frogs they can have 9mm Glocks in their glove boxes as well.

The issue of national security, by my reasoning, is that when it comes to foreign (let me find yet another friendly word for meat rippers who bomb fruit stands here...ummm...crap...) "insurgents", not part of anything organized beyond ideology, we have the right and the duty to extract information by whatever methods are appropriate.

The new president and Commander-In-Grief understands this.

Even if his business acumen and prowess never went beyond a lemonade stand, at most.

Even BEYOND ALL THIS, the court system was already knotted up for FOUR. SOLID. G-DAMN. YEARS by ONE--count him, ONE defendent--Shiek Khalidi. Who said, quite appropriately, "America, you lose."

And I can't disagree. What a colossal waste of resources and bureacratic paperchasing down the court system. Military tribunals all the way back to Lincoln, when he used them to smash Slavocracy, and more recently in the cases of foreign spies from Nazi Germany in the 40's, have been effective in getting to the bottom of things in a crisp, effective manner without tying up the regular civilian court system for decades.

Hundreds of, err, "insurgents" in the US court systems? Granted, many trials would be held concurrently, but still.

I am not advocating ripping flesh from bone and making them sit in dog squeeze. But if the New York Lawyers Guild, the ACLU, and hosts of other creeps think that a stern sit-down session and not getting your feast meats and being forced to answer questions for more than one hour at a time constitutes "torment", these charitable chaps never went through geometry class or got stuck on I-285 at rush hour. Torment is what we say it is.

Wakefield Tolbert said...

PS-

"Rendition" was not just a bad movie; it was, after all, a policy started by Clinton. Not the horrid Night of Terror under Bush/Cheney's mad rush to create fantasies like Islamic terror lords.

In any event....

Jim Lippard said...

You are correct that rendition was started by Clinton (in 1995).

The Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to U.S. citizens and others within U.S. jurisdiction; the powers granted in the Constitution are limited regardless of where U.S. government powers are being exercised on the globe.

Wakefield Tolbert said...

I understand that, but within that framework, or "penumbra" the courts have also stated on more than one occasion that military tribunals are fair and just and practical for the administration of military justice for those caught in what is generally considered unorthodox belligerency.

The case law is fairly firm on this.

Elsewhere with rendition, however, the jurisdiction is transferred to those nations where these insurgents hail from. That is more than fair also. If GITMO and other locals of incarceration are deemed burdensome or unjust and the Administration needs more real estate to place these terrorists, then they (both the administration and the terrorists themselves) can consider the ultimate fate of simply being sent back.

Einzige said...

I am not advocating ripping flesh from bone and making them sit in dog squeeze.

Why not, if that's what gets them to spill the info?

And, more generally, where do rights come from? Are they prior to governments, or created by governments?

Wakefield Tolbert said...

Why not, if that's what gets them to spill the info?

And, more generally, where do rights come from? Are they prior to governments, or created by governments?


I doubt that would be necessary.
Like so much of what the Left claims, that's hyperbolic nonsense designed to make people cringe. Having said that, no pol currently in office would hesitate to part with tradition and make hash out of someone if there was credible evidence that such could extract meaningful information. Unlikely, but theoretically possible.

But then, that's not the same as saying I'd approve, now is it?

The CIA has testified that you don't always know what info you're going to get by certain techniques. All can be valuable depending on the exact connections to events and people established. Most of the time no real shocking of the conscience is needed to get info out of most people. So what is for certain is that in yet another one of those "facts of the matters" claims that liberals claim in their ever-expanding search in the galaxy for minutia and trivial pursuit, it seems at least on this issue it is NOT true, as often claimed that "it is 'fact' that torture does not work."

If it did not work (and here I'll revert to what Lippert does not admire when it comes to common sense input observations) then obviously cultures the world over would not use it at all. All prisoners of war would get automatic Geneva status even if legally they don't qualify (as is the case with terror creeps) and merely be given their feast meats and Korans with no further commentary or questions.

Too bad that's of no effect in our national security.

Back on planet earth: Making terrorists stay up late, lose some sleep, and sit in some rather uncomfortable metal chairs and get denied their kid glove treatment with their Korans and maybe eating someting not on the regular menu is actualy better treatments than some corrections officers remind me goes on at the local State prison on a daily basis.

They also get their own cells--something mising from the local pen as well.

As to rights--well I guess that depends on whom you ask, now dosen't it? Both the Right and the Left have legalisms and philosophical input about how rights are "inherent" in law and philosphy and we automatically get these downloaded to us--computer file like--upon our very birth.

Sounds conveninet!

How could it be otherwise?

But it can. A late left wing blogger named Steve Kangas referenced hundreds of "works" and materials from liberal philosophers and deep thinkers from Woodstock and the German school of philosophy, of one stripe or another, to the effect that "rights" of one groups are not automatic.

Why do you ask?

Metaphysially, rights do not "exist" ...out there...floating around somewhere on some stone obelisk in space like in 2001 Space Odeyssy, waiting to be carved in stone by us lowley humans. At least not apart from other considerations.

They are agreed upon in what we political scientists call "the Social Contract", and thus "dependent"--on the rights of others and the full context of conflicts. Kangas has a point here, even if I personally find him repulsive elsewhere and don't want him to.

There can ultimately be no firm "rights" in the sense of "we hold these truths to be self-evident". I actually partially agree with this. I'd like to think of "we hold these truths to be self-evident" but realize this is to some degree wrong.

How could there be self-evidence here? Self-evident to WHOM? TO FDR, and his internment of the Japanese? To Japanese military commanders via the Battan Death March??

Under what cultural circumstances? The Left has long acknowledged you don't have a right to yell fire in a crowded theatre, cook your kids for lunch even in "the privacy of your own home" or serve hot fresh fetal meat to restaurants or kill your dog or punch your neighbors lights out. But then we get into the hippies of the Right--the Libertarians, who claim you can do most anything you like, including owning galaxy detonating energy spheres, and having Polygamous Marriage, so long as you don't "harm others." But what is meant by THAT????

hmmm.

Some claim the very presence of handguns should be outlawed. Others deign to outlaw personal vehicles if they could somehow do so. Or alternate forms of schooling. Others want religion banned (Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett). Some cultures ban homeschooling, like German, on the neo-Hitlerian/Weimar-esque notion that it is not a cohesive way to structure and teach the next generation and takes no account of Multi-Cultural needs, blah blah.

The point I'm making is not either disdain or even adovocacy of any of these positions at the moment, but rather to demonstrate that there is no firm set of encoded "rights" that all can agree on or are deemed appropriate for all times. People meantion Constitutional law, but that is up for grabs by liberal interpretations of culture and history as well, with even as we speak "liberals" on the Court like Ginsberg now wishing us to defer to international law. Obama's new attorney general appointee wants the same thing--a supercedure of US law--all of it--by international law norms.

And "more generally"--does US law apply to all contexts and indeed to all the planet? If so, then how so? Only if we were truly imperialistic, by tradition that liberals claim, could that be the case. But if Constitutional law truly applied worldwide and US dominion is seen planetwide, then we could tell Frenchmen they can have guns in their glove boxes after all!

Mais non!


Different cultures have varying standards. Some argue that's the way it should be. Much as I might disdain the French.

Jim Lippard said...

I'll let Einzige continue his own argument, but I must point out that (1) You've misspelled my name even though it's spelled correctly on every page of this blog, and (2) you are mistaken when you claim that Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett advocate banning religion. Dennett's statement about religion being kept in a cage is an argument that religion must not be permitted to override human rights or to replace the teaching of science in public schools with pseudoscience, which he has elaborated in an exchange with Michael Rea. I'm not sure which Dawkins statement you are alluding to, but my guess would be his comparison of religious indoctrination to child abuse, or his signing of a petition (which he later recanted) that called for it to be made illegal to indoctrinate children in religion or define children by religion prior to the age of 16.

Einzige said...

I doubt that would be necessary.

The implication here is that you don't have a problem with torturing people to whatever extent is "necessary". Is that a fair assessment?

Having said that, no pol currently in office would hesitate to part with tradition and make hash out of someone if there was credible evidence that such could extract meaningful information. Unlikely, but theoretically possible.

What does this (or quite a bit of the rest of what you wrote) have to do with the questions I asked you?

Making terrorists stay up late...

This is question begging, isn't it?

I recommend a viewing of Taxi to the Dark Side before you go calling everyone in custody a "terrorist"--though I'm sure you'll just call the film "left wing propanganda" and write it off.

As to rights--well I guess that depends on whom you ask, now dosen't it?

I am asking you. You are the one making moral claims. And it seemed to me odd that you would stop short of "advocating ripping flesh from bone and making them sit in dog squeeze"--though apparently your objection to such techniques is not due to any moral revulsion.

But then you go and make statements like this: "...we have the right and the duty to extract information by whatever methods are appropriate" followed by this: "...there is no firm set of encoded 'rights'..."

How do you reconcile those statements? Note I'm not asking for long-winded, tiresome pontifications about what "the left says" or "some claim", etc. I'm asking you what you think.

If so, then how so? Only if we were truly imperialistic, by tradition that liberals claim, could that be the case. But if Constitutional law truly applied worldwide and US dominion is seen planetwide, then we could tell Frenchmen they can have guns in their glove boxes after all!

I am not going to allow you to obfuscate your original point, which seemed to be that it's okay for the US to torture non-citizens because they are not protected under the US Constitution. This seems to imply that, as far as the US Government is concerned, no person not a citizen has any rights whatsoever. If that's not what you're claiming then perhaps you'd better explain yourself.

Wakefield Tolbert said...

There are no easy quips on such things, Einzige. So while you don't like the long pontifications, that's the rules about law. There is only, at best, the application of philsophy and what the courts have said. If issues were this simple we'd not get ignored by the politicians who will always have fallback positions of semi-legitimacy on everything that seems, and is, obnoxious.

In this case, my opinion is that sitting in a chair for a few hours answering some hard questions about one's connections and being denied you pathologies about Infidels not handling the Koran properly or not getting your feast meats like camel and goat on time is fine and dandy.

Havings said that, US law does not extend to all the planet. It cannot. That's a metaphysial impossibility. It can be said to extend by proxy under military jurisdiction and in context to non-uniformed combatants. Geneva does not either.

If some all-encompassing statement of, say, the First Amendment or any other provision of the Bill of Rights could do this, then you'd have the "right" to tell a sargent to knick off while being trained as "freedom of speech" and then sue him in the courts for distress at having to make you run around the base 3 times. This laughable issue is made to point out that likewise, under military jurisdiction, military tribunals have in fact been upheld by the courts going back to the days of Lincoln's use of them. This expedites the process and prevents the knotting up of our courts for decades on "civil rights" issues regarding people who slice heads off and blow up girls schools in Afghanistan.

As with everything else, context is key. It always is.

Wakefield Tolbert said...

Einzige said, in part:

...(W)hich seemed to be that it's okay for the US to torture non-citizens because they are not protected under the US Constitution. This seems to imply that, as far as the US Government is concerned, no person not a citizen has any rights whatsoever. If that's not what you're claiming then perhaps you'd better explain yourself.

It is unlikely that you really care what I think, but just to play along in this high school shiggles popularity contest to score points, these "insurgents", as the media call them, are in fact entitled to procedural rights under US military law. That is not the same as saying they have or are entitled to the full monty of rights as you and I understand the term.

My commentary before was to point out that rights are dependent on the rights and needs of others. We know this intuitively, and so do the courts, until recently. I might even LIKE to disagree with this, but from history we know that "rights" of say, water usage, on someone's land, still had to be considered, if say, you planned to dam up the whole Nile due to it being "your" property. This is ever the same with rights today.

We cannot operate as a society when we are held to impractical and even absurd contraints--whether the demand is battlefield precision or situations where terrorists linger in cells and say nothing due to the comfort of waiting on their lawyers to jet in from the States.

What would YOU have us do then?

THAT would not be question begging, by the way.

I take it you might disagree with this and think that rights are some kind of firm, cut in stone concept a la Moses' insights after lightning hit Mount Sinai?

Modern law does not work this way, regardless of what I happen to think. But I would say that anything that does not shock the conscience (and this threshold is different for different people) is a good standard. Waterboarding and forced to sit for hours without any input from others until later do not cross this line. The plot to bomb airliners over the ocean and kill hundreds of people for the will of Allah was discovered with such techniques.

The rules the CIA laid down I generally agree with, if you REALLY must know and give a rip about what I think.

Einzige said...

THAT would not be question begging, by the way.

You're right, it would not.

My commentary before was to point out that rights are dependent on the rights and needs of others.

Now, that, on the other hand, would be an example of question begging.

I take it you might disagree with this and think that rights are some kind of firm, cut in stone concept a la Moses' insights after lightning hit Mount Sinai?

Why, no, that's not what I would think.

My skills as a moral theorist aren't nearly as honed as yours. Based on what you've written here, I am far less confident about what constitutes right and wrong, so I'm trying to learn from you.

I have more questions about other things you've said in your latest post, but I'll have to get to them later this afternoon. I hope you won't mind the delay.

Einzige said...

You say:

It can be said to extend by proxy under military jurisdiction and in context to non-uniformed combatants.

So, the US government has dominion over militarily occupied territories and can decide who is and who is not an "enemy combatant" without recourse to due process?

This strikes me as essentially the same as saying that the US govt. can do--nay, has the right to do--whatever it can get away with. Do you disagree?

... these "insurgents"... are in fact entitled to procedural rights under US military law.

Only because the US military says so. Right? If the US military said they didn't have these rights then they wouldn't have them. Right?

We cannot operate as a society when we are held to impractical and even absurd constraints

Such as that non-US citizens shouldn't be kidnapped and tortured?

In this case, my opinion is that sitting in a chair for a few hours answering some hard questions about one's connections and being denied you pathologies about Infidels not handling the Koran properly or not getting your feast meats like camel and goat on time is fine and dandy.

Okay. However, what if I fundamentally disagree with such an assessment? You have, as yet (as far as I can tell), provided no criterion by which to decide between our opinions on this point--other than that yours is in line with the position of Bush and Obama administrations.

I wonder this: if we were living in 1845 in the antebellum South, would you be okay with the institution of slavery? Or how about Germany in 1939? Would you believe that Jews needed to be eliminated for the good of the fatherland?

Wakefield Tolbert said...

(Einzige's comments italicized)

You say:

It can be said to extend by proxy under military jurisdiction and in context to non-uniformed combatants.

So, the US government has dominion over militarily occupied territories and can decide who is and who is not an "enemy combatant" without recourse to due process?

This strikes me as essentially the same as saying that the US govt. can do--nay, has the right to do--whatever it can get away with. Do you disagree?


Far from the case. Yes, I disagree. No, you can't do "whatever" you want. No one can. My acquaintance with people in both the high and lower levels of the military have never given me the impression that these people are any more moral or immoral than the rest of us. They are people. Not mindless automaton minions of Emperor Palpatine. The leadership of the military makes errors in judgment and faux pas just like the rest of us. But, ethically, I think their training could make a claim to even having a slight ethical edge over some of us--and certainly over many of the politicians they ultimately work for. Some people will always go overboard. Most are just there to serve as best they can. For the most part, My Lai is behind us for most people who live and work in military positions, even in the "fog of war."

The issue of jurisdiction was brought before the courts over and over--and they have ruled thusly. Tribunals are fine to process most belligerents, uniformed or not. In fact, in SOME limited case, citizens or not. Of course, today's courts are different in ideological makeup, so things might change.

They DO have due process, but for reasons the courts have said regarding practicality and the duress of the situation (and not to mention NOT revealing classified methods of discovery), we can't have thousands of combatants tying up the courts for decades on end, each one knotting up the court with filing after filing after filing and making it broadcast to a wider audience the how and why of capture and the methodology of military operations. Much as the idiots at the dying NY Times would like to yet again reveal state secrets, it is probably not the best idea, and the NY Times moronic punchline of "we're not revealing troop movements after all" misses the point that a war on terror has a different strategic dynamic than other wars.
With military justice, it is not done for US soldiers (who, last I check, were US citizens), who also can be set before a military tribunal. It is about the expediting of a process, not the denial of rights.

... these "insurgents"... are in fact entitled to procedural rights under US military law.

Only because the US military says so. Right? If the US military said they didn't have these rights then they wouldn't have them. Right?

No, the courts have said so. And they might rule sharply different in the future. The military does not say in the final analysis. No. But then, who in your opinion should have the final say? International Law, which is usually aligned with some rather suspect nations with an agenda all their own? In the past, International Law was simply what the US and Britain said it was? Would THAT be good enough?

Where do you think these "rights" are located, if not encoded into law, and if case law from the past serves absolutely no precedent here as it does in almost EVERY. SINGLE. CASE. ON. ALL. OTHER. ISSUES. This is called by the legalism of Stare Decisis (let the decision stand). Case law in military issues has a long history, and was not cooked up last year by the Night of Terror or Rove/Cheney.

It is all we have, in the final analysis. As I'm quite sure, given the nature of this blog, you're not going to defer to spiritual or theological argument, and no doubt mere cultural input is not enough, since all opinions are different and vary as many as there are people. And since my opinion on the issue no doubt would not be deemed enough, then all we have left is the encoding of law. Shall I ask Slate' editors? Farmer John? Joe the Plumber? Either the law can stand, or it cannot. But, as with another issue on the blog, I did notice that not all people are on board with what the laws of the land say.

We cannot operate as a society when we are held to impractical and even absurd constraints

Such as that non-US citizens shouldn't be kidnapped and tortured?

Not what I was referring to. What I was referring to are the spurious "rights" advocates demanding kid glove treatment of Islamist pathologies like gloves only for Koran distribution and feast meats, foot baths, and other absurdist impracticalities. And the other depends on what you mean by "kidnapping." In my experience the term is usually employed by law enforcement to denote a situation where extortion for the return of the person is demanded. Apprehension might be a better term. Often, other than a daylight apprehension with cuffs and the reading of Miranda, it IS done under cover of secrecy so as to remove the methodology from public awareness. In these kinds of operations that is probably justified. Unpleasant? Yes. Immoral? Not necessarily. Unpleasantry is not the same is immorality. Going to the dentist is painful, as are many demands of life for health and safety. But dentists are not immoral. No doubt more than one child rapist, or murderer, or thief, or carjacker, finds his arrival in handcuffs to appear at court is highly unpleasant and downright obnoxious. But I rarely hold that law enforcement is evil per se. Obnoxious speed demons have felt they were being inconvenienced and dissed just for being delayed for a ticket and have raised holy hell in court. Too bad. If we don't like the speed signs, petition the local government to have them altered or removed. Make the case. But don't slam the law for being the law, or its operatives for doing their jobs. Though, I must admit lately I see there are some who'd rather us not have border patrol agents. True.

In this case, my opinion is that sitting in a chair for a few hours answering some hard questions about one's connections and being denied you pathologies about Infidels not handling the Koran properly or not getting your feast meats like camel and goat on time is fine and dandy.

Okay. However, what if I fundamentally disagree with such an assessment? You have, as yet (as far as I can tell), provided no criterion by which to decide between our opinions on this point--other than that yours is in line with the position of Bush and Obama administrations.

I wonder this: if we were living in 1845 in the antebellum South, would you be okay with the institution of slavery? Or how about Germany in 1939? Would you believe that Jews needed to be eliminated for the good of the fatherland?


Hyperbolic nonsense. I'm not sure how your last jibes kicked in, or why. That's what I'm wondering at the moment. But what else should I have anticipated?

What if I fundamentally disagree on current legalisms as well? So what? There are many laws I don't happen to like. And? Little I can do about them from here but join some like-minded group and petition the leaders. What criterion would you see--other than law--that would be universally satisfying to all times and places and contexts and cultural norms/expections? How would we go about this? And what if you DID disagree? What if I did? So what? Ultimately, you could argue that in the long haul, based on some collective input from citizens, the courts could respond in some like-minded manner. Though I notice this is not the case in, say, California, regarding Prop 8. But no matter--why in the hell would the courts listen to a businessman low on the totem pole like myself?

What criterion would you have us follow, if not case law? How is such ethical dilemma resolved, if not by law? Where else do we go? Charleton Heston, as Moses, throwing stone tablets at us?

Yes, in the distant past there were some laws, like Jim Crow and the results of the Dread Scot decision before that, which, in the old South, limited what blacks could do and participate in. Moreover, technically, they DID contradict earlier philosophical statements interpreted as law about all men being equal before the law. The Weimar Republic fell victim to Germanic philosophies of Nietzsche, who after proudly dispensing with God and moral suasion and told the world he had a path "beyond good and evil"(?!), gave other philosophers (and then "strong horse" leaders) the ideological ammunition to abuse others in situations of duress. And to perform...evil. This was also contradictory to prior legalisms in that nation, though in Europe generally the Jews were easy targets for a number of groups for a number of reasons.

True enough. But in our nation, we have to set the standard with law--not radicalized men or their rulers--as has generally happened the world over. There is no other reliable method. That is why I referred you to important landmark cases in the past when these issues came up among our own countrymen in pitched battles for power. Yes, in the early days, the Constitution had its internal contradictions--like slavery--that the Founders knew could not be settled in 1787, and so had to defer the issue until such time as the nation was ready. They could not wait for social perfection and racial equality before moving onto the path to building a new nation. That was a sorry state of affairs, but slavery at that point had had a legacy of more than 3000 years of practice. It was not started by White Europeans, nor were we its larger users and proponents. But we were the ones who killed each other in bloody pitched battles that took the lives of 700,000 young men (and much property and treasure) to end it---an event missing from most of the traditional homelands of most slaves to this day. Whether it be Arabic slavery of white girls and white boy eunuchs at this moment, or black Africa's long heralded practice going back thousands of years. In any case, paraphrasing Yale scholar William Henry III, an imperfect society is not the same as a worthless one. Societies evolve socially as well as organically.

What is your point then? If the law is to be changed we can do that, and coddle everyone who slices heads and supply hordes of headnippers their own lawyer and flood the already burdoned courts with a another backlog. Yeah, we could do that. If not, we have to go SOMEWHERE to make the deferment to authority. What shall that be?

But no, not only do I NOT think one can legitimize the killing of innocent people who happen to be scapegoated or for being the target of ethnic smears due the rantings of an Austrian madman, I also find no real analogy from that tragedy to anything current. The inclusion of Hitler's antics into any discussion almost never adds anything of merit. Few things are analogous to his actions. This is no exception.

Our own situation would be no better nor worse than if 20 million lily-white, pasty-faced Englishmen hit the shores next Thursday demanding benefits and jobs in unison. So the issue is not race or religion. The "good" of the nation in our case is the rule of law. In the case of terrorism, it is the expediting of justice without knotting the courts up for decades. In the case of illegal immigration, it is the avoidance of what everyone knows is actually another handy demographic fix by (primarily) Democrats to set a lock on power via various social programs. Who said we would need to nix them? Just send them home.

Now, back to the law about "insurgents": It is true that the USSC recently ruled (apparently) in favor of handing out Constitutional rights to terrorist combatants, reversing decades-old decisions that stood to the effect that such was not generally applicable, or at least not in the usual sense beyond tribunals. Or, not in the strict sense of saying the Bill of Rights applies to terrorists.

So we'll have to see how this administration plays this out. So far, his consultation with security experts indicates he's willing to compromise on the issue.

In the past, the issue of detention of irregular combatants hostile to the United States has gone through some interesting moments, but there is a common sense consistency from the courts that rises to the surface after a while. Granted, not all onlookers in power dig this.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is one of those not too familiar with the laws, but nontheless loves to grandstand and preach to people pulled before him to answer committe questions. His idiotic questions might almost be as nasty as getting grilled at GITMO.

Leahy declared in the days of Atty Gen. John Ashcroft, that the War on Terror is (like John Edwards says too), is "merely a slogan", like the "War on Drugs" or "Use Lifestyles Condoms, for her pleasure and yours!", and this means that as there is "no formal declaration of war," thus the "courts are open"--meaning to this bozo, as it does the ACLU, that the civilian courts are the correct vehicle for processing the goobers who turn humans into chop suey and boffo Internet snuff film fodder. Leahy went on to say that he questioned "whether the president can lawfully authorize the use of military commissions (Re: "tribunals") to try persons arrested here."

But we ARE at war. Strike one. There is no official talismanic formulation about this. Except that when you get attacked, you are at war. Thus we have been at war since about 8:48 AM Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when the sons of Allah followed FAA protocals almost to a "T" except for boxcutters and their somewhat altered course from the flight plan. I'll resist for now the urge to say we got a "crash course" in Islam's multiculturalist accommodation of the West on that day.

It is myth that Congress MUST declare war for the state of affairs to exist. Fortunately for the nation, Congress and men like Leahy are limited in their role in this. In any case, Congress need not declare war. For example, in the event thousands of Americans get roasted alive and/or crushed to death. Bush said in his address to the nation later in the day to a joint session of Congress that a state of war existed, henceforth, with the agents of terror from whatever source. This covers wide girth, and includes groups and parties not directly involved in the attacks except for their ideological connection or complicity. Smart move, as that increased the liability for terror worldwide for the inevitable operations later on. (A formal declaration of war has consequences only under international law, which is not relevant to domestic security measures taken under the president's war powers).

(And if Spain or Syria is on that panel, we'll probably not be taking their words to heart anyhow.) International law otherwise is what we say it is, and like Santa Claus, we can tell Virginia its real despite what your friends at school say, or we can dump it when you're old enough to know that it makes little matter, and exists generally in the minds of little professors in law schools who think the Hague or the UN supersedes US law. Granted, what IS scary is that a nutcase lunatic named Ruth Ginsberg thinks this way. We'll keep on eye on her and give her some leeway before putting her in a padded cell to scribble on the walls with crayons in her toes just yet.

In 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor, the USSC upheld the use of military tribunals for eight German spies captured on US soil. Two of whom were US Citizens. In this case, Ex Parte Quirin, the court found that military tribunals--not civilian courts--were appropriate for suspected enemies who have "entered or remained after entry in our territory without uniform", to engage in an act of belligerency against the United States. The USSC ruled on Quirin in less than 24 hours. A military found the saboteurs guilty three days later and six of the eight were executed, including Herbert Haupt, a US citizen. The other two were spared a hanging due to ratting out the whole plot and were given prison time.

The "courts are open" phase used by Sen. Leahy, refers to the USSC decision in Ex Parte Milligan, a Civil War era case. He muffed it. The Milligan court said a citizen could not be tried in a military tribunal "where the courts are open, and their process unobstructed."--i.e.--the absence of martial law. But the crucial part of the Court's decision that Leahy missed was its determination that Milligan was a NON-belligerent. A situation that most assuredly does NOT apply to the Hid Nip Brigade now vacationing at GITMO. The fact that Milligan was a US citizen was actually not important to this decision. His position as a non-combatant was. As the USSC would explain nearly a century later in Quirin, the court in Milligan concluded that "Milligan, NOT being part of or associated with the armed forces of the enemy, was a nonbelligerent, not subject to the law of war." Milligan was only being tried in a military tribunal due to Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War.

So it seems a military tribunal is just fine for belligerents intending us harm. If even US citizens have fallen under military jurisdiction due to not being of a foreign uniformed force but merely working on their behalf, terrorists can likewise certainly be tried by the military without a reference to the civilians courts stateside.

Likewise, the Geneva Conventions have a coverage that is very specific. It does NOT cover non-uniformed "warriors" who take belligerent action. This is on purpose, as a means of discouraging terrorist tactics considered outside the bounds of the rules of war. In wars in the past, it is questionable whether Geneva protections even have any practical effect. It is difficult to imagine the US going to war with anyone other than the savages that now plague the planet. Sharp as our differences can be regarding the Brits and the French, it is unlikely we'll be attacking those signatories to the Geneva Convention. Indeed, in a war with the savagery under the directorship of 9th century imams. Regardless of Geneva in any case, we all know that any American soldier captured on the field of battle would be dismembered and gutted and decapitated and photos taken of the remains, if anything were left. In fact, this has happened. Some of the gore and splatter sites on the Net are fake. But I'm sorry to say that in a few cases the gruesome photos of guts being pulled from US soldiers' remains is true--and on par with the kind of human garbage we're fighting, and all the more reason to stanch this kind of culture. I think the equivalent of Chinese water torture pales considerably next to this kind of bestial behavior. In WWII the Japanese tortured American POWs and, per the testimony of more than a few men, including my wife's father, who survived the ordeal, they would cut open even captured pregnant Filipino women and girls, rape them, and nail the remains to trees. Of course, one must admit that as far as what happened to the fetus in these transactions is not all that far removed from your local Women's Clinic. American soldiers were decapitated, photos released of the pulsing neck stumps, buried in pits, burned alive with kerosene, run over by trucks repeatedly and bets made among the Japanese soldiers as to how long it would take for the ground underneath to show up underneath the guts. Others were shot for walking too slow in the Bataan Death March. The sick were killed by decapitation immediately. Others would be hit with a sideswipe of a bayonet to see how long it took for the neck to bleed out. Medicine from the remaining American medics was confiscated and used by the Japanese. Attending to one another's wounds was forbidden upon pain of death. In some experiments American and Russian soldiers were placed in either hot fires or freezing cold water to see how fast the flesh would come off the bone. Back in the fields and the internment camps, genitals were cut off and stuffed in already severed heads' mouths. In Vietnam, the beastly behavior was not much less. In Iraq from Hussein's men and now the terror lords running amuck, US soldiers have been mutilated. Female POWs were penetrated rectally and vaginally as well in Gulf I. So, it appears this Geneva thing is not working out so well for us. I understand the emphasis on ethics, and that's a swell thing. But at a certain juncture we have to ask about the practicalities of any action or idea. If it does no good or doesn't mirror reality, it can and should be jettisoned.

Wakefield Tolbert said...

(Mr. Lippard's comments in italics)


you are mistaken when you claim that Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett advocate banning religion. Dennett's statement about religion being kept in a cage is an argument that religion must not be permitted to override human rights or to replace the teaching of science in public schools with pseudoscience, which he has elaborated in an exchange with Michael Rea. I'm not sure which Dawkins statement you are alluding to, but my guess would be his comparison of religious indoctrination to child abuse, or his signing of a petition (which he later recanted) that called for it to be made illegal to indoctrinate children in religion or define children by religion prior to the age of 16.

Greetings again, Mr. Lippard:

Crocs tears of regret is what most likely hits men like Dennett and Dawkins. Either these individuals would allow for alternative opinions (as taught by parents) about cosmology and spiritual side of things---or they don't. And, as training on these matters usually must begin young, their collective claim that they don't really mean to influence the teaching of faith, overall, is what my father would have said is "a distinction without any real difference". In any case, they hold an advocacy that is not supported by the facts of how religion and science have interacted in history.


I'm not sure how Dennet means religion would "override" human rights. More often than religion, the State is the taker of rights and the abuser of people. Surely someone of his sophistication knows this.

It can be the interaction of the State and religion that HAS caused some problems, but religion per se is just a set of ideas about mankind's role in the larger scheme of things and the cosmology (ultimate origins) of existence, by whatever means. Those instances that seemed to implicate religion can always be shown to have a political component. But to "define children by religion" sounds like typical hyperbole from Dawkins, which, like Dennett, is his main comedy routine stand-up shtick to this own flock: Accusing mainline Christians of being secret authoritarian bootstompers who put their kids in dark closets and feed them watery oatmeal and use mind control to make them Crusaders. But to whom does this psychotic sophist Dennett defer to for moral guidance? Fredrich Nietzsche. The philosopher who boasted that with the putative death of God, mankind would drench itself in blood. So it has. It seems by "rights" Team D (Dennett and Dawkins) mean to say they have the latest fads in mutli-culti, PCism, and other Leftist projects. Leftists don't have in mind what are traditionally called "rights." By this they mean rectal thrusting advocacy as "marriage" in California, though the people just said "NO", suppression of religion and traditional morals, the expansion of deviance and cultural anomalies, and the worship of sexuality. And of course, advocacy of abortion on demand as their special sacrament of "choice". Gale force winds meet protestors of abortion or advocates of parental notification laws regarding minors not old enough to buy cigarettes, beer, or drive, but need to trash a fetus in order to keep a boyfriend. The catcall is "choice", of course. But when it comes to "choice" in other areas of life. With choices that also really matter: School choice, media choice, choice of guns for home defense, the right to make your own decisions about how to use your own moneys, liberals are more than happy, as are Dennett and presumably Dawkins (though he's not a Yank like us) to default to the Euro version of "rights", where the State is the arbiter of "rights", and we are to live in a highly regulated, regimented society under the protection of our betters. "Rights" to the PC liberal crowd mean the satiation of sexual appetites and having someone grease the skids for you, like Obama had done for him, and the "right" to sumptuous pleasures and benefits handed out by the taxpayers. Yet, life is more than this. Life is beyond abortion and screwing and smoking funny weeds.

Contra all the lying from Harris and Dawkins and other PC do-gooders who fret over mutli-culti mess, Christianity has historically been on the forefront of human rights from its inception, first opposing Roman abuses in the stadiums and later the abolishing of slavery. Historians like Rodney Stark mention, among others, point out the role of Christianity in Europe in codifying human rights into law. There were of course many contradictions, but as a theologian friend of mine points out, when it comes to sheer brutality, it is historically secular regimes that have done the most damage to rights. But that is another discussion. For more on that, see Beastrabban's weblog, where he goes into far more detail than can be had here in this kind of exchange. He points out the entire development of Democracy in Europe, and points to who advocated what, their various statements, and how what you and I call representative government even came about. More recently, Mark Steyn pointed out that when it comes to sheer "secularism", and culture, the two rightly cannot logically even go together. Secularism as an answer is not one. It is a present tense culture. More properly it is not even culture. It is a present tense NOTION about life that, a la Europe, is on par with pleasure, comfort, amusement, and present tense issues that have no connections to the past and therefore cannot defend itself on a wide range of issues both social and economic. But that is another topic also. Dawkins and Dennett get it horridly wrong when they suggest faith is the enemy of science, or that rights emanate from some scientific basis apart from culture (though I think even Dawkins says now that he's a "cultural Christian")

http://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2008/07/19/the-medieval-christian-contribution-to-western-democracy-part-one/

http://jameshannam.com/

http://rationalperspective.wordpress.com/2007/08/27/the-war-of-science-and-religion/#more-71

And we'd then have to ask, if religion stanches scientific inquiry, how certain lists even came about:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science

The Dawkins quote was indeed partially as you claim, and while I was not aware that he recanted anything, the context WAS one where parents would be subject to some kind of state mandated prescription about child-rearing. Its either that, or he's just running his mouth to the amen choir. I guess the latter is possible. But this kind of advocacy is not for lack of desire. In my own line of thinking I always try and default to freedom, where possible. Others sternly disagree.

Dawkins is not ABLE to outlaw certain kinds of parenting. So my guess is his attitude adjustment is probably a recognition of the legal difficulties, and the outrage over such statements--not some apparent change of heart. It would not be for lack of trying that his kind of thinking would rule this day. But this is a nation of law (well, on some issues), and he is not even our nationality, and even in the European mindset from which he hails would not be able to consistently get away with banning one form a teaching but allowing English kids to be taught about Islam and counting in Punjabi in school. He is limited by law, not by his own twisted sense of history. So more likely Dawkins is just out of luck on this issue.

Which is kinda funny (this claim about parents harming their kids though belief of some kind), since contra what many people think, as John Taylor Gatto reminds us, going all the way back to the days of John Dewey and other social engineers and as advocated by people like nutcase Marxian pill popper Margaret Sanger, and many others, the public schools were always to be the anvil and on which new social engineering was to be hammered out. All of your high-octane tyrannies had structured, forced public schooling, come to think of it.

I think it was Joseph Sobran who pointed out that far from "neutrality" on most social issues, the public schools not only fail us academically, their real focus is conformity, stasis, propaganda about economics and secularist morals, the "moral equivalency" mantra that cultures who put bones in their noses are on par with those that can send men to the moon, and the fostering of dullness and compliance. So, they serve as "the reproductive system of Leftism". Talk about progogandistic efforts. However, the law of our land, from way before the famous Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) case, says that the courts generally held that while the State has practical interests in the overall education of children (i.e.--seeing it actually gets done), it has not come to the attention to the courts, other than extreme cases of PROVEN abuse, that the State knows more than parents about religious or other spiritual input of any other kind of training. It is as it should be. The State, not parents, has (ask any real civil libertarian) done the most damage to families and their own citizens via various forms of micromanagement. One can look at the grievous results of the "Great Society" to see that the resultant scourge of single motherhood and all its paroxysms and predictable pathologies contradicts liberal efforts at making noble savages out the kiddies via legislation and welfare. So Dawkins gets to take a hike on this one, regardless of what he claims about Ultimate Origins.

Dennett, for his case? He can join his pal.

You are again partially correct on his quote, except that you forgot to mention that his emphasis was not so much about his hyperbolic "protection" of anyone from anything nefarious, but rather (in the quote I have) the amusement of onlookers to some kind of zoological exhibit to merely "preserve" some cultural anomalies on the way to some higher path. Dennett later equivocates and claims that he's been taken out of context. But the ugly implication is there all along; that religion has no more to offer us than some tribal dirge or native dance, and is to be relegated to some museum as an artifact of interest, but no real edification or aid to any issue of the modern world. Further, Dennett confuses the reader, and understandably so and perhaps on purpose. He mentions in hyperbolic tones the contract on Salmon Rushdie's very life, clitoral mutilation, slavery, and the subordination of women Islam but then equates this with evangelical Christianity, as if this had any reality even at the most extreme flavors of this tradition. It does not. And he knows it. But hyperbole is easy, and it comes to Dennett's hysterics over "protection" of society just as it does with Dawkins. Of course, Dennett gives the obligatory mumblings about flat earths (which no Christian father ever taught in the early church, according to historians like Jeffrey Burton Russell http://www.veritas-ucsb.org/library/russell/FlatEarth.html and others http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/ ) and the need to "protect" society from the ways of religion and the misteachings of Christians, etc. But his history and his cross comparisons to the ugly side of Islam is suspect. More likely this is a world view masquerading as "science." Dennett feigns outrage that he's called to the carpet to answer for his statements, but his sarcasm about zoological exhibitionism for religion on par with ancient pottery is so thick you can cut if with a grapefruit spoon.

I think millions of believers might remind Dawkins and Dennett that there is more than meets the eye in the physical world, and more that aids the soul than knowledge about why one bird beak is different from another.

But yes, both are nasty, reptilian men whose hatred of some people is hard to hide, no matter their absurd equivocations about bad parenting and such frets. They make outrageous statements, like Peter Singer and Stephen Pinker, and then try desperately to cover their tracks.

I take it as given that parents generally, and with a few exceptions, have their kids interests at heart more often than state authorities and other busybodies.

Jim Lippard said...

You've written many words, but provided very little in the way of argument as opposed to assertion. I disagree with your claim that there can be no culture without religion, or that secularism entail hedonism and no long-term thinking. China and the Long Now Foundation are two counterexamples.

Dennett's point isn't even that children may not be taught religion by their parents--it's that religion can't intrude into the public school system to teach misinformation like young-earth creationism, parents who allow their children to die by withholding medical treatment for religious reasons should be held responsible, and so forth.

I agree with you that fundamentalist Christianity today is much milder than fundamentalist Islam today, but I'd say that's because Christianity has gone through a Reformation more than to anything inherent in the religion--it had its moments in the past, and some of its followers still occasionally turn to violence, like the gunman who shot up the Unitarian Universalist church.

Your statements on gay marriage are sheer religious bigotry.