Thursday, November 26, 2009

American Prospect defends the New York trials

'The decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind September 11, and his alleged co-conspirators in a civilian court sparked charges of "irresponsibility" from the Republican Party.'

Alleged? Alleged? Both the current President and the current Attorney General have said these guys are guilty and need executing! They aren't allegedly guilty, they are guilty. If Obama and Holdren know these guys are guilty, who is Adam Serwer to dispute it?

'Who is Really on Trial in the Khalid Sheik Mohammed Case?'

Very good question. In the eyes of every single lefty, America-hater and illigitimate ruler on the planet, the answer is 'The United States and George W Bush'. And no matter what the outcome of this show trial, the verdict will be guilty. The guilty verdict was pronounced about six years ago, and hasn't changed.

'This trial is as much about showing the world that America is a country dedicated to the rule of law, as it is holding Mohammed and his cohorts to account for their alleged crimes.'

Apparently, the Geneva conventions aren't law. And military tribunals are not legitimate courts of military law.

'Republicans' view of whether trying a terrorist in federal court is a victory for the rule of law or "irresponsible" tracks closely with whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House.'

That is just piffle. I read dangerous amounts of web news, comment and blogs, and I don't remember one single conservative ever promoting trials in civilian courts. Certainly nobody who knows anything about battlefield law has ever been of the opinion that captured combatants out of uniform should be tried in civilian courts. There are two very good reasons Rudolf Giuliani didn't win the Republican nomination for President- no real conservative considers him a) conservative and b) serious. Only a flaky city like NY would re-elect a flake like Giuliani.

'What the trial will put on display is the United States' commitment to due process,'

Due process? Every day, criminals are successfully prosecuted and convicted by the US court system. Isn't that a good enough demonstration of US commitment to due process? Don't you watch Law and Order?

Hidden under these apparently clear words, are the following ideas.

'Due Process' is not really about US courts or whether America is a country that abides by its own laws. 'Due Process' is really about the nature of the men in Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. The left say they are criminals, whose crimes are both justifiable politically and morally. If these men are tried in civilian criminal courts they will then be able to trumpet their political ideas, explain how those ideas motivated their actions, and demonstrate their good moral standing. The fact that the left and the islamists share many common political ideas and practices is not coincidental. For many lefties, todays islamists are the spiritual descendants of the left wing radicals of the Vietnam era and the anarchists of the late nineteenth century. They are firebrands, shakers of the establishment, challengers of the evil and powerful, a bit like old testament prophets. The left feels many sympathetic resonances with the men in Gitmo.

When 'Prospect'ers talk about 'Due Process', that is what is underlying their insistence on having 'legitimate trials'.

'What the trial will put on display is the United States' commitment to due process, and it may potentially prove America is unafraid to confront its own wrongdoing when it comes to the abuse of the accused while in government custody.'

Yes, much more important than three thousand people being murdered on a normal average business day for the temerity of being Americans, is whether 'America is unafraid to confront its own wrongdoing when it comes to the abuse of the accused while in government custody'. You can see very easily how that prioritization would be arrived at. Oh, you can't see? Yeah, me either. It's completely idiotic.

If every single non-uniformed combatant captured on the battlefields of the north west frontier were tortured in US custody, it would mean virtually nothing. After all, under law, what they deserve is a bullet in the back of the head and an unmarked grave. If America complied with the letter and the spirit of the Geneva conventions, that is the fate which would await non-uniformed combatants. I think we can agree that most of the time being tortured is better than being shot dead, especially if its American torture. American torture often involves loud noises and music- ooow stop! Flashbacks to Iron Maiden concerts!

And the torture is not for fun. It is not punishment and it is not for sadistic pleasure- it is for the express purpose of gathering information to prevent terrorist atrocities. Having lived through a war where torture was done either for fun or to intimidate the locals, I can see a clear difference, even if pampered American lefties can't.

When your priorities are so clearly demented, you can't expect many people to agree with you. And sure enough, a large majority of Americans think the American Prospect attitude is both morally disgusting and factually incorrect.

'During the Bush administration, Republicans praised the convictions of terrorists like Moussaoui and Richard Reid in federal court. Now, they're arguing that military commissions should be used almost exclusively, claiming that accused terrorists don't "deserve" the same rights as Americans.'

What is it with moonbats and terrible terrible memories? Just the other day, Robert Gibbs did a bit of 'just between you and me and the garden gate' nostalgic reminiscing about the lovely sweet gentle era of the George W Bush presidency. Yes, I don't remember constant comparisons between Bushitler and... oh, hang on...

If you are counting, this is the second time within a few paragraphs that the author of this piece has used the same argument- that Republicans were FOR civilian trials of non-uniformed combatants before they were AGAINST them. Repetition, while a useful rhetorical tool, is a crap argumentative one. It's no truer now than it was fourteen seconds ago, Mr Serwer. If my rough guesstimate is right, conservatives have always been roughly split between a) execute them on the battlefield as per the Geneva conventions and b) torture them first and then execute them as per the Geneva conventions. If you can cite actual cases of real, breathing conservatives touting civilian trials for non-uniformed combatants please let me know.

'During the Bush administration, Republicans praised the convictions of terrorists like Moussaoui and Richard Reid in federal court. Now, they're arguing that military commissions should be used almost exclusively, claiming that accused terrorists don't "deserve" the same rights as Americans. This argument undermines the entire concept of a fair trial by assuming the accused is guilty prior to conviction -- and misunderstands that the right to a fair trial isn't just about granting individuals rights; it's about restricting the government's power through due process.'

Talk about talking around the point. In a warzone, there are the following statuses available: civilian (non-combatant), uniformed combatant (combatant), non-uniformed combatant (combatant), spy (sometimes a combatant). Only the first two are valid under the rules of war. The men in Gitmo were all captured in the Taliban/Al Qaeda warzone. They don't even deserve a military tribunal- they should really just be shot. But habituated as Americans are to bringing the law into everything, and humane as Americans are, they want to be seen to be doing the right thing. Even in a war against disgusting filth who hack off peoples heads on video.

Which is fine, within reason. It is only when this habituation and humanity start to have seriously bad side-effects that time must be called, and reality re-introduced to the appraisal.

In World War II, the Gestapo shot spies and partisans after they had tortured whatever information they could out of them. Harsh though this was, it was not considered a war crime. Once the SAS had become famous, Hitler decreed that any British commando or SAS trooper captured was to be shot out of hand. This caused an uproar, as it is against the rules of war. Both SAS and commandos fought in uniform, although they didn't fight conventional squad warfare. Al Qaeda and the Taliban purposely never wear uniforms, and do not recognise the validity of the Geneva conventions. According to this intellectual giant, apparently that means they should be tried in civilian court?

'Actions matter -- which is why trying Mohammed in a civilian court with all the rights of any other criminal defendant is not just an opportunity to indict the murderous philosophy of al-Qaeda before the international community'

Man oh man. You never ever put peoples philosophy on trial in court. You can't, because it is only actions which can be the subject of prosecutions. That is a fundamental of the Anglo-American legal systems. Sorry, dimwit.

'The only things Mohammed or the other accused might say about America that have any relation to reality have to do with policies that have become an implicit part of the Republican Party platform.

National Review's Andy McCarthy admitted last week that one of his concerns was that a civilian trial would involve "putting the Bush administration under the spotlight." This is what conservatives are truly afraid of. Their aggressive support for violating international human-rights laws and domestic prohibitions against torture has been a boon to terrorist recruitment around the world.'

The view on the left has always been that whatever tiny sins were perpetrated by Al Qaeda and the Taliban, they pale into insignificance in relation to the American/Republican response to them. Sadly, most Americans don't agree- and feel that the men who attacked America got exactly what they were asking for. The left want you to forget where all this messy international warfare started, about the 1993 bombing of the world trade center, the bombings of Americas embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the attack on the USS Cole and the thousands of innocents who died under the Taliban regime; and just look at the bits that make their political enemies look bad.

The idea that it is a most excellent thing that Al Qaeda operatives can get up in public, in court, and excoriate Republican policies is one which when it happens will prove to be extremely unpopular. And not because every American is a Republican. But because what George W Bush did for America was necessary, justified and successful. Even Obama wasn't stupid enough to change them- you don't fix what ain't broke.

'A trial by military commission might feed into the alleged terrorists' perception that they are "holy warriors" instead of murderers'

Er, who gives a shit?

'-- a notion that complements the conservative perception of terrorists as superpowered villains rather than as thugs.'

Straw man argument alert! Conservatives see Al Qaeda and the Wahhabist islamists for what they are: politico-religious operatives engaged in a long war against their politico-religious enemies- us. They are not willing to fight by any rules of warfare, and our response is often going to be out of the same playbook. If you think that sucks and is wrong, please see World War Two history, Allied Bomber campaign. War is harsh, and should only be engaged in by people who know what they are bringing down upon their heads, often literally.

Most of this war is going on out of our sight. Most lefties don't read military and intelligence websites, or visit the battlezones. And their imaginations are not engaged either. Most of the really disgusting things that go on will not appear on TV, or be reported in the St Louis Post Despatch. Because the enemy refuse to play by the rules of war, it is even more awful than wars are usually. Is that our fault? Is it George W Bush's fault? Only if you believe he started it.

And only the ignorant morons at 'Dismal Prospect' are that history-challenged.

'This trial is as much about showing the world that America is a country dedicated to the rule of law, a nation that will stare unflinchingly at its own sins, as it is holding Mohammed and his cohorts to account for their alleged crimes. But the sad truth is that while this trial is an important step, the Obama administration's continuation of other Bush policies remains a liability. Maintaining a "hybrid" legal system in which the venue is based on the strength of the government's case, rather than the nature of the alleged crime, and continuing a policy of indefinite detention outside a military context will continue to undermine the perception that the U.S. is governed by the rule of law rather than its own fearful impulses.'

Fear keeps us alive, just like pain warns us of danger.

A critical moment will soon be upon all of us. That is when Al Qaeda next successfully strike an American target. And the people still bashing George W Bush for fighting Al Qaeda tooth and claw will be confronted by a very unpalatable future- where Al Qaeda are still fighting despite all the self-flagellating New York trials and Obama obsequiousness to the 'muslim world'; and the righteous anger of the American people will be directed both at Al Qaeda, and the lefty enablers of Al Qaeda in their midst. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

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