Indefinite Detentions

Conservative pundits often observe that "this is a new type of war -- shouldn't the president have new powers to fight it?"  Well, maybe.  But I think there is a question that is at least as valid:  "Given that enemy combatants don't wear uniforms any more, shouldn't we exercise more care than in the past in how we designate people as combatants?"  The much greater ambiguity in naming combatants would seem to demand extra layers of process protection and appeal rights for such persons.

Unfortunately, this Administration, with the aid and comfort of the US Congress, has gone exactly in the opposite direction.  As Jim Bovard writes, via Cato-at-Liberty:

The MCA awarded Bush the power to label anyone on earth an enemy
combatant and lock then up in perpetuity, nullifying the habeas corpus
provision of the Constitution and "turning back the clock 800 years,"
as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said. While only foreigners can be tried
before military tribunals, Americans accused of being enemy combatants
can be detained indefinitely without charges and without appeal. Even
though the Pentagon has effectively admitted that many of the people
detained at Guantanamo were wrongfully seized and held, the MCA
presumes that the president of the United States is both omniscient and
always fair.

Sixty years ago, when the military hauled in a guy dressed in a gray Wermacht uniform captured in the Ardennes Forest, you kindof gave them the benefit of the doubt that he was an enemy combatant.  How long until merely exercising free speech rights in favor of a terrorist group gets one labeled a "combatant."


  1. Rob:

    That's one of the main difficulties of fighting against guerrilla warfare using conventional tactics. Who is the enemy is the biggest question to solve? If you tip toe around not trying to hurt anyone's feelings, then you die, if you bomb them all, then people get mad. Personally, I'd rather make other's be mad, than for me to be dead.

    One thing I never understood is why would we give people designated enemies the same rights which they have been trying to violate? and don't afford to us when captured?

  2. Jim Collins:

    If a US citizen takes up arms against the US then the crime is Treason and there is precedent in out legal system to both revoke their citizenship and to prosecute them. If the person is not a citizen of the US and the conflict isn't within the borders of the US, why should they recieve the protections of our Constitution?

    I'm getting a little bit sick and tired of people attacking US troops and then after the troops defend themselves the survivors hide their weapons and claim to be victims of attrocities.

  3. Rob:

    The enemy knows how to use our own system of laws against us, but what's worse is that the enemy can use
    the media to stir up anger from within the country (ie. CNN did a great job showing those sniper tapes)

    We have been bending over backward not to offend, demoralize, hurt innocent people, but maybe it is about
    time to start leveling those mosques, churches, hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, gov't buildings, etc.
    in which our enemy is hiding. Sure, we will kill people who are not involved per se, but at this point, if
    those people are allowing the enemy to hide in its midst, then they are allowing themselves to be targets as well.

    There was an interesting article about how methods of warfare become outdated or run into barriers.
    I think Iraq is a perfect example of how B52's with stealh laser guided missles are useless, until
    our attitude and tactics are updated for handling guerilla warfare. Bombing hospitals which hold
    rocket launchers and terrorists might not be the best way, but letting them stand there and shoot
    rockets is neither.

  4. Ray G:

    I'm afraid of our government in the larger sense, and fully expect them to take too much power anytime they have the opportunity.

    Now, having said that, this type of warfare - typically referred to as 4th Generation Warfare or 4GW - is a different ball game than traditional warfare. Sixty years ago, the enemy wore a uniform and fought for rational reasons. Now they do not.

    This doesn't mean that I agree with how the administration has handled everything, and in that sense, George W. Bush is the least of our worries. It's the larger principle of giving the govt that much power.

    As for the finer points of what has happened over the last couple of years, most people or outlets I hear are twisting several things together. Should an American citizen be held as an enemy combatant? Of course not, even if they have "switched sides." They should still have access to the same judicial resources as the rest of us, with appropriate security issues in mind.

    But this argument is being muddled together with the terrorists in Gitmo, so that many are arguing to extend Constitutional rights to foreign nationals culled from the battlefields of hostile lands. That is both absurd and a perverse twisting of the more basic question of Constitutional rights afforded to citizens, not just any schmuck with a pulse.