Still Missing the Point

Discussions about Guantanamo still seem to focus on moving the prisoners to another facility.  This is exactly the danger I warned about several years ago -- that focusing too much on Gitmo itself as a facility was missing the whole point.  The problem was indefinite detentions without due process, not the facility per se.  But since so much of the press latched onto Gitmo itself as the problem, it as allowed the administration to say that it is solving the problem by eliminating Gitmo and moving the prisoners  (either to Illinois or Afghanistan, the plan keeps changing) while still clinging to the position that it should still have the power to detain people at the President's pleasure.

Dhalia Lithwick has a good article on just what a mess we have created at Gitmo.  Are there potential, even past, terrorists there?  Probably.  But I could probably say that there are current or past criminals in any random 1000 people I might sweep off the street.  That doesn't justify locking them up  -- as a country, we have always said that it is better to free the innocent at the cost of potentially missing some of the guilty.

And please don't hammer me again in the comments with "there is a war on and these are just POW's."  Sorry, they are nothing like traditional POW's.  They were not caught on the battlefield, were not in uniform, in many cases were just turned in by other people for a bounty.  I think I would accept that maybe slightly different rules apply to these folks than to a person arrested on 5th Avenue in New York, but on the other hand supporters of their detention need to admit that some extra scrutiny needs to exist vs. traditional POW rules, as in this case their very combatant status is unclear, something that was not the case in, say, with most POW's in WWII.


  1. Mark:

    One point to make about not always using civilian courts and justice. The panty bomber was part of an international El Quaeda ring which attempted to attack us, he was a lone fellow knocking over a 7 - 11 (or Circle K, AM/PM - whatever is in your area)

    So if we took him to Gitmo, we could have um - "tortured" him and gotten some useful information about who set him up, who trained him, who did he train with, what other people are about to try the same thing, etc. Now, though since we consider him a civilian and he is going through civilian court, he has shut up, and we will not get any of this valuable information.

    I understand the civil libertarian POV, but I also think there has to be some middle ground.

  2. Ken:

    "in many cases were just turned in by other people for a bounty."

    I think this is a key point. There are specific reasons to be skeptical about the methodology used to conclude that at least some of these people are terrorists. Particularly given the tribal conflicts in the regions in question, using a bounty method is roughly like telling the Crips that we'll give them cash if they turn in Bloods and swear they are major drug dealers.

    Plus, there's the fact that a number of the people released from Gitmo have resorted to association with terrorist or "insurgent" groups. Gitmo defenders typically present this as evidence that everyone in Gitmo is bad any nobody should be released. I tend to look at this and say "Hmm, the folks who are evaluating whether these guys are dangerous and should be released are the same folks who are deciding they merit being in Gitmo in the first place. Am I really to believe that they are fallible in deciding who is NOT dangerous, but infallible in deciding who IS dangerous?"

  3. Stan:

    "think I would accept that maybe slightly different rules apply to these folks than to a person arrested on 5th Avenue in New York, but on the other hand supporters of their detention need to admit that some extra scrutiny needs to exist vs. traditional POW rules"

    I agree with you on both points, but I doubt we would agree on the specifics. And frankly, what we need are specifics, even though they would be arbitrary and absurd in many cases.

  4. Dave:

    It is true that as a country we have always held that it is preferrable to free the guilty than to wrongly punish the innocent. Do you not see how for reasonable people, 9/11 may have somewhat altered that calculus?

  5. Bryan:

    re "The problem was indefinite detentions without due process" - as I understand it, there _is_ a process. That process has resulted in many releases over the years.

    It is also clear that "POW rules" is a misplaced paradigm because the prisoners do not meet accepted standards for that class of prisoner.

    The fact is that we have a class of prisoners that is newly prominent. In the past, they would have usually received summary judgment but, like pirates in modern times, there is a significant resistance to such practice.

    What we need to figure out is how we answer 'who is us vs who is them' and 'who is an aberrant us vs aberrant them' and how do we make such distinctions and how should those distinctions be used to determine our response to them?

    A first step in this process is to acknowledge both history and current practice. Presuming no process is not a good start on this step, IMHO.

  6. Mark:

    Of course these individuals are not POWs. No one has ever claimed they are POWs. They are enemy combatants, a completely different distinction. One major distinction is that enemy POWs are covered by the Geneva Convention. Enemy combatants are not.

    The highest international norm for the treatment of enemy combatants is to have a military trial and military justice. Most of the nations of the world do, like China or Russia, do not even conform to this standard. They just simply torture these people and then execute them, no further questions asked.

  7. Doug:

    May I assume, Coyote, that neither your wife nor children were on board American 253?

    I have a major problem with civil libertarians in that it's always an academic exercise for them. It's never personal.

  8. Sandman:

    May I assume, Doug, that you have never been wrongly convicted of a crime?

    I'm not sure how this is an academic exercise. There are plenty of real world examples that could affect any of us where civil liberties are eroded.

    I'd say it's _extremely_ personal. We're afraid that some guy is gonna show up, shoot our dog, and take us away because our neighbor saw a brown person come into our home. That's what this is all about.

  9. Reformed Republican:


    This is not about be people wrongly convicted of a crime. This is about people being simply accused of a crime, not convicted of anything. And, by holding them without trial, they do not have to be convicted of anything to be kept locked away.

  10. Rick Shepard:

    "They were not caught on the battlefield, were not in uniform,"

    Where is the defined battlefield? Is it a mountain range in the Middle East, or a flying tube full of people in the sky over America? Its very difficult to define the battlefield in this war.

    Does it really matter what clothes they wear? They wouldn't be expected to be in a uniform since they don't represent a state. When pirates were attacking American ships in the 1700's did we lawyer them up and put them through the American court system?

    I'm not a died in the wool conservative so I dont mean to sound like one but there is obviously a difference between Al Queda members and criminals who happen to be U.S. Citizens. We didn't put Nazi's through our courts with all the protections that provides so why should we do that here?

  11. Reformed Republican:

    You are describing the problems, Rick. They have no uniforms. There is no defined battlefield. They do not represent a state. Unless caught in the act, there is no way to know for sure if they are terrorists or just innocent people who were falsely accused. If they are detained indefinitely, there is no way to find out. That is why they should not be treated like Prisoners of War--without a trial, you cannot be sure that is what they are.

  12. NormD:

    "we have always said that it is better to free the innocent at the cost of potentially missing some of the guilty"

    So since we know with 100% certainty that at least one person in prison is innocent, should we free all prisoners?

    So how many innocent people are you willing to lock up to get bad guys off the street? 1/10, 1/100, 1/1000, 1/10000? If you are as intellectually honest as you claim you should supply some non-zero number.

    Also, there must be situations where we are 100% sure that someone is a bad guy (fill in "bad" for yourselves) but we are unwilling or unable to reveal how we know. What do we do in such situations? Gitmo seems like a reasonable solution. Its small. Its limited. Its open. Why the complaints?

  13. James H:

    How does anyone besides the administration know why these people are detained? Some may be political adversaries of heads of states of middle-eastern "allies", or whatever else. All power is in the executive branch to capture and detain indefinitely. It would be like some kid that hated you in high school becoming president, capturing you, and indefinitely detaining you without accountability to anyone.

  14. Dr. T:

    Most of the Gitmo prisoners were caught in the act of fighting US soldiers in Afghanistan. We had the right to execute them on the battlefield or to imprison them, question them, and execute them later. We were stupid to ship them to Cuba for indefinite detention.

    The ones turned in under bounties should have been interrogated and either released (no solid evidence of terrorist or guerilla activities) or executed (solid evidence).

    The stupidity of Gitmo detentions now bites us in the ass and makes us look like fools. The initial blame belongs to top military brass and President Bush, and the current idiocy of closing Gitmo and scattering the detainees belongs solely to Obama.

  15. me:

    Ah, sorry Coyote. Finally your true terrorist self becomes apparent! The enemy combatants we locked away are, because someone said so. Your argument may be read as supporting their interest, hence you are guilty of supporting terrorist organizations. That makes you a terrorist, hence: dentention without trial for you. Also: anyone commenting on this blog is supporting your cause. Off to Baghrad. Heads off, this is still a law and order nation. And as Benjamin Bush once said - those who are willing to trade their safety for a little freedom deserve neither...

  16. me:

    Sorry, that was probably a little overbearing. It just disappoints me to see so many commenters not getting the basic idea that as long as you can lock up/disappear people without any checks and balances, well, you've just laid waste to the very constitution this country is supposedly built upon.

  17. Sam:

    I would point out to many of the commenters that Warren carefully tagged this post under "individual rights". That is at the heart of the debate. Don't forget that the rights listed under the Bill of Rights are not granted; they are simply affirmed. These must be universal individual human rights, or you are simply not intellectually honest with yourself about the political science that framed the society you live in.

    I must vehemently disagree that "We had the right to execute them on the battlefield or to imprison them, question them, and execute them later." . No. We have the right to defend ourselves and our persons on a battlefield by using deadly force. Once the imminent danger to ourselves posed directly by the individual ceases and they surrender to troops, they are due a right to a fair and speedy trial, to not be tortured, and to be treated with a minimum level of respect due their humanity, if not their person or their actions. A Western philosophy that includes rights and a blind legal system, is precisely what differentiates us from Muslim terrorists. I am not saying we can't execute terrorists. Far from it. But regardless of their crimes, Nazi or terrorist, 7-11 robber or 9:11, they deserve a fair trial, and, if need be, a speedy execution. But not a sham trial. Nor an indefinite incarceration .... what's next: US citizens being detained because they dared speak out against the airport security madness pushed by the incompetent and ineffective TSA ?

    I am horrified at the implications that the poster Doug would advocate an legal position that involves an emotional, personal (even vengeful) response to a crime. To do so is to throw out principles of blind justice and threaten the very idea of society based on individual rights. Therein lies the destruction of individual liberty. To do so is to start down a slippery slope that paves the way for a (already increasingly) fascist State.

  18. Craig:

    The problem with Gitmo was not lack of POW or civilian status for inmates, or being located in Cuba, it was simply the lack of some sort of hearing to determine if prisoners deserved enemy combatant status. Eventually, the combat status review tribunal was put into effect, but the Supreme Court squashed that idea, which is why we are here now with detainee access to US courts. Eventually, Gitmo as a symbol became untenable, so the prisoners have to be moved, even if we eliminate lack of due process.

  19. Mark:

    Again, most of the "civilized" world recognizes that an enemy combatant, such as a spy, is to be given a MILITARY trial and then, if convicted, to be executed. The British and French surely follow this practice. The Russians and Chinese follow even more limited safe guards.

    The United States has went way beyond any other country (look how the British treat Irish terrorist or the French Algerian). For any of these nations to criticize our conduct is not just hypocrcy but a joke. That Obama is intimidated by this "world opininion: shows his weakness, not his strength.

  20. Gil:

    As others have pointed out - they're enemy combatants not POWs. They don't follow the rules of war so they don't get basic rights of POWs.

    On the other hand, the law system is a system of best determining if someone's guilty or innocent. Sometimes an innocent person is going to get jailed and a dangerous criminal is let off because of lack of evidence. However I doubt any Western system is obliged to release prisoners based on the principle they "might be innocent". I believe once you're convicted you're now "guily until proven innocent". Can't yet prove you're innocent? Back to your cell.

    Similarly, it akin to the false notion presented in "Rambo 2" - the notion that a military is obliged to rescue any prisoners who are captured by the enemy. In reality, a military leader isn't obliged to risk the lives of more soldiers to rescue others.

  21. ilovebenefits:

    Okay, but war is being fought differently now. We don't line up in rows and fire volleys.

  22. Michael Miller:

    The status of these people needs to be properly defined before any legal steps can be taken. Are they pows under the geneva convention? Are they criminals, terrorists or enemy combatants? What Courts have lawful jurisdiction over them? None of this has been defined, or properly considered.

    Personally, I do not believe that these people are entitled to be protected under laws designed to protect the rights guaranteed to US citizens under the US Constitution.

    I do believe that these people should have some basic human rights recognized, but that justice for these people should be handled by the military, and in military courts only. They are not entitled by the Constitution to anything else.

  23. Michael B Babbitt:

    Perhaps, like the spies in the past, we should shoot them on the spot. Or send a drone over them like we are doing in Yemen and in Afghanistan. Now, there's your due process argument -- whose innocent, whose guilty? Where's their attorney? Sorry, but war is different that looking for criminals. And I completely disagree with your argument using the assumption of innocence as the starting point; saving the lives of your countrymen is more important. Otherwise, you will lose a war that way. We already are suffering greatly from the releases we already have allowed.And they were evaluated by experts! Locking them up as they are with military tribunals with swift but fair trials is perhaps the best we have.

  24. James L Burns:

    I'm not sure of your preception of the situation, but any implication that the people at GITMO have been held for years without any review of their status is just wrong. By mid 2003 the U.S. started transferring detainees back to the custody of their home countries. Beginning in 2005 an Administrative Review Board begain a review of the status of detainees and made recommendations on the status. My understanding of the ARB is that a detainee can appear before and present information to a three-member board of military officers. The outcome, based primarily on current threat assessment and intelligence value of each detainee, can be to release, to transfer to the control of another country, or to continue to detain the detainee at Guantanamo for another year.

    As of the time Obama took office, there were only about 245 detainees left at GITMO, so more than half of those sent to GITMO had been released, largely as a result of the ARB process.

    One can argue whether the ARB process is enough, but there doesn't appear to be any basis for the perception that detainees are left at GITMO indefinitely without any review. And given this history, there is a pretty good bet that those who are left at GITMO are there for a good reason.

  25. Eddie:

    Me: "It just disappoints me to see so many commenters not getting the basic idea that as long as you can lock up/disappear people without any checks and balances, well, you’ve just laid waste to the very constitution this country is supposedly built upon."

    The constitution says nothing about disappearing foreign enemies, with or without trial, representation, rights of legal redress, or whatever. You seem to forget that the constitution is an agreement between the citizens of the nation defining the government's powers and responsibilities, and delineating the rights of the citizens therein. It is a contract between government and the governed, and unless the imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay are US citizens, it has as much application as the Magna Carta, or the Code of Hammurabi.

  26. Lincolntf:

    Gifting terror suspects with Constitutional liberties is as shortsighted an idea as I've seen yet. These prisoners come from many different sources. Some were indeed captured on the battlefield, some were turned over by foreign security services, some were found after hunts lasting months to years, and some were probably mistakenly detained. As it stands, it is an incontrovertible fact that a percentage of the already released prisoners have returned to terrorism. Presumably these were the ones deemed least dangerous. Makes me think that the remaining terrorist detainees are the worst of the worst.
    Just as Abe Lincoln and FDR had to use their Executive power to ensure the survival of the U.S., so does our current CinC. Offering one more potential positive outcome to terrorist attempts is absurd.

  27. Mark:

    "The status of these people needs to be properly defined before any legal steps can be taken"

    What are you talling about? As I have pointed out, twice now, the status of these people HAS been properly defined from DAY ONE. They are enemy combatants. Enemy combatants, both foreign and domesitic, will be tried by military tribunals as per international norm.

    Simple. Why we have let the rest of the world GOAD with their anti-George W. Bush hysteria into doing something stupid is amazing.

  28. Bill:

    I think Coyote's point is very strong post.

    Also, how does one account for the practical problem that occupying a foreign land under arms tends to beget irregular or partisan forces opposing our army, if for no other reason than we're an invader. Certainly, you can't turn them free over and over again everytime they're captured. You can't execute them once captured. You can't, or at least I don't think anybody really wants to imprison them for life. Keeping them imprisoned indefinitely is not the right solution, even if there is no good answer. We cannot be known as a country that tortures, "disppears" people, or imprisons for decades with no charges, trial, or explanation. There are countries who do that, and they are not safer or nicer places to be than here. If we start/continue down this track, we will not be as nice a place to live as we are now.

  29. Michael Miller:

    Mark, Obama is the president now. His administration is (re) defining the status of these people, and they are being given rights belonging to US citizens. I believe that you are correct in that these people are terrorists, war criminals, and enemy combatants, and should be held in military prisons and tried by military tribunals.

    The Christmas Day Bomber cannot be properly interrogated because he is now being held and shielded by civilian court.

    Clearly he is an enemy combatant and his status has been improperly defined by the Obama administration. This man belongs in the custody of the military. I hope this is clear to you now.

  30. Bill:

    There seems to be some confusion about what the Geneva convention says, what international law of war is, what the constitution mandates, etc.

    First off, it is never legal to "execute" someone on the battlefield. This is especially true under the Geneva Convention for an irregular military foes, like Taliban fighters, that are encountered while bearing arms openly on the battle field.

    Finally, no matter what the Geneva Convention says or does not say, the U.S. Government and everyone who acts for it must at all times obey and uphold the Constitution. They must also obey all the criminal codes and statutes imposed on them by U.S. and other countries, if they are in that country. That usually means no killing (when not in combat), torture, etc. As an affirmative defense, when charged with murder or battery (torture), they could say, yes, I'd be guilty of this crime but for the sudden imminent emergency of bodily harm to myself or others if I did not kill/torture. That imminent bodily harm has to be both imminent though. It cannot simply be, "well, maybe he knew something."

    The fact that the law is not always followed or that it is broken does not mean that it is not the law. Remember the decision not to prosecute people who tortured on the good faith belief that it was sanctioned from higher up? That shows crimes were committed, because "following orders" is never a defense, and a lot of people could have gone to jail for torture were shown mercy.

  31. Michael Miller:

    Were they shown mercy or was there serious political interference with the administration of justice?

    I suspect the latter. And that smacks of corruption, which I believe to be widespread throughout the legislative bodies and courtrooms of this country.

    A black man was just ordered released from a Florida prison by a Florida Judge, after being incarcerated for 25 years. He was released because DNA evidence proved that he was innocent of the crime the State of Florida had convicted him of.

    So much for due process. That man was framed, and this happens day in and day out all across the country.

    So please forgive me for being a bit skeptical. I do not believe our civilian courts will be any improvement over the traditional military tribunal. The detainees are just as likely to be abused of their legal rights in one forum as in the other. Sad but true.

  32. Dr. T:

    Bill said: "There seems to be some confusion about what the Geneva convention says, what international law of war is, what the constitution mandates, etc.

    First off, it is never legal to “execute” someone on the battlefield."

    Yes, it is. You simply do not accept a surrender and kill every enemy combatant. We have done this many times in wars, conflicts, terrorist hunts, whatever. It is most applicable when you have no capability to handle prisoners, but it can be a general policy.

    I dislike war, but I believe that when you are in one you need to fight effectively, efficiently, and ruthlessly. This is nastier in the short-term, but ending the war sooner saves lives in the medium-term.

  33. John Moore:

    As much as I respect Coyote's reasoning in many areas, he is way off base on this one.

    You can't just brush off the "we are in a war argument," because, well, we are in a war, as demonstrated on Christmas day. The fact that the war is of indefinite duration is our enemies' choice, not ours.

    The trope that these prisoners are just some innocents picked up for bounty likewise doesn't fly. Review procedures got rid of those people a long time ago, along with a lot of genuine terrorists, who have reappeared on the battlefield.

    I agree that we can't hold all of them indefinitely. Many deserve military tribunals for their crimes against humanity, followed by execution in many cases. Many others deserve to be kept in a military facility (not a prison in Illinois) for the rest of their lives (after the due process of a military tribunal).

    The civil libertarian interference in the conduct of war has already gotten to the point that troops refer to it as "lawfare." . They have recently reported they are now much more likely to kill, in the kill vs capture scenario, than in the past. They believe they aren't going to be able to get good intelligence out of captives, and they can expected to encounter them again on the battlefield after the "civil libertarians" get them turned loose.

  34. Mesa Econoguy:

    Sometimes they tie
    a thief to the tree

    Sometimes I stare,
    sometimes it’s me

  35. Mesa Econoguy:

    I wish it were so simple. It’s not.

  36. James A. Donald:

    War is not policing. If you fight war by peacetime rules, you lose. War is hell. Most people killed in war are innocent. War has to be fought to win it, and so much the worse for justice.

    When the British were fighting communists in Malaysia they imprisoned the entire chinese population. If someone looked Chinese, he got put in a camp. In war, you have to be as cruel as your enemies. Winners are always forgiven provided they stop doing bad things once they are victorious, no matter how dreadful the means they employed to attain victory. Losers are never forgiven

  37. Hoodima2000:

    All moral issues aside, for each Gitmo inmate, even ones with real terrorist inclinations, there is probably a thousand others out there in the wild. So, by releasing them, we'd maybe increase the chance of a successful terror attack by 0.1%, but would definitely save ourself an enormous amount of trouble.

  38. Mark:

    "we’d maybe increase the chance of a successful terror attack by 0.1%"

    This is the stupidest logic yet. Leadership attrition is a major problem for any type of army. New leaders cannot just automatically replace experienced leaders. Often the ones killed or captured are also the most daring and talented.

    If you want a historical example, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia is probably the best. Effective Civil War leadership meant that high ranking officers were exposed to fire. Over time, the most talented Confederate leaders were killed and incapacitated. They simply could not be replaced, even if occasionally a younger leader like John B. Gordon proved to be extremely capable.

  39. ParatrooperJJ:

    Keep in mind that combatants cought on the battlefield not in uniform can be executed as spies at any time without a trial or any kind of hearing.

  40. ADiff:


    Ah...."illegal irregular combatants"....not just anyone "not in uniform". Of course a strong argument could be made to that effect for many (although probably not all) irregular personnel detained in our operations in Afganistan... Of course this is just the 'letter of the law' of war, such as it is (Geneva conventions and all that), subject to popular interpretation and the court of public opinion and all that. But if the case is never made....

  41. ADiff:


    The attrition analogy isn't theoretically unsound, but it's may well be flawed by the level of overall losses. The casualties among the jihadi community is very possibly too low to do much more than weed out their less successful and adroit specimens, leaving the stronger to grow stronger still...When we start killing thousands at a swoop, perhaps it'll be otherwise, or perhaps you have greater confidence in our ability to accurately target select groups...anyway, it's worth think about, at any rate, I think.

  42. Mark ii:

    Not really. We are not talking about a large army to begin with. If you do not think that the terrorist have been hurt by the attrition in their leadership I would say you do not have a very sound basis of analysis. Further, all of their capabilities have been degregaded because of our combat activities in Iraq, Afghanastan, Pakistan and other bad places. If you are a terrorist leader do you really want to spend a lot of time on your cell phone right now? Or are you scared that a Hellfire misslle might be screaming at you as you speak?

    The INARGUABLE fact, getting back to the main purpose of the thread, is that these people are Enemy Combatants. The Executive can classify individuals as an Enemy Combatant. THe fact that they can does not mean that EVERYONE is going to be so classified. We have been doing this for more than 60 years, through world wars, the Cold War, and the War on Terror. I believe that it has been used in a very justifiable manner. Some mistakes have been made, but very few and those mistakes were based on good information.

  43. me:

    Argh. We're not in a "war". Just like the war on drugs, the war on terror is a sham. Yes, we're using our national resources against the private crackpots spread throughout various countries. But we're not fighting organized nation states.

    There are all sorts of problems with that (just imagine Oklahoma bombing Lockport to cinders because they harbored and supported a known terrorist. Might cause some resentment and achieve very little.)

    Meanwhile, the idea that we relax certain prescriptions of the constitution during times of (actual) war (ie when our whole nations existence is threatened) is used to undermine the functioning of that very constitution in what is effectively peacetime (if you don't believe that, just compare the deaths by car accident over the last 20 years to the deaths caused by terrorist attacks - maybe it's time for a war on private transportation?).

    And to those who point out that really, only US citizens should have rights - (a) you're incorrect in your constitutional history, as Sam points out above, the situation is rather different and (b) there's f-ing US citizens being disappeared with the same mechanism.

  44. John Moore:

    Argh. We’re not in a “war”. Just like the war on drugs, the war on terror is a sham. Yes, we’re using our national resources against the private crackpots spread throughout various countries. But we’re not fighting organized nation states.

    Tell that to the soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti and the elsewhere. We are in a war with Islamic Jihadists. You can call it something else if it makes you feel better, but when military action is going, when the enemy that we are fighting has destroyed buildings and killed thousands in our cities, and when they plan to do more... yep, it's a war.

    The idea that a war has to be fought against "nation states" is just wrong. Tell the Marines who went to the shores of Tripoli in our first war against this same enemy.

  45. Mark ii:

    "But we’re not fighting organized nation states."

    Your post ends right here. Terrorism is an act of war. War does not need to be fought only against nation states. To claim otherwise would be to be arguing that the Civil War was not a war. Just as in the Civil or Revolutionary War, these terrorist are trying to essentially create a nation state, in their case a state ruled by a fundamentalist Islamic caliphate that not only includes all of the Muslim world but beyond.

    So, regardless of ill informed people like you we are at war. Regardless of what you believe, these captured individuals ARE enemy combatants. They meet all of the criteria for such a classification and they should be treated as such. This should, to any person with even limited common sense, mean a military tribunal and military justice. Any nation that disaproves of our course is only playing hypocritical world politics.

  46. me:

    Argh, let-me-invoke-the-name-of-the-lord-in-vain. I make a big point about priorities and systemic dangers, rights and entitlements, and this is the kind of response I elicit?

    I am sure that if we declared the city of Houston a war area and send in the military to disarm and pacify those notorious Houstonites (keep in mind that to keep the argument level, they'd have no rights whatsoever, and we should probably have a few bombing runs to set things up) and they shoot back (audacious!), the soldiers we send in would love to believe they are in a war instead of a criminal and pointless action endangering and in some cases wasting their lives.

    The interesting thing here is that if you talk to actual soldiers, you get the 'I do my duty', the 'the situation is really bad down there', the 'we get precious little support from our government' and most importantly the 'we really shouldn't be here'. Heck, I had two of my friends in the military go full circle from enthusiastic support to resigning because they were so disgusted with their tours in Iraq.

    Just for good measure - we've had less than 5000 Americans killed by terrorist attacks since 2000. We've had more than 324000 people killed since then in traffic accidents. Why are we spending more than $948,000,000,000 on fighting terrorism since then. We're spending less than $621,000,000,000 on *all* transportation. Also, we haven't reduced drivers' constituational rights and are far from waterboarding people to determine if they ran that red light. Although that might just be around the corner.

  47. Mark ii:

    The Houston analogy just demonstrates your pathetic logic. I guess completely ignoring 9/11 stands as rational argument to you.

    Now, to make the analogy even close, you would have to create some event where the city government of Houston used chemical weapons on their own citizens and neighboring cities. Then invaded another neighboring city and was forced to sign a cease fire agreement that stated they would verifiable (remember that word) dismantle all of the chemical, biological, and other non-conventional weapons.

    Then, terrorist groups related to groups that the government of Houston supports attacks the United States in a lethal manner. The City of Houston has spent 12 years flaunting the cease fire agreement, particularly those concerning the non-conventional weapons and also suppressing the 2/3 majority in their city and laughably buying off members of the United Nations in the so called "Oil for Food" program.

    Under your ideals the United States government should do absolutely nothing to this obvious threat.

    TOo bad that the situation in Iraq has changed so it no longer matches your head in the sand paridigms.

  48. me:

    Mark, I guess you'll need a hug. Please keep the comparisons straight - either compare to the Iraq war (in which case you'll have to let go of the idea that the comparison lacks the terrorist attack angle), or you'll have to use Afghanistan or Yemen as examples (in which case chemical weapons etc. don't enter the equations). Never mind the fact that the alleged weapons of mass destruction charge turned out to be a completely bogus fabrication.

    Thank you for completely ignoring the core argument of relative priorities.

    Also keep in mind that we're mostly killing civilians who never used chemical weapons on anyone. Also keep in mind that the latest underwear bombing attempt and the CIA assassination were committed by folks who got real upset with having foreign troups doing that to their people. Do the math about how much safer we are for all the money we spent. Compare to the effect and equal investment in transport safety would have had.

  49. mot:

    9/11 was nothing more than the work of a small group of average, albeit suicidal, criminals. They had box cutters and some flying lessons. Planning the operation could not have been more difficult than, say, organizing a bachelor party to Vegas.

    Unfortunately, due to the physics of air travel, they were able to destroy several large buildings and kill thousands of people. Also unfortunate is that they were of a race, nationality, and religion that is easily for us to vilify.

    Change some variables, let's say hypothetically that 9/11 was instead a small group of German neo-Nazis whose ideology required them to hate the US government and consequently bomb an American movie theater, killing dozens. Tragic, to be sure, but we would not have declared "war" on terror, or even on neo-Nazis. We would not send fighter jets and Predator drones to bomb Germany and kill hundreds of thousands of Germans because some were suspected neo-Nazis. We would not send tens of thousands of marines to Berlin and Munich to root out neo-Nazis. We would not capture, torture, and indefinitely detain hundreds of Germans in Cuba on the suspicion of being neo-Nazis.

    Both cases are terrorist acts of similar sophistication carried out by groups driven by radical ideologies. But while it's laughably ridiculous that we might go to war with modern-day Germany (because that's certainly what it would be called if we bombed the s*** out of them), many Americans and many commenters on this blog find it perfectly acceptable to go to "war" with Afghanistan, Yemen, etc. Hypocrites.

  50. Mark ii:

    "Never mind the fact that the alleged weapons of mass destruction charge turned out to be a completely bogus fabrication"

    Absolutely false. Remember in my previous post where I highlighted the word VERIFY. Iraq was required to verifiably destroy its known chemical and biological weapons. Saddam Hussein my have indeed took his stock of non-conventional weapons out into the desert and dumped them. But, he did not comply with the verification aspect as required by UN Resolution 687, the Gulf War ceasefire. Iraq was out of compliance with this ceasefire. When a party is out of compliance with such a resolution, the adversaries resume a state of war. At a minimum, the 2003 war is just a continuation of the 1991 Gulf War following to its logical conclusion.

    "9/11 was nothing more than the work of a small group of average, albeit suicidal, criminals"

    You are an ABSOLUTE idiot if you believe this. The 9/11 attacks were a sophisticated assault on the United States. The utilization of force may have been crude and unsophisticated in some ways, but that is only a minor part.

    For example, prior to 9/11 the reinsurance companies that insured the commercial properties that were attacked were shorted in the stock market.

    "We would not send tens of thousands of marines to Berlin and Munich to root out neo-Nazis"

    Really? I guess the missing variable that you fail to mention is whether the German government was supporting, directly or indirectly, these neo-Nazis. IF they were giving such support as the pre-9/11 governements of Iraq and Afghanastan, then the United States by ALL INTERNATIONAL LAW AND PRESIDENCE, has the right to self defense and using all force available against such governments.

    What you idiots pretend is that this was some sort of isolated incident that was not supported by the governments. Iraq had a long history of supporting anti-US terrorist groups such as Abu Nidal Organization, and whose leader was being sheltered in Iraq until he became a liability and was probably killed on Hussein's order.

    The strategic aims of the Iraq War have been achieved for all practical purposes. The isolation of Iran (look at a map and see which countries border to east and west) has been accomplished, its potential nuclear weapons are a much smaller threat with US control of the skies in Iraq than otherwise, and the internal support of the Islamic regime is very fragile. Iraq because of its demographic character may never become a western style democracy, and one of George W. Bush's mistakes was to overhype this goal, but for now Iraq is a country that will be able to enjoy economic growth and relative stability if they can keep the ethnic battles to a minimum.