The Hamdi Case


Also in The Village Voice, Nat Hentoff reviews the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi. Hamdi, an American citizen, has been imprisoned indefinitely without being charged with any crime, on the grounds that he is an "enemy combatant." Judge Robert Doumar, a Reagan appointee, asked the government defend its behavior; in response he received a two-page document that barely began to answer his concerns. For more details, go here.

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  1. Several things concern me about the hysterical reaction to this case:
    1. If a man carrying a rifle, wearing the Taliban “uniform” such that it was, and marching with the Taliban in Afghanistan was not an “enemy combatant” during our short conflict with the Taliban, what was he?
    2. If the constitutional commander in-chief of the U.S. Military does not have the “right” to designate someone on a foreign battlefield an “enemy combatant,” who does? Where does the constitution give the federal judiciary the right to lay down the rules of engagement for soldiers in battle?
    3. The Geneva Convention has, in modern conflicts, governed the treatment of soldiers captured in battle. Why does the fourth circuit have the power to remove us from that convention and apply U.S. law instead? Would Reason applaud if Iraq decides that a downed U.S. pilot was born in Iraq and therefore must stand trial in their federal courts, or would we prefer the Geneva Convention hold sway?
    4. If it really makes all the difference in the world that Hamdi is (debatably) still a U.S. citizen, isn’t the proper response to allow the military to hold him until it releases Hamdi with other prisoners of war, at which time the U.S. Attorney can decide whether to bring charges in federal court?
    5. Finally, why are so-called Civil Libertarians hell-bent to charge Hamdi with a crime? If we’d followed that model during the Gulf War, wouldn’t there be hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqi soldiers languishing in federal prison right now rather than home with their families?

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