Sham Slamming


A New York Times editorial today takes aim at "the enemy combatant sham."

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  1. The anonymous person who sarcastically called me clever still hasn't answered my question: What is the difference between 'enemy combatants' and 'enemies of the people?'

  2. This guy MAY be a terrorist and an enemy combatant in civilian dress. He is CERTAINLY a citizen. Wouldn't his citizen's right have priority? If the states assertions can be proven, the citizen will hang for treason.

    Non-citizens and citizens who take military oaths are handled according to different rules.

    Being in occassional agreement with the Times makes me feel like such a well-rounded person. 🙂

  3. The question is how do you treat large amounts of terrorists who wish to destroy your country? You don't want to give government the power to lock up people forever on their own say-so, but it's also pretty clear, as in any war, you can't stop and give everyone complete due process. It's gotta be somewhere in-between and it's not clear who gets to decide.

    By the way, while we can't do anything we want to those who refuse to play by the rules, we also don't have to treat them according to the Geneva Convention. The point of it (at least at one time--there's been mission creep) was to get people to agree to fight by certain rules by rewarding them when they fought by those rules.

  4. It was easier to tell the difference between soldier and civilian when armies lined up face to face and folks rode out in hansom carriages to watch the fight. Maybe a new catagory needs to be created with new rules and new procedures.

  5. It never ceases to amaze me that when I go to this allegedly libertarian site I find so many people who think the government shouldn't have to play by rules when it decides there's a war.

    Obviously I don't want terrorists to get any leniency. But I'd like to make sure we establish who the terrorists are before denying leniency.

    As to comparing Bush and Stalin, that's actually kind of rare. "Nazi" is the standard epithet hurled at Republicans while "communist" is usually reserved for Democrats. Hyperbolic and extreme accusations in the other direction are actually kind of novel.

    The difference between Bush and Stalin is obviously much bigger than a mustache. Nobody liked Stalin. A lot of people seem to like Bush. Clearly there must be some sort of difference.

    The problem is not that Bush is as bad as Stalin, the problem is that Bush has no qualms about pushing in a more Stalinist direction.

  6. Stephen re: non-uniformed combatants: your recommendation would legalize the battlefield execution of the American Special Forces troops who worked with the Northern Alliance last year. No uniforms. Civilian clothes. Beards grown out to blent into the local populace. Turbans and robes, occasionally even burkhas!

  7. Citizen: I love that notion. Too often we seem to apply binary solutions to more complex problems.

    thoreau: I agree. As much as he tries, Bush is not a dictator, fascist or communist. (Maybe he should try growing a moustache? 🙂 )

  8. Jennifer let me help you out. If Bush were Stalin he would be looking for you right now...get it?

    You junior moron...aren't you just sooo clever. Stalin killed millions of his own citizens. Did you think we were going to play your progressive "i see nothing, know nothing!" game with you. Go crawl back under your rock.

  9. your recommendation would legalize the battlefield execution of the American Special Forces troops who worked with the Northern Alliance last year. No uniforms. Civilian clothes.

    Actually, there need not be any "recommendation" to execute these US Special Forces members if captured by the opposition. In accordance with current international treaties regarding the rules and conduct of warfare, they are out of uniform and could be legally executed as spies.

  10. Wow! I'm amazed by the way a simple question results in so many ad hominem attacks as opposed to actual answers.

    It is true, if I made such a comment in Stalinist Russia I'd currently be a non-person. However, the difference seems to be one of degree, not of kind.

    No, Bush is not as bad as Stalin, but still with enemy combatants we nonetheless have a situation where the leader of the people decides, on his own, that a person belongs to a category undeserving of any rights. A person declared an enemy combatant in America has as much chance of defending himself as did an enemy of the people in Russia. Now, an 'enemy combatant' is less likely to be killed than an 'enemy of the people', but I'd imagine that is small consolation to any innocent persons caught up in the Guantanamo dragnet. Is anyone seriously saying that as long as Bush remains less evil than Stalin, we have nothing to worry about? Why is Bush so utterly reluctant to give these people trials? After all, if they are found guilty if will only strengthen Bush's position.

    I would also like to ask anonymous and esq what it is about my question that makes them so furious that their only answers can be insults.

  11. Some interesting stuff in the notes to Ex Parte Quirin (the 1942 Supreme Court ruling establishing precedent for military tribunals of unlawful combatants.) Most of the cited precedents date from the Civil War (another undeclared war fought against a 'stateless' foe.)

    "During the Civil War the military commission was extensively used for the trial of offenses against the law of war. Among the more significant cases for present purposes are the following:

    On May 22, 1865, T. E. Hogg and others were tried by a military commission, for "violations of the laws and usages of civilized war," the specifications charging that the accused "being commissioned, enrolled, enlisted or engaged" by the Confederate Government, came on board a United States merchant steamer in the port of Panama "in the guise of peaceful passengers" with the purpose of capturing the vessel and converting her into a Confederate cruiser. The Commission found the accused guilty and sentenced them to be hanged. The reviewing authority affirmed the judgments..."

  12. The Bush=Stalin reference? Maybe the mean people wouldn't have been unpleasant to you if you'd left out that part? Just a thought.

  13. So I'm forbidden to make a joking comment? Or perhaps I should have made use of emoticons. Let me try again:

    I guess the difference between Stalin and Bush is that Bush has no moustache 🙂

    Actually, let me start over with no jokes:

    What is the difference between Bush's enemy combatants and Stalin's enemies of the people?

    Have our standards dropped so low that we will not worry about government infringement of our rights as long as there exists somebody worse?

  14. Equating Bush to Stalin (or Hitler) is just foolish. The differences, not only in degree but also in nature are obvious. Only the most partisan person with no sense of decency would stoop to such a monstrous comparison.

    Besides, it should be patently obvious that Bush is a 21st century Thomas de Torquemada.

    I defy anyone to find anything but the most nuanced and subtle distinction between the current Commander in Chief and the former Prior of Segovia

  15. One of the questions of course that has been asked are were all these men really "terrorists?" I know so far they've released a few of them because it was obvious that they were misidentified (were they compensated, BTW?). My question is, is the American government trying to cover its ass by not releasing most/some of them, even though they may pose no threat? And how much do we actually know about the prisoners at Guantanamo?

  16. I can't believe such a simple question has started such a brouhaha. Bush and Stalin are not identical, obviously, but there is one striking similarity: both men were heads of state who invented a label (enemy combatant/enemy of the people) which they and they alone can bestow upon others, and anyone branded with this label is or was pretty much fucked. Is it truly foolish or partisan to point this out?

    I assume the Torquemada comparison was facetious but I do kow one similarity between Torquemada and the current government: the priests of the Spanish Inquisition said they would never torture people, because that is evil. Therefore, they instead hired people to do the torturing for them. Likewise, the American government will not torture people, but will send them overseas and let other governments do the torturing for them. This is NOT to say that our government is the Inquisition's twin; this merely points out that there is at least one similarity.

    Am I allowed to say this without being called partisan, foolish, moron, or any other such epithets?

  17. "The question is how do you treat large amounts of terrorists who wish to destroy your country? "

    Kill them?

  18. why don't we just ask them their opinions on rocks in courtrooms and my good friends RST and XRAY and I can then judge them.

    in good fun and in respect to the fun yelling of yesterday!

  19. "And how much do we actually know about the prisoners at Guantanamo?"

    They're not shy about whipping it out and cranking one off in front of a chick?

  20. "So I'm forbidden to make a joking comment?"

    Forbidden? Well, of course not. But you asked why it wasn't received more warmly, and that's one theory.

  21. Interesting that the person who claims that "you" can't completely respect due process and that "it's gotta be somewhere in between" doesn't even give a pseudonym.

    The game of pretending to be a voice of reason between "extremist" positions is an old one. In this case, one "extreme" is George Bush with his lettres de cachet, and the other is the civil libertarians declaring that everyone's rights must be respected, with the "moderate" position being an unspecified stance in between. If anyone has any doubts, just toss off the word "war" -- but don't get too specific.

    Goldwater and Hess still have it right: Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. If the government can deny the rights of just a few people, just while we're at "war," it can deny anyone's rights at any time.

  22. "The question is how do you treat large amounts of terrorists who wish to destroy your country? "

    No, that's easy. Kill them, or hold them in prison until they're old men. The question is, how do we go about deciding who is, and who isn't, a terrorist who wishes to destroy our country?

  23. Right on, Joe. And if we decide to kill entire populations because some of them are terrorists we're not much better than Saddam who gassed an entire population because it was a convenient way to put down an insurrection.

  24. I agree- this "enemy combatant" label is a complete sham.

    I propose that anybody caught on the battlefield in civilian clothes, bearing weapons against U.S. troops, be court martialled for sabotage or as a spy, then executed if found guilty. This accords with treatment afforded such persons under the Geneva Conventions, and with customary international law.

    This would be nasty, and possibly abusive of the ever-evolving standard of human rights we apply to perpetrators (but not victims) of crimes. S

    Best of all, it would avoid the much more serious charge of hypocrisy -- better that we hew to no standards, than to violate the standards we aspire to.

  25. Gary McGrath does not get it. It's simply stating a truth that in war you don't give everyone you capture the full due process a civilian gets in peacetime. This is not controversial. Heck, our military people don't even get full due process when there's NOT a war.

  26. Has anybody asked the government the difference between Bush's "enemy combatants" and Stalin's "enemy of the people?" The only difference I can see is that Stalin had a moustache, whereas Bush is clean-shaven.

  27. Welcome to the party, you grey old bitch.

  28. Wow, Jennifer, that's really clever. I don't think anyone has compared Bush to Stalin or Hitler before.

    If the mustache is the only difference you can see, you're an idiot.

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