Star Chambers – Out!

I abhor any use of torture to gain information. By stooping to these base tactics, we are no better then those who we fight. America is supposedly a beacon of freedom in this dark world. Are we to become simply another thinly veiled totalitarian regime?

We are at a turning point in our history as a nation and as a world. Do we want to be friends with the world, or at war with the world. If we do aspire to rule the world, is it through military might or inclusive partnerships?

I cannot stress enough how strongly I am against us modifying the Geneva Convention for this ‘war on terror’. Terror is not an army which we can meet on the battlefield and vanquish. It’s a group of thuggish criminals who operate outside of the rules to gain an upper hand.

Treat them like the criminals they are, arrest them, jail them, but treat them fairly. As you would want to be treated were the circumstances reversed.

I urge you to send a letter to your congresscritter in regards to this issue.

8 thoughts on “Star Chambers – Out!”

  1. I think that the uncertain language that promotes ‘allegations’ both ways is very troubling. Since we live in a ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’ state, laws should be constructed so that they are very concise, to the point and easily readable.

    I have read HR 6166, and I am not sure if it will pertain to Americans as ‘illegal combatants’ – one place it states one thing, and another it redacts that and states another thing.

    As to why ‘they are so horrible’ – I am sorry, but we are supposed to be a beacon of light in a dark world. We are supposed to be the white hats in a grey world. We carry ourselves as if we had a moral advantage.

    If we set up legal methods and procedures for using these methods, this effectively codifies legal use of these methods. At that time, what happens to our moral advantage? What differentiates us from the bad guys?

  2. I’ll be the first to say that ‘illegal combatant’ status applied to an American Citizen has troubling implications. I have heard the allegations that the bill allows for that, and also that it does not. Frankly, I don’t know.

    That is something I will watch for, and if it happens it is something that needs to be addressed. I expect that if American citizens apply to this, it will be declared unconstitutional.

    Of course it is factually innaccurate to say that the bill allows for torture. What is does, is specify that some things some people say should be torture are not torture. So far, I haven’t heard the outspoken opponents of this grapple with any of the specific things noted and explain why they are so horrible.

    The provisions do violate the Geneva conventions, if the full protections given to POWs are considered applicable to these unlawful combatants. As I mentioned above though, I think that their is a reason for a difference between the two types of things.

  3. Subsection 4(b) (26) of section 950v. of HR 6166 – Crimes triable by military commissions – includes the following definition:

    "Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States, or one of the co-belligerents of the enemy, shall be punished as a military commission under this chapter may direct."

    It seems that the bill is going beyond just the Geneva Convention. I think it is just likely to be used against citizens of the United States as it is terrorists from foreign countries. In the previous subsection it opens with <i>Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States</i>…which basically means a citizen of the U.S. (as only U.S. citizens owe an allegience to the States).

    Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman wrote in the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-ackerman28sep28,0,619852.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail">L.A. Times</a>: <i>The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.</i>

    A law on the books doesn’t necessarily have to be applied in the manner for which it was intended. While terrorist acts are deplorable and abhorrent I don’t think we need to sidestep the Geneva Convention to gain the upper hand.

    I think this is a bad piece of legislation. It does smack of totalitarianism. To allow evidence gained by torture to be heard before a military tribunal is beyond the scope of what democratic governments should do [whether in a time of war or peace].

    Look at what we’re deciding here…Torture. A bill on torture. No where in this bill does it say anything specific about how it is to be used. It doesn’t say only muslim extremist will be tortured. This bill could just as easily be used against U.S. citizens. However, regardless of what the bill is meant for…you don’t advocate torture. If the U.S. is a true democracy then they’ll find a way to win the war on terror without becomming animals ourselves.

  4. Oh, and we have once before in our history declared war on a criminal group of international scope, according them the ‘status’ of an enemy nation.

    We declared war and fought the Barbary Pirates. Of course the Geneva Convention didn’t exist during that conflict.

  5. I think that terrorist groups are inbetween being soldiers and criminals. They have political goals and consider themselves ‘at war’ with us, but they act in ways outside of the laws of war, and are not ‘state actors.’ The Geneva convention of course is an agreement between states on how to handle conflict between states (with a bit on how to handle intra-state conflicts.)

    There is nothing in it on how to handle conflicts that range internationally in which one of the sides is not a state actor.

    Of course the Geneva Convention is also a proxy for how states will behave in general, what it is moral for states to do.

    Because the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply to terrorists, we are not ‘rewriting’ it. What we are doing is explicitly spelling out what we consider the moral proxy of the Geneva convention to be and how it applies to not-state international soldiers (unlawful combatants.)

    Here is an example. Lets say we captured a Yemani man in Afghanistan who has financially supported Al-Qaida and is acting as a message courier for that organization.

    We could treat him strictly as a POW. That would mean he would be held (without tiral) until the end of hostilities (decades?), and then released unless it could be shown that he personally committed acts that go against the laws of war. Probably not in this case.

    We could treat him as a criminal. Since he didn’t do anything on American soil, and didn’t do anything that would fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC (even if we were a part of it) we would have to let him go.

    We could give him to the Yemeni Government, where he would either be tortured or released (depending on how the Yemeni Gov. felt that day as far as I can tell)

    Theoretically, we could give him to the Afghanis, but they lack the resources and, presuming this activity was before the formation of the current Afghani Government he may not have broken any laws.

    It seems blindingly obvious to me that their is a hole in how we deal with such things. Indeed, the existence of that hole is probably a large reason that such groups have become so prevelent, state sponsorship of terror counts, in part, on this ‘hole’ existiing.

    It is certainly fair to argue that the particular means of filling this hole isn’t the right one, but if you argue that the hole doesn’t exist at all, I don’t think you really have anything useful to say in the discussion.

  6. Well – that is true. Then let’s treat them with due process, the same as any other criminal.

    There should not be a ‘special’ class of not-quite-soldier, but not-criminal.

    The language that I have heard from the current bill grants them some of the rights of the Geneva Convention, but withholds others.

    I guess that there are two issues here…

    1) We should not re-write the Geneva Convention at our whim.

    2) We should decide if we give terrorist groups the status of ‘army’ and ‘state actors’ and treat them like POW’s or treat them like criminals.

    Honestly, I do not really mind either tactic – as long as they get due process.

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