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From Sam Harris. Something to think about.
HT: Sully, for the link to the original article.
One of those people is liberal Muslim freedom fighter Irshad Manji, who was attacked by Islamists in Indonesia, for promoting reform within Islam.
For all the talk about the "war on women," the idiotic base politics of foolish Republicans may be worthy of scorn, but let's put things in perspective, folks--actual fascists are waging a full-scale war on women, which is a part of a larger war on free thought. If you mad about a ban on contraception, but not about Irshad Manji being attacked with iron bars, then you're not serious...
HT: Michael Totten
More to follow...
Story is here, BTW.
Let me just add that President Obama's speech hit all the right tones, and was as solid as ever.
The always-wonderful Dahlia Lithwick fumes that the President's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a military tribunal is Cowardly, Stupid, and Tragically Wrong. She complains that "[i]n reversing one of its last principled positions—that American courts are sufficiently nimble, fair, and transparent to try Mohammed and his confederates—the administration surrendered to the bullying, fear-mongering, and demagoguery of those seeking to create two separate kinds of American law." Read the whole thing.
Lithwick and I agree on one thing: KSM probably shouldn't be tried before a military commission. We part ways on this: I am dubious that he should be tried at all. The crux of our disagreement comes early and is repeated often. Lithwick believes that the decision "put[s] the Obama administration's stamp on the proposition that some criminals are 'too dangerous to have fair trials,'" and frets that "[i]t may not matter to you today that the U.S. government has invented a new class of criminals fit for a new class of trials." But her analysis stands or falls on the proposition—which I dispute—that these men are "criminals" whom we must deal with as "lawbreakers." That is, in my view, the wrong paradigm. We are at war, and these men are members of the enemy's military force. In such circumstances, we take prisoners and detain them for the duration of hostilities. We did not seek to arrest Admiral Yamamoto and Captain Fuchida after Pearl Harbor; we were at war and we sought to end the war. When possible we took prisoners; when necessary we killed the enemy. (Yamamoto was shot down and killed in 1943, while Fuchida survived the war—including a close call at Hiroshima—ultimately becoming an evangelical and an American citizen.)
Nor do I understand the concept of processing them through the criminal law system, to be candid. Even assuming that we have laws criminalizing what these people did, under what theory of criminal jurisdiction could we try them, given that most of what we are talking about are actions undertaken outside the United States by persons who are not U.S. citizens? Suppose you have a German woman—a citizen and resident of Germany. She lives in Berlin. She procures for a friend (also a German, also living in Berlin) the basic components of some kind of chemical weapon, undeniably "assist[ing]" him in his procurement, receipt and posession of a chemical weapon. She then flies to New York. On landing, under the theory of federal jurisdiction that must underlie Lithwick's position, can the feds arrest and charge her under 18 U.S.C. § 229(a)(2)?
I think it's a mistake to conceive of the war on terror as a law enforcement exercise, to think of foreign terrorists as criminals, and thus to reason that war criminals such as KSM should be tried within the criminal justice system in the first place. Frankly, I really though the Bush administration got this whole thing backwards. They were desperate to keep detainees out of federal habeas proceedings, and instead decided to start trying them. That's completely backwards, to my mind. These are prisoners of war, but they're prisoners of war in a sui generis conflict, one which may last an exceedingly long time. They shouldn't be "charged" or "tried"; they should be detained as prisoners of war for the duration of hostilities, but fully entitled to challenge their detention via habeas as an extension of Hamdi.
Hitch, still hard at work:
At the rate of current progress, however, I rather fear that AQAP might accept that very challenge and make it a point to blow up a plane full of passengers who had stayed in the ostensibly secure line. Or to give up on aviation altogether and start again with trains, which would come to our protectors as a total shock. The new tactics and propaganda of the enemy show them to be both inventive and imaginative. The response of our security state shows it to possess no such qualities.
The WMD diehards will likely find some comfort in these newly-WikiLeaked documents. Skeptics will note that these relatively small WMD stockpiles were hardly the kind of grave danger that the Bush administration presented in the run-up to the war.
But the more salient issue may be how insurgents and Islamic extremists (possibly with the help of Iran) attempted to use these lethal and exotic arms. As Spencer noted earlier, a January 2006 war log claims that “neuroparalytic” chemical weapons were smuggled in from Iran.
Of course, the idea that there was absolutely no evidence of WMDs in Iraq was bogus from the start, and a large aspect of the casus belli had to do with the prospect of terrorists getting a hold of weapons--terrorists that Saddam had been known to associate with. Mileage is your own, as usual--both sides will undoubtedly argue from their respective corners, and emphasize and ignore whatever serves their ideological purposes. Of course, the facts are what they are.
Chances are you may have heard a story about Israelis firing on an aid vessel bound for Gaza. You may have heard about how innocent aid workers were attacked by Israeli commandos. You'd have heard about how the international community is up in arms. Here's the thing:
It's a lie. A filthy lie. Don't get me wrong, the international community is in fact up in arms, but that's because they believed the lie. What else is new? In this clip, you can clearly see and hear the IDF warning the vessel about proper protocol:
HT: Michael Totten
"Unfortunately, the sixteenth minute arrives, and, if you are still paying attention, you learn that he wants us to revere the most vicious and reactionary of Islamist sheikhs -- the people who promote violence, bigotry, totalitarianism, and terror. The sixteenth minute is not good. The liberal quality of his thinking falls apart entirely."
That's from Paul Berman, about Tariq Ramadan, in a must-read interview with Michael Totten, about his must-read book The Flight of the Intellectuals. They also discuss Bush Derangement Syndrome, Obama's strengths and weaknesses, and the lack of clarity of certain Western liberal intellectuals.
Thanks to Max for the hat tip.
In case you were wondering, the terrorist whose life sentence was commuted in order that he could go home and die, because he only had about ninety days to live?
Dissenting in Boumedienne, Our Hero warned:
At least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to the battlefield. Some have been captured or killed. But others have succeeded in carrying on their atrocities against innocent civilians. In one case, a detainee released from Guantanamo Bay masterminded the kidnapping of two Chinese dam workers, one of whom was later shot to death when used as a human shield against Pakistani commandoes. Another former detainee promptly resumed his post as a senior Taliban commander and murdered a United Nations engineer and three Afghan soldiers. Still another murdered an Afghan judge. It was reported only last month that a released detainee carried out a suicide bombing against Iraqi soldiers in Mosul, Iraq.
These, mind you, were detainees whom the military had concluded were not enemy combatants. Their return to the kill illustrates the incredible difficulty of assessing who is and who is not an enemy combatant in a foreign theater of operations where the environment does not lend itself to rigorous evidence collection. Astoundingly, the Court today raises the bar, requiring military officials to appear before civilian courts and defend their decisions under procedural and evidentiary rules that go beyond what Congress has specified.
(Emphasis in original.) And today, ABC news tells us that two more examples can be added to that list:
Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. …
American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia where they entered into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.
. . . .
Both Saudi nationals have since emerged in leadership roles in Yemen, according to U.S. officials and the men's own statements on al Qaeda propaganda tapes.
Can you imagine what would have been said in some corners if it had been this President rather than the last who released detained terrorists into "art therapy rehabilitation program[s]"?
Added: President Bush, of all Presidents, can't slough off responsibility for the release on his subordinates. Few Presidents have so aggressively or explicitly invoked the unitary executive doctrine. And as I have explained repeatedly in these pages, that doctrine cuts both ways: power flows down, responsibility flows up. The connection between control and responsibility is intimate. The executive branch is responsible to the public through the President, and the vesting of the executive power in one President gives that President authority over the executive branch. Compare Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. at 724 n.4 (Scalia, J., dissenting), with Chevron v. Nat. Resource Def. Council, 467 U.S. at 865-6. Those are codependent propositions. It would be equally absurd to make a President responsible for actors beyond his control as for him (or her) to exercise control over those actors without responsibility for their actions. As James T. Kirk put it, the Captain's burden is "responsib[ility] for the conduct of the crew under my command."
KSM is a monster. Nobody disputes that he was central to the planning and execution of the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. If the trial of a man who was instrumental in killing thousands of innocent Americans becomes the sole forum in which the legality of prisoner abuse is to be litigated, public sentiment in favor of torture will only grow stronger.
Had Holder allowed the various other torture trials to go forward, some of the litigants would prevail and others would lose. We would end up with a fuller picture of the rendition program, CIA abuses, and the legal advice that allowed for water-boarding. We would have a set of courts piecing together a consensus on what the anti-torture statutes require and whether anyone has violated them. Instead, the KSM trial is about to become the only torture game in town. And it's a game the Obama administration cannot win.
Read the whole thing.
Reasonable people can differ on whether the acts of Sept 11, 2001, were crimes to be handled in court or acts of war to be tried by military tribunals. Experts will never agree on whether criminal trials make us safer or less safe. The 9/11 families also remain split on whether trials or commissions are appropriate. But when you continue to hear that anyone who objects to Bush's detainee policies is unworthy to serve in government, or is part of some elaborate conspiracy to free terrorists, there is truly nothing left to do but laugh.
Obama is right to continue emphasizing the all-important distinction between religious views compatible with democratic pluralism and those that aren't. As he deals with the fallout of the attack, he must continue to separate Islamic extremism from Islam as a whole. But his words at Fort Hood, while comforting, do not really come to grips with the problem. America does not face a threat from the perversion of faith in general. We face a threat from the perversion of one faith in particular. The president needs to dip into his reservoir of good will to remind mainstream Muslims of their special responsibility. If militant Islamism is a distortion of their moderate beliefs, only their beliefs can defeat it.
This piece by Jon Meacham is a bit old, but I just saw this the other day, and I thought it was on-point:
The McChrystal incident raises an interesting question: if commanders cannot speak their minds in such a forum—and the general was the very model of reason and grace—then what are the rules for commanders to engage in public debate? Many liberals have suddenly discovered Article II of the Constitution, arguing that civilian control of the military means soldiers should not express their views outside the chain of command. There is much to be said—in some senses, everything to be said—for officers restricting their comments, but I suspect the left would be taking a very different view of McChrystal's speaking his mind if the general were arguing a position with which it agreed.
In politics and in war, truth can be elusive; often all we can do is muddle through, trying to make the best of things. McChrystal knows better than anyone the complexities of what he faces, and if you read the whole speech he delivered in London you see that he was at pains to make the difficulties at hand as clear as possible.
He goes on:
History is not very helpful on this point. Douglas MacArthur is a bad example. He defied a president; McChrystal has not yet even disagreed with one. Still, the cultural imperatives within the armed forces are clear. As our longtime defense correspondent John -Barry notes, the tradition in the American military is captured best in Gen. George C. Marshall's dictum that commanders should present their views in private and then resign if they disagree sufficiently with the decision of the political leadership.
The issue is complicated, but then most issues of significance are. McChrystal appears to be a good man trying to do a nigh-impossible job. At least the general in whose hands lie the lives of thousands of soldiers and in whose success may lie our own national security chose to be clear now, in real time, when it matters, rather than waiting for a book contract. He has told us what he thinks when it can make a difference, and for that we should be grateful.
Full disclosure: I support staying the course in Afghanistan. That being said, I don't think Obama is "dithering," by waiting a bit to see how the elections turn out. I also think it's outrageous that certain people are suggesting that Gen. McChrystal should STFU, or that he is somehow undermining his CiC. McChrystal was handpicked by Obama, and gave his assessment of the situation. He has made clear that he will follow whatever orders are given. He has not disagreed with the President's decision, because the President hasn't made a decision yet, and that final decision will be ultimately up to President Obama.
As to the larger debate, I think it behooves everyone to take McChrystal's recommendations seriously. As far as the politics are concerned, I've no doubt that if McChrystal had argued a position they disagreed with, plenty of righties would be in an uproar, and Lefties would be hailing him, as opposed to hurling insults. Partisan politics has become war by other means. Nevertheless, suggesting that a general who does his job by giving his commander-in-chief true counsel is doing anything but his duty is disgraceful. The fomentation of division between the President and his generals, by either side, to score political points, or to further personal agendas, is even more so.
The same near-masochistic insistence on taking the extreme as the norm was also present in Obama's smoothly delivered speech in the Egyptian capital. Some of what he said was well-intentioned if ill-informed. The United States should not have overthrown the elected government of Iran in 1953, but when it did so, it used bribed mullahs and ayatollahs to whip up anti-Communist sentiment against a secular regime. The John Adams administration in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli did indeed proclaim that the United States had no quarrel with Islam as such (and, even more important, that the United States itself was in no sense a Christian nation), but the treaty failed to stop the Barbary states from invoking the Quran as permission to kidnap and enslave travelers on the high seas, and thus Thomas Jefferson was later compelled to send a fleet and the Marines to put down the trade. One hopes that Obama does not prefer Adams to Jefferson in this regard.
But to the women who are compelled to dress according to the requirements of others, Obama had nothing to say at all, as if the only "right" at stake were the right to obey an instruction that is, in fact—if it matters—not found in the Quran. In Turkey, too, head scarves for women are outlawed in some contexts. Is this, too, Islamophobia? Does the president think that the veil and the burqa are also freely chosen fashion statements? This sort of naiveté is worrying, and it means that among the global Muslim audience, the wrong sort of people were laughing at us, while the ones who ought to be our friends and allies were shedding a disappointed tear.
Read the whole thing.