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Justice for Terrorists

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The Obama Administration's decision to try at least some terrorists in federal court as common criminals is controversial. This policy has been applied to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen apprehended in the United States, as well as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others, non-U.S. citizens captured in foreign countries. Other terrorists have also been tried, successfully, in federal courts during previous administrations. These include Richard Reid, a British citizen apprehended in the U.S.; John Walker Lindh, an American citizen captured in Afghanistan; Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian citizen apprehended in the U.S.; Jose Padilla, an American citizen apprehended in the U.S.; and others of mixed citizenship and circumstances of capture or apprehension.

There are three alternatives to trial in normal civilian courts. They include trial by military commissions, return of prisoners to their home countries, or simply keeping them locked up without a trial until the war is considered to be over. The last two alternatives can't be taken seriously. The Bush Administration released terrorists to other countries, and in many cases we met them on the battlefield again. That includes prisoners released to Yemen, and the Obama Administration has wisely decided not to release more prisoners to that nation. Keeping them in prison until the war is over is obviously a problem because we can't even agree that we're in a war, and there's little likelihood of it ending any time within the foreseeable future.

Practically, that leaves us with the choices of trying captured or apprehended terrorists either by military commissions or by civilian courts. Military commissions (or tribunals) have been used throughout history with little serious controversy. In recent years, however, they've been under constant attack, and in 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that military commissions, as then constituted, were unconstitutional. Since then, Congress has passed the Military Commissions Act, making them legally acceptable. Of course, the usual suspects still object to military commissions. In any case, only a few terrorist prisoners have been tried by military commissions, including a handful under the current Administration.

At this point, we've twisted ourselves into an absurd, irrational situation in terms of how we deal with terrorists. While it seems obvious to most people that we're in a war, there are still those who think we aren't. Meanwhile, despite the navel-gazing of some on the question of what a war is, we continue to fight against an unrelenting foe who will attack us whenever and wherever possible. We don't have a choice. When we can find and fix a terrorist in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, probably Yemen, and maybe other nations that tolerate terrorists, we kill them with a missile or otherwise, sometimes taking out innocents near them. No Miranda warnings, no probably cause, no due process, no right to counsel. If we capture them, however, things get weird. A Justice Department official has recently said they should be read their rights on the battlefield. They may be held for years before we can figure out how to deal with them, and then they may be released or tried by a military commission or a federal court, settings that involve significantly different rights, procedures, and risks.

One could be forgiven for concluding that we've lost our collective mind. This untenable situation has been caused by ideological divides within our country. Extremists of the far right would prefer to see them interrogated thoroughly, however it has to be done, then shot. Extremists of the far left would prefer for them to be treated like American citizens who are suspected of having broken a law, entitled to the rights all Americans enjoy. Presumably, if acquitted they would be re-settled in the U.S. at taxpayer expense and put on welfare.

We can't go on like this. We have to ignore extremists on both sides of the question, decide how we're going to proceed, and follow that path consistently. Here's what we should do:

• Continue fighting and killing terrorists in the field. Every effort should be made, as is already the case, to avoid innocent casualties.

• Non-U.S. citizen terrorists captured overseas or apprehended in the U.S. should be declared to be unlawful enemy combatants under the legal and consitutional authority of the President. They are entitled to treatment under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and should be tried by military commissions. They should be interrogated in a lawful manner without Miranda warnings or the right to counsel.

• U.S. citizens, wherever captured or apprehended, should be handled on a case-by-case basis and either tried by a civilian court or declared to be enemy combatants and tried by a military commission.

• Prisoners who are found not guilty or determined not to be terrorists and not to be a threat otherwise should be returned to the country of their citizenship.

• All of these procedures should be carried out in a predictable and timely manner.

• Finally, the Guantanamo prison should remain open. It already provides prisoners better and more humane treatment than most federal and state prisoners receive in the U.S., and moving the operation to a Guantanamo-like prison in the U.S. makes no substantive difference and simply wastes taxpayer dollars.

All of this may seem obvious, and it is, but during the past two administrations the government hasn't seemed capable of getting its act together. Perhaps I'm just an old soldier with an overly simple view of the world, but here's the way I see it: My country and its citizens are under sustained, long-term attack by a group of people who have declared war against us and sworn to destroy us. That's a war. Those who are attacking us are enemies and combatants, and they're acting unlawfully, given that they aren't part of a duly constituted military force of a legitimate nation. When we capture those who aren't killed, they should be treated as the unlawful enemy combatants they are. Once we wrap our collective mind around those facts, the rest is easy.

For additional information:

Guantanamo inmates no longer "enemy combatants", Reuters
Geneva Convention Common Article 3, CDI
Terrorists Captured on Battlefield Have Constitutional Rights, CNS
Do Illegal Aliens Have Constitutional Rights?, About.com
Enemy Combatants, CFR
Fact Sheet: Military Commissions, DOD
Guantanamo military commission, Wikipedia

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About Tom Carter

  • No doubt he’s smarter than me, Roger, or (in his view) any other human. While he doesn’t actually have my tongue, he won’t permit me to speak when I don’t have anything meaningful to say.

  • Than your cat is smarter than you, Carter, because he must have gotten your tongue.

  • Zedd, the whole concept is a little scary. But it wouldn’t work for me, anyway. My cat would make a quick snack of lil Roger.

  • Whatever fills your desires, although Rogerism is an apter term.

  • Zedd

    As long as you fill my world with rogerness!

  • I don’t mind getting shrinked for your particular purpose, Zedd. But other than that, I’d like to believe I’m expanding, just like the universe is.

  • Zedd


    My I shrink you and carry you in my purse please? Then my world would be sane. At work I’d pull you out at a meeting and say “what do you think lil Roger?” You’d say something sane. When my teens are taking a stand on something laughable, lil Roger would pipe in then we’d giggle later. While watching the news, my lil pal and I would shake our heads at the exact, same time. If I was stopped (trapped) by a neighbor for a really dumb conversation, lil R would give me a hug of condolence.. what a life that would be.

    I heart you sigh….

  • This from Huffington Post makes me think more highly of LTC West.


  • I had never previously heard of LTC Allen West (Ret.), a Republican candidate from Florida for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and and one of the GOP’s most promising candidates. Here and here are a couple of videos. The first has had over a million views on You Tube. I will have to study him a bit, and learn lots more about his positions on the issues. However, based solely on his remarks in the two videos, I suspect that were he in the White House rather than the current occupant, the way we are now treating terrorists would be much different and far better. So would lots of other things.


  • pablo

    Cannonshop 65:

    “Note the word “Military”, as in tactically significant. Grade Schools, hospitals, markets, mosques and churches, Synagogues and Seminaries are not MILITARY targets-neither are airliners, busses, passenger trains not carrying munitions, or fire-stations.”

    And what do you call it when an atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima buddy? A military target? Schools, hospitals, train stations, bus terminals.

    Perhaps you should direct your venom towards terrorists towards your own government, after all they are second to none pal. Gotta love typical american sheer hypocrisy in action.

  • Ruvy


    I’ll try to be polite with you, because you write like a gentleman instead of a lout.

    First my bona-fides. My degree is in political science and public administration, and I was active in politics in the Bronx over 35 years ago, and in Minnesota over the 20 years I lived there. I am a student of history and of linguistics. When I lived in the United States, my political leanings were what would be called left-of-center, though I could see the usefulness of some solutions to problems that conservatives push, like having social security be administered as a pension fund on behalf of the future retiree, instead of the cash box it is run like now.

    I came to dislike the foreign policy of the United States when I realized how during WWII, the United States had originally refused to take in many Jewish refugees from the nazi animals who took over Germany in 1933, and how the United States followed what was basically an anti-Israel foreign policy.

    I watched your country as it did nothing in 1967 to help a beleaguered state fight off an Arab blockade, but it was johnny-on-the-spot in overthrowing popular regimes in the Dominican Republic, Chile, and in supporting a corrupt regime in Vietnam, wasting both blood and treasure to secure cheap resources from southeast Asia, but not having the guts to actually fight for liberty and freedom for a Vietnamese population that wanted both.

    I watched with dismay as the United States slowly bought into the el-Husseini bullshit line over the years, as it forced Israel first to wait and not attack in 1973, and then to surrender land it had conquered from Egypt and Syria. I watched as day after day, it pressured this country to take “risks for peace” that have become a path to suicide over the years from 1967 to today.

    I don’t live here because I was moved by “Zionism” or by some bullshit about living in the holy land. I moved here because I want Jewish grandchildren. I refused to be like so many Jews who write for this site, and who have either intermarried themselves, or who tolerate the idea of marrying out of the faith – thus trashing the heritage of Jacob and Israel. I owe my forefathers who suffered in Europe for generations more than that.

    I’ll tell you some simple and unpleasant facts of life.

    1. Israel is not a democracy. It is a falafel republic, under the thumb of about 18 families who control most of the economy, and therefore control most of the government – but not all of it. The leaders of the three major political parties here are all American creations – Ehud Barak owes his political existence to Clinton-era political operatives; Benny Nathan, the man you know as Benyamin Netanyahu is a creation of the Rockefeller Foundation, which created him as a politician here because he could be a reliable leader on the right wing; Ariel Sharon was similarly a creation of the Rockefeller Foundation, which basically gave him a formula for muscling himself to the top of Israel’s political ladder. Tzipora Livni, who now heads the pathetic party he founded in 2006 to get away from the Likud, is just an American puppet.

    So much for democracy here.

    As for the United States, once you get to a certain level in government there, if you are not connected with the CFR, you get nowhere. The United States may have once been a democracy – it is no longer.

    If you wish, please read my articles, all 132 of them, that I have written here. The vast majority deal with Israel.

    I know what goes down here a lot better than you do.

    That said, this instant article makes a lot of sense. Apparently the Americans are doing something right in fighting terrorism, though.

    But this article shows the evil influence of your government here. We want you OUT and we’ll get you OUT. Rest assured.

  • Since when, Cannon (#65), are there rules of engagement that should be binding on those who engage in guerrilla warfare? Because you say so?

    How about this little adage: “Nothing is fair in love and in war.”

    Do I condone the targeting of civilians? That’s not at issue. But when we’re talking guerrilla warfare, we are talking about unconventional warfare. And from that perspective, anything goes.

  • Cannonshop, Are you referring to comment #41?

    I remember when Tim Russert-Meet The Press outed Dukes true identity..

    Unfortunately, i don’t believe we have anyone like Mr. Russert today in the media! at least with a Sunday Show that would get the full exposure..we like to hide all the liberals on late-night …

  • Thank You Ruvy! I was expecting an argument over my assessment of our present problems…i don’t know what else to call it this early in the morning..:)

  • I generally agree with DM on the primary responsibility of the government, which is to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens. That’s what the Constitution was written for, and nothing can be found in the document that says otherwise.

    Our government has flaws, of course, like any institution created by human beings. But for over two centuries, we and our ancestors have done a remarkable job of creating an exceptional country that has set the example for the world in every area. Granted, we have unproductive and dependent elements within our own country, but that’s the nature of the human condition.

    Internationally, the U.S. has been an undisputable force for good. We’ve made mistakes, of course, and sometimes we’ve backed the wrong leaders. But overall, the world is a far better place because of the existence of the U.S. We should help those nations who want our help, and we should leave alone those who don’t want to be involved with us. Above all, we should never again try to drive primitive people toward democracy by force of arms because it doesn’t work.

    To Americans who for some reason hate their own country, promote canards such as going to war in Iraq to steal their oil, and can see no good in anything we do, I can only say that a little education facilitated by an open mind would go a long way.

    Ruvy, your view that the U.S. should, in effect, abandon Israel isn’t supported by your government, my government, or the majority of people in either country. Most Americans feel that we have a moral and political responsibility to support the only democracy in the region, particularly in light of the fact that you’re surrounded by deadly enemies who have sworn to destroy your country and would gladly destroy all the Jews of Israel. We’ll continue to support you, so I guess you’ll just have to grit your teeth and bear it.

  • Cannonshop

    #40 It’s real simple, Roger-they’re Guerillas in Iraq and Afghanistan as long as they focus their weapons on military assets.

    Note the word “Military”, as in tactically significant. Grade Schools, hospitals, markets, mosques and churches, Synagogues and Seminaries are not MILITARY targets-neither are airliners, busses, passenger trains not carrying munitions, or fire-stations.

    You stop being a Guerilla when you car bomb a schoolyard-unlike a fuckup with a missile, your op KNOWS it’s a schoolyard. (this is the thing about EID’s and suicide bombs-the guy emplacing/carrying it KNOWS where he’s going, and likely knows exactly what’s there. Likewise for the van-driver who walks into a Synagogue and blows away fifteen people with an AK-47.)

    #45 The KKK is listed as a domestic terrorist group, and known members are (supposed to be) on a watch-list already.

  • Ruvy

    what do you mean by unlettered?

    Only an unlettered person would not be able to decipher what you meant by #41, Jeannie. Thank you for explaining it….

  • what do you mean by unlettered?

  • Ruvy,
    What I meant was that Bush 41 went over for the oil and fueled a deep and abiding hatred towards the U.S.I know he wasn’t the first yahoo to do that, but he was the beginning of this preemptive mentality that says we can invade, destroy and use any country we want for their resources.

  • Ruvy

    Jeannie, do you mind explaining to this unlettered Jew the meaning of this statement?

    The problem here is that many of you have amnesia and don’t remember who really fueled the fires of the middle east..#41!

  • From the late President J.F.Kennedy…”Success has a thousand fathers and failure has one.”

    The problem here is that many of you have amnesia and don’t remember who really fueled the fires of the middle east..#41!

  • But you can’t be always on your toes. The word “niggardly” was similarly misrepresented by the philistines.

  • Righto – the fruits reference wasn’t the happiest one.

  • Roger, as to Comment # 56, I shall avert my eyes and refrain from advising more caution in selecting nouns with greater attention to political correctness. However, some easily offended readers might do otherwise. Gotta be careful these days.

    As to the comment before that, I think it’s largely due to the nanny government, and guess who is responsible for that. To quote the eminent philosopher Pogo, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”


  • To put it in shorthand, I’m judging by the fruits.

  • I have no problem, DM, with the notion of “the freedom to fail” (#52); it is, as you say, but the flip side of “the freedom to succeed.”

    What I find disturbing, however, that we have created such large masses of clearly dysfunctional people -not just with respect to the state but more importantly, I’d argue, their own personal lives. And I don’t try to limit the notion of success to mere material well-being. Far from it.

    Of course, one may argue this is a direct by-product of “the nanny-government,” and to some extent it may be so. But still, something has been amiss about the entire system to have produced such results. The recent trend, starting let’s say with LBJ’s notion of “the Great Society,” doesn’t quite explain the present situation. It’s been brewing for much longer than that.

    Unless of course one would choose to argue that the great majority of people in this world just aren’t capable of measuring up and are doomed to be failures.

  • Roger, yes I think they still apply and with equal force. Unfortunately, I am afraid that the United States has lost sight of the need to apply them and of the benefits of doing so. She is moving further and further into the abyss of governmental control and is increasingly becoming the “nanny state.”

    One of the functions of a nanny is to keep children from hurting themselves. If one views the adult citizens of the United States as children in need of such assistance, then I guess it seems OK. I find that rather a distasteful notion.


  • Can disagree with your ideas, DM. My only question is whether they still apply, and with the same kind of force, to America.

    There’s no question if it really was the best kind of environment for the whole of humanity to thrive and prosper, there’d be no disagreement whatever. But that’s precisely what I’m no longer certain of. And I hope I’m wrong.

  • Roger,

    The species seems to be doing OK. There are lots more of us than there were even a decade ago and the trend seems to be continuing. There are some who would contend that there are already too many of us.

    I think a better question might be whether there is an obligation to preserve a place where the species can live freely, unmolested by terror attacks or rapacious and overly intrusive governments. I think there is, and I think the United States long ago took it upon herself to see that that was done, at least in the United States. The flip side of the freedom to succeed is the freedom to fail and to experience the consequences. Deprivation of one such freedom diminishes pro tanto the other.

    To the extent that we permit our freedoms to be diminished in order to be politically correct or to curry favor with our enemies — of which there are more than a few — we neglect the obligation to preserve a place where the species can live freely.

    If you look around the world, you will find that there are rather few such places. Perhaps the United States has an obligation to nurture them and to help those who lack those freedoms to achieve them. The good thing is that doing so would help the U.S. to preserve and nurture her own freedoms. I consider that a worthy goal.


  • What is implicit in the above, DM, is the idea that in some sense we are required to think ourselves worthy in order to think of self-preservation in moral terms.

  • Of course what you’re saying is true, DM, in so far as the notion of self-survival is at stake. To take this argument further, we could say that we have selfsame obligation to humanity as a species – again, if only for the purpose of self-preservation.

    What I question, however, is the very notion of moral obligation so narrowly construed. If that indeed were the limit of the obligation in question, than it wouldn’t amount to much more than a pragmatic view of morality. And although our concept of morality may have originally come about from our practical activities and concerns, I’d like to argue that we’ve transcended that notion to mean something beyond mere practice – something over and above.

    So perhaps to ask my question in the most radical way I can: Is there truly a moral obligation to act so as to preserve the human species in general – see, I’ve taken this question beyond the parochialism characteristic of nation-states – if the human species isn’t worth of saving or preserving?

    Again, I’m not saying we oughtn’t to act in some such ways – only asking whether it’s correct to identify this impulse, under all or any circumstances, as moral.

  • Re Comment #48,

    One of the things sometimes forgotten is that the United States’ first obligation is to the United States, her citizens and others who reside there lawfully. According to the Preamble to the Constitution,

    We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (emphasis added)

    Absent is any stated purpose to “insure Tranquility throughout the world” or to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves, to our Posterity and everyone else in the world.” Selfish? I don’t think so. The United States has to stand up for herself; the “international community” is not about to do it for her, and neither is anyone else.

    Certainly, there is a moral obligation to assist others; on occasion, we tried rather hard to do just that. We have not done a great job recently in helping those in Israel, Iran and elsewhere; we seem less than adequately sympathetic with their efforts to enjoy the freedoms we quite properly consider our birthright. Instead, we try (with remarkable unsuccess) to be pals with those who would find it highly satisfying to see the United States destroyed. Our first loyalty should be to the United States, our second to our allies.

    Perhaps we have forfeited any legitimate claim to exceptionality by succumbing to the notion that the United States is just one of many grossly flawed countries, no better than most and owing apologies to all; that protection of U.S. citizens is less important than showing respect to and avoiding harm to others elsewhere. Flawed as she is, the United States remains one of the most free countries in the world. It took quite a lot of effort to accomplish that; for the most part, it was done successfully. Perhaps that is among the reasons why so many people from other countries try so desperately to get there.


  • No argument on any of those points, Ruvy. I just find it hilarious that we Americans are so much up in arms over the potential act of terrorism while you Israelis live with that situation every day.

    And that indicates to me that we certainly have a grossly exaggerated opinion of ourselves, thinking somehow that as Americans we ought to be “above the fray,” as the saying goes, that our lives are more valuable and more precious than anyone else’s, etcetera, etcetera.

    And yes, the ironic thing is that even the good liberals, like Glenn the Contrarian or Mr. Silas Kain have decided to treat this question with silence.

    That’s my main point, really, aside from the presumed legality we tend to ascribe unto our own actions simply because we are a nation-state.

  • Ruvy

    Is it possible that Ruvy himself might question at least some acts by the State of Israel (vis-a-vis its neighbors and non-Jews) as less than kosher and thereby also inviting acts of retaliation?

    Because if it’s so, than both the US and the State of Israel are not all that distinguishable in respect to being “blameless,” both inviting acts of retaliation. And there being no viable distinction to make, Ruvy had nothing to add.

    Roger, you miss a lot of the things I say here, thinking that I agree with what the State does here. The government of Israel and its policies suck!! They discriminate against Jews living in Judea and Samaria, they discriminate against Ethiopian Jews, against Yemeni Jews, against Russian Jews, against religious Jews AND against Arabs.

    ALL YOU AND MOST OTHERS HERE CARE ABOUT ARE THE ARABS!! YOU DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE JEWS AT ALL! Lets remind you of your orientation again: at least some acts by the State of Israel (vis-a-vis its neighbors and non-Jews)….


    The policies of the government are such that the policies and those who pursue them deserve to be overthrown, and a goodly portion of those who pursue them deserve to be hung from butcher hooks like Mussolini or Ceausescu.

    Retaliation is not the word, Roger. Justice applied to a bunch of unjust bastards who only think about the rich clique of Polish Jews who don’t believe in G-d and who are the denizens of the People’s Republic of Tel Aviv – that is the proper term. The only people the assholes in the Israeli government worry about is themselves and the tiny clique of 18 traitorous families who run the country.

    As for the double standard, how many times do I have to tell you Americans to get the fuck OUT of my country?! How many times do I have to tell you that we do not need you or your arrogant imperialistic attitudes telling us what to do before you get the message?! How many times do I have to tell you that we do not need your money, your “aid” or anything else you pretend to supply us before you will get the message?

    Look at the money lines from this article from Arutz Sheva: Many in Israel have long called for Israel to turn down these benefits, in accordance with the Biblical teaching (Proverbs) that one who hates gifts will live, in order to remove this pressure point and enable Israel to be more independent.

    Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that Israel and the U.S. reached an understanding several months ago to extend the loan guarantee agreement for another two years. He added that the government does not plan to use the guarantees in the near future and that it is able to raise money without them. [emphasis mine]

    At this point, it is us who have been supporting the dollar, which is a worthless currency.

    Now to the main point, you raise, when the Israeli government treats Jewish blood with the value it deserves, that will be the day I will show it the respect it deserves. Until then, they are a pack of traitors who ought to be hung for their many many crimes against the vast majority of citizens of my country. That does not take away from the plain common sense Tom Carter exhibits in his article.

  • This morning on ‘Meet the depressed’ i heard that more Republicans are retiring than Democrats….

    i’ll take comfort in that fact!

  • Darn Right Roger!!!

    ( u can take that greeting two ways )

    They are still here and i believe they are drinking tea!

    who will be put up for election…Dick Army?

  • Indeed, the meaning is far from clear. It does strike one as the same kind of usage as “war on drugs, poverty or obesity.

    “The prospect of losing a re-election race concentrates the mind wonderfully.”
    Great line!

  • Pablo in Comment #38 says,

    The fact that the president is engaged in unlawful activities should in no way encourage you to endorse them.

    This may well be the first time I’ve been accused of endorsing President Obama’s actions. Unfortunately, I don’t know what he meant when he observed that we are “at war” with al Qaeda, so I am in no position to endorse it.

    Reading his recent address using those words, and the six page unclassified summary of findings released contemporaneously with that address, it does not strike me that President Obama used those words to mean (as distinguished from to create a politically expedient public perception) that he considers the U.S. to be “at war” with anyone. True, as observed in Power Line, “The prospect of losing a re-election race concentrates the mind wonderfully.” However, the facially strong statement seems essentially trite, rather like proclaiming a war on poverty or obesity. This is suggested by, among other things, the prompt decision to try the young Nigerian gentleman with the fancy underpants in a civilian court and to delay substantive intelligence gathering until later, if and when he sees fit to plea bargain with such information. That seems inconsistent with the way we have customarily dealt with foreigners captured in the U.S. working on behalf of an enemy with which we are “at war.”


  • Indeed, Jeannie. The old KKK could well have been a better fitting referent of the word “terrorist” (or terrorist organization) than the operatives of Al Qaeda.

  • Roger #40

    That is the great American double standard!

    The KKK comes to mind here..the greatest example of a grass roots terrorist group!

  • It is interesting, of course, why we have abandoned all references to “guerrilla warfare,” a good old term quite in use only a while ago.

    Don’t tell me now? Is it because its to honorific when used to refer to “the enemy”?

    So perhaps some of the great minds here can enlighten me as to why referring to these people as “guerrillas” is less accurate as a descriptive term (than the “terrorists.”

    And don’t tell me now the difference’s got to do with the location of the battlefield: i.e., they’re guerrillas in Iraq but they’re terrorists once they cross the US border.

  • Ruvy is quite right to inform us in #28 that
    “the world is not so simple as you would have us believe.” That’s in reference, of course, to “the terrorist” question.

    I find it interesting, however, that he failed to pursue “the double standard” question (brought to his attention and properly referenced in #14), which deals with the possibility of US wrongdoings which just might call for retaliation.

    Given the hound dog that he is, with a great nose for tidbits and trivia, I just thought he might be interested in the fact that we Americans become so hysterical over the potential loss of even one American life while the Israelis do have to be putting up with this situation day in and day out. Indeed, I really thought it would strike Ruvy kind of funny how we Americans think our lives more precious than those of the Israelis. Yet, no Ruvy comment thus far.

    And it got me thinking. I must have touched a soft spot. Is it possible that Ruvy himself might question at least some acts by the State of Israel (vis-a-vis its neighbors and non-Jews) as less than kosher and thereby also inviting acts of retaliation?

    Because if it’s so, than both the US and the State of Israel are not all that distinguishable in respect to being “blameless,” both inviting acts of retaliation. And there being no viable distinction to make, Ruvy had nothing to add.

  • pablo

    Dan 34

    The fact that the president is engaged in unlawful activities should in no way encourage you to endorse them. And yes I am quite aware that there have not been any lawful declarations of war since WW2, hence all of them have been unlawful, which is why many that endorsed ignoring the law of the land frequently characterized such wars as “police actions” which is quite the farcical term.

    Also Dan, if you look closely at the text of the constitution concerning the commander in chief, you will find that he in fact not the commander in chief until he is called into action, that would be in this case by the congress not himself. It is quite plain english and easy to understand. Unfortunately we have a great many people that have no problem trampling on the law of the land on a daily basis, both from the right and the left. I hope that your not one of those people Dan.

  • drive by

    If the constitution is passe, it might be time to move to…Panama.

  • pablo


    No great comment for Pablo? Shucks.

  • STM

    Whatever anytone thinks, it’s instructive to actually find out what the soldiers themselves think.

    Michael Yon’s blogs are instructive, and his writings generally.

  • Pablo, under Article I Section 8 of the Constitution, the Congress declares war. However, that part of the Constitution (along with many others) seems to have been substantially ignored and/or distorted for a very long time. Actually, it says that the Congress has the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water . . . .” However, the most recent declaration of war by the Congress was in 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. If memory serves, the United States has considered herself “at war” several times since then; many of the “boots on the ground” had the notion that the United States was “at war.” You might find this article entertaining. Among other things, it notes:

    Sadly, it seems we’ve reached the point where the Constitution is no longer relevant on matters of a president’s war-making powers. Presidents, the Congress and the courts have made going to war, once a serious constitutional issue, and a purely political question.

    As a result, in the last half century, the war powers clause of the Constitution has become a nullity, if not a quaint relic. While conservatives often insist on following the letter of the Constitution on most issues, on matters of war they ignore it.

    In his recent address to the nation, President Obama said that we are “at war” with al Qaeda. I can’t seem to recall any Congressional declaration of war against al Qaeda. This, of course, leads to the interesting of question of what the President may have meant when he used that quaint phrase. Perhaps he used it in the sense of being “at war” with poverty, obesity and acne.

    “War” with al Qaeda, a somewhat amorphous group lacking uniforms and for that matter allegiance to any recognized nation, is a difficult enough concept to try to understand without bothering with what is now regarded as a silly and irrelevant old document written by a bunch of dead white men.


  • drive by

    (Pabs – missed yur #25 which covered DM’s error)

  • Cannonshop (#27) and Ruvy (#28), great comments! Thanks.

    Roger, suicide rates in the armed forces have increased, it’s a serious concern, and the military is trying hard to deal with it. However, the situation is sometimes exaggerated. The rate has gone up since 1980, when such statistics began being kept. But its always been well below the rate for the general population and for the demographic group that matches the military. Now it’s at about the same rate as the rate for the general population (19.5 vs. 20.2, but the statistics aren’t based on the same timeframe).

    It’s easy to say that the stress and trauma of war can cause soldiers to commit suicide — that’s a no-brainer. But no one really knows why most people, including soldiers, kill themselves. Soldiers are above-average in most respects, to include having been screened for mental health issues. That would imply that we should see fewer suicides. But soldiers are also subjected to far greater stress and deal with far more difficult challenges, in combat and even in training. So that implies that there should be more.

    The simple facts are these: the suicide rate in the military has gone up, but it’s not out of control; we have no idea what the suicide rate was in World War II, the Civil War, etc — maybe it was worse; the fact that suicide rates go up among soldiers who have actually experienced the trauma of land warfare shouldn’t be surprising; and long, repeated tours of duty in combat are inevitably going to make things worse. Given what they’re experiencing, the real surprise should be that the suicide rate isn’t significantly higher than that of the general population. If there’s a scandal, it should be that the VA doesn’t always provide the mental health support to veterans that it should.

    What really frosts my nether regions is to see suicide among soldiers used as a talking point in partisan political arguments (I’m not saying you’re doing that, Roger). When that happens the facts are generally twisted and exaggerated, and it’s unfortunate that some people will stoop that low.

  • drive by

    I don’t seem to recall that the President of the United States has declared war on Honduras

    This from a lawyer (Yale grad, no less) who claims to have some knowledge of the constitution?

  • “The soldiers know what it is-it’s a war-a war agianst an enemy who wears no uniform, represents no single nation, is not constrained by any higher authority short of his god.”

    Is this a voice of experience speaking? How many tours in Iraq or Afghanistan have you pulled? Just wonder how you always manage to be coming up with these pearls of wisdom of late. Perhaps we should coin them as “cannonisms” from now on.

    And since we’re on the subject, perhaps you’ll give us a lowdown on the suicide rates in the armed forces. You’re becoming so incredible these days that anything you’re about to say, on any subject whatever, is bound to be interesting.

    I really think you should start your own column. You’d get it syndicated in no time. Look at the market: Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck. There are idiots aplenty who would swallow your bullshit.

    Get with it, man.

  • #25,

    It’s only willful ignorance, Pablo, unless you assume that DM has forgotten all he had been taught at Harvard.

    But of course, a person never really outgrows their emotional age, no matter how many graduate schools they go to. So you figure.

  • Ruvy

    You’re either chasing down terrorists, in which case you’re policing, or you’re engaging an enemy in battle, in which case you’re at war. Some people seem to want to have it both ways.


    The world is not so simple as you would have us believe.

    A bank robber goes into a bank to rob money. His motivation is criminal. But unless he is a psycho/sociopath, he is not interested in killing off the people in the bank. He wants to make his getaway. A murderer, whether it is for passion (jealous husband killing wife/boyfriend) or a contract hit (murdering off Luigi Mafioso for 50 large) wants to get the murder over with. The clarity of mind will then dictate whether the murderer seeks to escape or not – but even the murderer is not interested in murdering off the whole lot of people around. He has his target, and he is after them – specifically.

    The terrorist is after accomplishing a goal for the sake of a cause. He shoots Jews in Seattle? He wants there to be less Jews! He kills off a bunch of Jews at a Seder in Netanya? He wants Je3s to fear to congregate. He takes a series of hotels hostage and murders off Jews in Haba”d in Mumbai? He wants Indian (heathens) to see just how vulnerable they really are – and he wants to destroy a Jewish communal center.

    None of these things are crimes; they are assertions of an alternative sovereignty! The terrorist is generally a rebel.

    Sometimes rebels do degenerate to being mere criminals. This happened with the mafiosi in Sicily, and with the IRA (and corresponding Protestant groups) in Northern Ireland.

    Sometimes terrorists will resort to crime to maintain themselves and their organization. This is true now in southern Lebanon where HizbAllah is engaged in the drug trade in a big way. But, the bottom line is that HizbAllah represents an alternative sovereignty. The drug trade is income to keep money coming in in case other sources dry up, or to pay for upgrading the arsenal on its own – or even just to pass the money on to the Iranian bosses so that they have money to stay in power or to buy nukes. The drug trade, while criminal is still subservient to the basic goal of the alternate sovereignty.

    It is this alternate sovereignty business that makes the terrorist a rebel wearing a different coat. Either you kill him off – or you recognize his rights to sovereignty.

  • Cannonshop

    #21 The soldiers know what it is-it’s a war-a war agianst an enemy who wears no uniform, represents no single nation, is not constrained by any higher authority short of his god.

    It’s the politicians who are confused, mistaking ordinary war-criminals for terrorists, and in turn, said mistakenly termed terrorists for ordinary crims. This type of conflict we’re in, it’s a psychotic zone conflict. The enemy is loosely organized and often at odds with each other, but united in their determination to kill westerners in the name of their God, and they’re ruthless and not bound by rules as we are.

    This creates something of a definition of concept problem for the rest of us, since none of the old definitions make sense in this. WE’re used to facing an organized enemy with clear goals beyond mere slaughter and the creation of fear. In truth, their goals ARE clear cut, but the psychology behind those goals is really quite difficult, if not impossible, for a Western Mind that is the product of the Age of Reason to grasp, and even more difficult to find a lever to apply some kind of force to end the conflict with.

    This is made worse, because of the interdependence of the global economy-we can’t just ‘freeze them out’ the way we did with Soviet Russia, we can’t just ‘wall off’ the Middle East and let it rot from the inside-that strategy is closed to us, and we can’t just submit to their demands, because those demands spell the end of Western Civilization, and the destruction of the progress made since the Enlightenment and Reformation eras-includng the death of what we traditionally view as human rights, including freedom to worship as we choose, speak our minds without fear of execution or imprisonment, go where we wish, etc. etc.

    These are folks who make Fred Phelps look Tolerant and open-minded, their ideals make nazi germany look SANE, even humane by comparison, their methods are refined from millenia of techniques used by groups and rulers in that area to terrorize and subjugate, refined with the writings of Mao, Hitler, and Stalin.

    We aren’t fighting the kind of war we’re psychologically adapted to fight-but we are in a conflict we have to, if not win, at least maintain a stalemate until the bulk of the Muslim population has had enough dying and killing and suffering and madness. We have to keep it going until the demographics shift.

    A callous sort might say we have to act as an Evolutionary force-killing off the genomes prone to violent fanaticism in battlefields before they’ve reproduced much, but that would be in error.

    What we have to do, is keep going until they’re sick of it. This happened in one location out there already, so it IS possible-just very, very difficult, and there will be recriminations for every action.


    WE also have to find ways to support the rationals out there-the people who ARE tired of constant conflicts, oppression, death and terror. it’s got to be both Carrot, and Stick, or it’s just going to go on…and on…and on…

  • pablo

    Tom Carter,

    I find it incredulous that you would say this in your ariticle:

    “U.S. citizens, wherever captured or apprehended, should be handled on a case-by-case basis and either tried by a civilian court or declared to be enemy combatants and tried by a military commission.”

    The US Constitution is very clear about what constitutes treason:

    “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying
    War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and
    Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the
    Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in
    open Court.”

    The fact that you have openly said that you support an executive action that would strip a US citizen of his status without inclusion of the constitution’s requirements speaks volumes about your fascist political philosophy.

    The constitution is crystal clear and unambiguous concerning a us citizen levying war against it. Any act of congress that allows the executive to declare a us citizen an enemy combatant is unconstitutional on its face and repugnant to it as well. Shame on you.

  • pablo

    Dan Miller 10

    Perhaps you ought to break out your pocket constitution Dan, last time I checked only Congress has the consitutional (lawful) ability to declare war, not the President. I am surprised at your ignorance concerning this.

  • Tom, I realize that characterizing the Korean “conflict” as a police action rather than as a war is gross sophistry; that’s why I mentioned it. Clearly, it was a war in every sense of the word. There were reasonably well defined battlefields; artillery, tanks, ships and aircraft were used, and lots of soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors were not only involved but killed, wounded or captured. I was too young then, but did spend a lot of time traveling in Korea in the late sixties – very early seventies. The scars were still plainly visible, and not only on bullet ridden structures.

    The “war” against al Qaeda is obviously very different; although I am pleased that President Obama so characterized it, I wish I had a better understanding of what he meant; come to think of it, I wish I thought he had a better understanding. Was it sophistry, or does it suggest a degree of determination similar to that evidenced in WWII and in Korea?

    As to dealing with captured terrorists, I don’t have a great answer. Civilian trials seem a poor venue in any circumstance I have been able to imagine. The recent Fourth Circuit decision in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui suggests substantial entertainment value but little better. Nor am I terribly impressed with the use of military commissions, although I think that, on balance, they are a better alternative. A decision released by the Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit on January 5, 2010, al Bihani v. Obama, suggests that indefinite detention “for the duration,” with habeas corpus proceedings, may be the best answer in some cases. The judge who wrote the opinion noted,

    Habeas review for Guantanamo detainees need not match the procedures developed by Congress and the courts specifically for habeas challenges to criminal convictions. Boumediene’s holding explicitly stated that habeas procedures for detainees “need not resemble a criminal trial,” 128 S. Ct. at 2269. It instead invited “innovation” of habeas procedure by lower courts, granting leeway for “[c]ertain accommodations [to] be made to reduce the burden habeas corpus proceedings will place on the military.”

    Interestingly, Judge Brown, the author of the court’s opinion, wrote her own separate concurring opinion, something rather unusual. There, she said, “it is important to ask whether a court-driven process is best suited to protecting both the rights of [GITMO] petitioners and the safety of our nation.” Based on the full text of her concurring opinion, it is apparent that she thinks the answer is “no.” I agree. An unusually thoughtful analysis of what we lost by deciding to try the underwear bomber in a civilian criminal court is presented here


  • Dan, as you know, the complexities of international treaties and customs, plus U.S. law, make it difficult to define terms with precision. Often, there’s enough slack in all this for people to come up with just about any definition they want. Therefore, the opponents of a specific military action can find support for their contention that it’s illegal, and the supporters can find support for their contention that it’s legal.

    The Military Commissions Act of 2006 defined the term “unlawful enemy combatant” and re-stated the Presidents authority to declare persons in that status. The very recent Military Commissions Act of 2009 changed part of the 2006 Act, to include changing the terminology to “unprivileged enemy belligerent” and limiting it to aliens (non-U.S. citizens). It also restricted the definition to belligerents associated with al-Qaeda.

    And what’s a war? A battlefield? I think the duck analogy works pretty well — if it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck…. When a group of people, whether state or non-state actors, conduct open hostilities against a nation over an extended period of time, then that’s a war. That duck quacks for me. Even al-Qaeda has declared that they are at war with us. A battlefield — broadly, where you meet and fight the enemy. That certainly includes Iraq and Afghanistan, where we’ve met former Guantanamo detainees. An airliner — probably not, but so what? We still have to defend ourselves wherever we’re attacked.

    To state that the Korean War (note the terminology) was not a war but a police action may be supportable in legal terms, but it’s sophistry. I’ve studied the Korean War in depth, and I’ve discussed it with many veterans of the conflict. I never met one who didn’t think he’d been in a war, and I’ve never studied a conflict that more clearly met the common sense definition of “war.”

    I really liked President Obama’s speech at the Nobel ceremony, and it’s worth re-reading. Note this statement from the speech:

    I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

  • Doc, It’s an interesting semantic distinction but one with which President Obama does not appear to agree. Please see my Comment #3, quoting President Obama as saying, We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again and so forth. He seems to have decided that New York and Detroit have become “battlefields.” Whether he plans to go forward with the “war” concept, or fall back on the “policing” concept, only time will tell. In any event, we were not “at war” in Korea back in the 1950’s; that was only a police action despite a fairly well defined battlefield. So, the terms are strange.


  • Yes, Roger, exactly. What would a terrorist be doing on a battlefield?

    You’re either chasing down terrorists, in which case you’re policing, or you’re engaging an enemy in battle, in which case you’re at war. Some people seem to want to have it both ways.

    Changing definitions when it suits us just seems a bit sneaky and more than a bit dishonest.

  • Roger,

    Damn! I was afraid that something like that might some day happen.

    Still, it’s such a picky point that I’m sure Doc must have had something more important in mind, which he will eventually deign to reveal.


  • Well, at least we agree on English grammar, DM.

  • Doc, re #16

    I’ll play. What’s wrong with it, aside from a remotely possible ambiguity as to whether “them” refers to the terrorists or to the other countries?


  • Do you mean ambiguous reference?

    Whom did we meet again on the battlefield? The terrorists who have been released or “other countries”?

  • “The Bush Administration released terrorists to other countries, and in many cases we met them on the battlefield again.”

    Um… what’s wrong with this sentence…?

  • Alas Ruvy,

    There are so very many things I don’t understand, including even some of the comments on this thread.

    Since I don’t even understand the concept of “war,” and as a former Army Jag officer I should, it’s obviously time for my nap.

    Oh — I hope the clothespin usage did not constitute self inflicted torture. That’s probably prohibited.


  • But that’s a minor point, Ruvy (what you’re addressing in #13).

    For your info, I posted a similar comment to the one in #2 on another thread (see #75), which addressed the very issue of double standard.

    Needless to say, it was conveniently ignored for the most part by conservatives and liberals alike – including such “good souls” as Glenn Contrarian and Silas Kain.

    Which does make me wonder how blind most of us are to the very possibility that our shit might stink (too).

  • Ruvy


    Hence, even though I don’t know exactly what he means….

    If you are not even sure where the guy is born, how can you possibly be sure what he means? The fudge factor with this guy is really large; he and his flunkies produce an awful lot of smelly “fudge” for the rest of the world to “interpret” and the stink goes from the Potomac all the way to the high hills of Samaria….

    [Ruvy closes the windows even though it is a warm January evening – only then does he take the clothespin off of his nose.]

  • How very convenient of you to be playing both ends against the middle. If it serves the US interests, then the US can do no wrong. If, however, US action is in conflict with what Dan Miller perceives as wrong, then so is the US.

    And in case you’re suffering from reading comprehension, I never suggested that there was any direct US action in the matter of Honduras. I posed it as a hypothetical.

  • Re comment #9, I have this silly notion that attempts by “the enemy” to slaughter large numbers of civilians in and traveling to Detroit to please al Qaeda and its Allah is, in fact, “awful.” Ditto other recent incidents.

    Hence, even though I don’t know exactly what he means, I agree with President Obama that we are “at war” with al Qaeda.


  • re Comment #8, and assuming that it must have some smidgen of relevance to this thread, I don’t seem to recall that the President of the United States has declared war on Honduras, or that the “de facto” President of Honduras has declared war on the United States. I don’t even recall any terrorist attacks on the United States by the President’s friends.

    I my recollections have faded, I sure would like to learn about such things.


  • I was only questioning the double standard. Namely, everything US does is legal, everything done by “the enemy” is unlawful.

  • It was only a while ago, Dan Miller, that you were dead-set against what you regarded as US unlawful interference and meddling with the affairs of other nations – Honduras being a case in point. And your objection was only to semi-official statements from the administration concerning that situation.

    One would suppose, therefore, that you would definitely object, and much more strongly, about the legality of any potential US action in that country to restore the ousted president to power.

    Just wondering.

  • Ruvy


    In war, might is right. Only the winners get to write history. It took over a century for Dembrowski’s Mazurka to become the anthem of a nation, and it is only recently that this nation is even independent. The winners of the battle write the histories, Roger, because, more often than not the losers who would have written it are dead.

    That is what we in Israel have to insure here as well – against the will of the world – that we, the winners, write the history.

    Tom Carter’s proposals are simply common sense.

  • Well, that’s precisely my point, Ruvy.

    What I question is his very concept of legality.

  • Ruvy

    Mire! Mire! Sus derechas! [Boom]

  • Ruvy

    I’m glad, though, that Ruvy agrees with you on the matter of terrorism while conveniently putting aside what he so often expresses as the illegality of America’s interference and meddling in the affairs of other nations.

    These things do work both ways, of course. If the United States wishes to openly intervene in our affairs with her military, I’ll happily send American soldiers their “Miranda” rights in whatever lead-encased message delivery system I can effectively use…. The Americans will have to provide the body bags, though. ;o)

  • In his address to the nation, President Obama reminded us

    of the challenge we face in protecting our country against a foe that is bent on our destruction. And while passions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let’s be clear about what this moment demands: We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.

    So, evidently we are “at war,” whatever that means. Somehow, I can’t guite get my mind around the notion that President Obama’s concept of “war” coincides with mine or, apparently, that of the author. Perhaps President Obama means something akin to the “wars” on poverty and obesity.


  • “Those who are attacking us are enemies and combatants, and they’re acting unlawfully . . .”

    That may be so, they are our enemies. But where does the definition of “unlawfulness” come from? From the old paradigm that only “a duly constituted military force of a legitimate nation” counts as lawful. And who makes this decision. The US? Our allies? The international community?

    According to the latter, darn it, even according to many of us, even some in Congress, the status of the conflict in Vietnam, our continuous presence in Iraq, even our engagement in Afghanistan, may have been regarded as unlawful? So what makes all these operations and wars lawful? The executive’s decision.

    It would seem you have nothing else to back up your assumptions and your hard-and-fast definitions other than by saying that might is right.

    I’m glad, though, that Ruvy agrees with you on the matter of terrorism while conveniently putting aside what he so often expresses as the illegality of America’s interference and meddling in the affairs of other nations. So you should derive some measure of comfort from his support.

  • Ruvy

    Nice article. Nice idea.