Republicans Backbenchers Beat Bush, Leadership on Detainees

An alliance of prominent Republican Senators, Colin Powell, and Congressional Democrats have won the first round in a battle with President Bush and the Republican Congressional leadership over the treatment of suspected terrorist detainees.

A Senate committee, in a bipartisan rebuff to President George W. Bush, approved military tribunal legislation that would give more legal protection to suspected terrorists than the administration wants. Four of the 13 Republicans on the panel joined the 11 Democrats to pass their version of the measure, rejecting Bush’s proposal to bar defendants from seeing classified evidence prosecutors may want to use in court. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed the Senate approach, warning that the Bush administration is risking the safety of U.S. troops and worldwide opinion by permitting harsh treatment of detainees.

[…]

Today’s Armed Services Committee vote would let suspected terrorists see evidence used against them and would bar statements obtained through torture or inhumane treatment. It also would authorize military judges to fashion declassified summaries of evidence and to dismiss charges if the prosecutors don’t consent to the disclosures.

“We are not going to win the war by killing every terrorist with a bomb or a bullet,” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham told reporters before the committee met. “You win the war by persuading those people in the Mideast to reject terrorism.”

NYT analyst Carl Hulse notes that this is an unusal case of internecine fighting in the run-up to an election.

Instead of drawing contrasts with Democrats, the president’s call for creating military tribunals to try terror suspects — a key substantive and political component of his fall agenda — has erupted into a remarkably intense clash pitting some of the best-known warriors in the Republican Party against Mr. Bush and the Congressional leadership.

At issue are definitions of what is permissible in trials and interrogations that both sides view as central to the character of the nation, the way the United States is perceived abroad and the rules of the game for what Mr. Bush has said will be a multigenerational battle against Islamic terrorists.

Democrats have so far remained on the sidelines, sidestepping Republican efforts to draw them into a fight over Mr. Bush’s leadership on national security heading toward the midterm election. Democrats are rapt spectators, however, shielded by the stern opposition to the president being expressed by three Republicans with impeccable credentials on military matters: Senators John McCain of Arizona, John W. Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The three were joined on Thursday by Colin L. Powell, formerly the secretary of state and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in challenging the administration’s approach.

It is one of those rare Congressional moments when the policy is as monumental as the politics.

On one side are the Republican veterans of the uniformed services, arguing that the president’s proposal would effectively gut the nearly 60-year-old Geneva Conventions, sending a dark signal to the rest of the world and leaving United States military without adequate protection against torture and mistreatment.

On the other are the Bush administration and Republican leaders of both the House and Senate who say new tools are urgently needed to pursue and interrogate terror suspects and to protect the covert operatives who play an increasingly important role in chasing them.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out when the bills go to conference. One would think McCain and company have the upper hand here given the ability of even a strong minority in the Senate to block legislation. If the Democrats are unified on this, having a few Republicans on their side would almost certainly be enough to carry the day outright.

The irony is that, even though it is McCain and a handful of Republicans leading the charge against the president on this, it will likely be a campaign issue used against Democrats. It’ll be rather easy to portray them as soft on the likes of Mohammed Atta, fair or no.

On the merits, I agree with McCain and company, although not necessarily for the reasons they give. It is patently absurd to argue that our terrorist enemies are going to abide by the Geneva Conventions if we do so.

Graham is right that abiding by international law and our living up to our ideals sends the correct message. I’m more skeptical than he is about our ability to persuade Muslims that we’re the good guys, given that their information is filtered through al Jazeera, the mullahs, and others hostile to us. Still, every documented American attrocity fuels the propaganda fire against us with very little offsetting advantage.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. How exactly do we ensure that when radical Islam hears us say “we will not obtain evidence through torture”, they think it means “we respect you” and not “we are weak”?

    Sure, to a liberal college-educated American whose moral compass is defined by cultural relativism and diversity, refusal to torture is respectful of basic human rights. But to a religious fanatic living in the middle of the desert and training for the inevitable war against Western immorality, it’s weakness.

    It’s not what we say that matters, it’s what the other side hears. We need to speak their language. The recordings that come out of the Islamofascist groups have one overriding message: we hate you, and we are going to kill you.

    There is simply no rational response to that except “we will kill you first”. Anything else is weakness, and even once it has been said it must be backed up with action.

    Most importantly, image is critical to these people. They’re willing to die for their cause, but they’re not willing to suffer humiliation. If humiliating one prisoner convinces a thousand not to fight, it’s worth it, and Geneva be damned.

  2. DaveD says:

    Whatever the Senate decides, responsibility for the deterence and occurrence of future terrorist acts against the United States will fall in the lap of the President, Republican or Democrat. I guess with respect to terrorists who are noncitizens, one could focus on the information they could provide instead of worrying about whether it is important to actually prosecute them. If the low-level operatives can provide information to the high level organizers then the latter can be dealt with like al-Zarqawi. As far as terrorist who are US citizens, that is a difficult question in my mind;they probably should be accorded due process.

  3. Two quick thoughts (I have longer ones here and likely will have more long ones later).

    1) I don’t think “backbenchers” is accurate. For one thing, Warner is the Chair of the committee, making him part of the umbrella of leadership, although granted not in the top couple of posts. Further, McCain is one of the faces of the party. Indeed, I am not sure that in general the idea of “backbenchers” really works in the Senate, unless you are really talking about people like Mike Crapo.

    2) I agree that al Qaeda isn’t going to give a rat’s posterior about rules. However, if the US actively engages in lowering the bar on these rules, it could have an effect on state actors who capture our troops in the future.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Steven:

    Fair enough on the “backbenchers.” McCain and Warner are very prominent, powerful Senators. Still, they’re not part of the key Senate leadership. That Republicans at that level have beaten the White House and the Caucus is noteworthy.

    Maybe so on state actors although I’m dubious. We’ve not lowered the bar on treatments of legit EPWs and there’s little evidence Third World armies follow the rules, anyway.

  5. Anderson says:

    Better than nothing, but the real atrocities here are (1) denial of habeas and (2) denial of judicial review/remedy for Geneva violations.

    (1): You’re caught up in a sweep or fingered by personal enemies & sent to Gitmo despite being innocent of any wrongdoing. Habeas is how you require the feds to show that they have *some basis* for holding you. It’s the difference between the rule of law and executive tyranny, simple as that. Is there anything “conservative” about eliminating one of the oldest and most venerated rights under the common law? What would Burke say?

    (2): Your captors are required to adhere to Geneva … but if they don’t, there’s absolutely nothing that you or the courts can do about it? Try that out in your own life: “the IRS is required to adhere to the law, but if it doesn’t, then too bad”? Is there anything “conservative” about unchecked executive power?

    Streamlining habeas to keep it from stretching out over years is a good idea. Ditto judicial review. But eliminating these is indefensible. Not that there won’t be defenders from those who would really rather be living under Stalinism than in the U.S.A., of course.

  6. madmatt says:

    Why should any country support us once we have turned into a tinpot dictatorship that allows secret trials, torture, secret prisons….we fought against the soviet union and said those were bad things for 50+ years.

  7. Anderson says:

    Why should any country support us once we have turned into a tinpot dictatorship that allows secret trials, torture, secret prisons….we fought against the soviet union and said those were bad things for 50+ years.

    Utterly mysterious to me as well. It’s revelatory how little principle, and how much chauvinism, there evidently was in the Cold War.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Fair point, although the argument against the Soviets was that they were doing it to their own people, not captured terrorist suspects. And we didn’t fight the war out of a zeal to spread democracy but because they’d pledged to destroy us and spread their way of life.

  9. jpe says:

    Sure, to a liberal college-educated American whose moral compass is defined by cultural relativism and diversity, refusal to torture is respectful of basic human rights.

    I suggest you take a community college course in or read a book on moral philosophy so that you can correctly identify moral relativism (hint: the claim that “Torture is wrong” is anathema to a relativist.)

  10. Anderson says:

    Fair point, although the argument against the Soviets was that they were doing it to their own people, not captured terrorist suspects.

    I don’t think that’s how the Soviets described them … enemies of the state, all!

    Of course, the Soviet state was evil and thus not trustworthy, whereas the American state is good and thus can be trusted. –This is still more true than not, but my general skepticism about “trust me, I’m from the federal gov’t” has been badly exacerbated by the past 5 years.

    Anyway, look at the corruption of our system. First we torture our prisoners. Then there’s a grave issue whether this torture will ruin any hopes of convicting Padilla or KSM in a court of law.

    Which, rather than leading people to condemn Bush for ruining these prosecutions, will lead people to say it’s the fault of the courts, and to further curtail the liberties our forefathers fought to preserve.

  11. Anderson says:

    I suggest you take a community college course in or read a book on moral philosophy so that you can correctly identify moral relativism (hint: the claim that “Torture is wrong” is anathema to a relativist.)

    LOL, ruefully … “cultural relativism” is just something that falls out of these people’s mouths.

    Me, I firmly believe that the American system of law, imperfections & all, is the best in the history of the world. Which sets me apart from George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their entourage of jackals.

  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anderson, please explain why it is you wish to extend the legal protections to those who do not recognize our laws. If you foolishly think that will protect American soldiers, pay attention to what our enemy does to its prisoners. Here is a question for you Anderson. If we lose the war, what good are our laws? Since we will no longer be governed by them.

  13. Anderson says:

    Zelsdorf, let’s give you a quick IQ test. Try reading the following passage (from Katherine, commenting at Belgravia).

    Innocent people can be detained indefinitely without charge, on secret evidence or evidence obtained under torture, without court review. That’s what habeas stripping means. No one in Washington seems to even be aware of this, because they’ve put Saints Lindsey and John on white chargers and they won’t get human rights groups or Guantanamo lawyers on the phone.

    Finished? Good. Now, please explain how the power to hold innocent people is helping our enemies or hindering us from winning any war?

    The *only* reason to deny habeas, is that you want to hold people indefinitely without having to charge them with anything. Period. The question is, is that a power we want our gov’t to be able to exercise over anyone, citizen or not?

    And recall that the feds held Jose Padilla for 3 1/2 years without charging him with anything … and the *only* reason he’s going to get a trial, instead of being held at the executive’s pleasure, is that he was able to file a habeas petition. And Padilla, scum tho he may be, is a citizen of the United States of America.

  14. SoloD says:

    Even if others don’t recognize our laws, we recognize our laws. They are what make us strong. This should be less about the other guy and more about us as a Country. Do we believe that torture and show trials are OK?

    for many of us, if we ignore our own laws and values, then the terrorists will have truly won.

  15. SoloD says:

    “It’s not what we say that matters, it’s what the other side hears. We need to speak their language.”

    But if we turn our back on our laws and values, we have lost more than we have gained. I reject the idea that to “be strong” we have to turn our back on what we are.

  16. Cernig says:

    SoloD has it right, Zeldorff is begging the question.

    The prior question has to be: if we throw away our laws, what good is the war?

    We’re gonna fight to decide which kind of totalitarianism we have? C’mon, Zeldorff, think.

    Regards, Cernig

  17. cian says:

    James,

    The whole tone of your post is disturbing, as though all that is being discussed is an interesting political maneuver. In reality what Bush is attempting to do is legitimise the use of torture as a legal American war tool, and lets not play the ‘coercive techniques’ word game.

    Water boarding is being used and is torture. Caliban thinks that makes America look tough. It doesn’t, it makes America look like the guy on the corner with a toothpick and new tattoo- a louse and a looser.

    The terrorist believes in torture, and now, if your president has his way, so will America.

    Who exactly is weak here? Who do you think is winning?

  18. Todd says:

    SoloD said,

    This should be less about the other guy and more about us as a Country.

    You are so right. If it’s OK for us to stoop to State sponsored torture, secret trials and prisons just because we are fighting a bunch of barbarians then we might as well use terrorism as our means of engaging the enemy.

    Sheesh, talk about moral relativism!!

  19. Joannes Jacobsen says:

    SoloD said:

    This should be less about the other guy and more about us as a Country. Do we believe that torture and show trials are OK?

    for many of us, if we ignore our own laws and values, then the terrorists will have truly won.

    Exactly. Well said. End of discussion.

  20. Wayne says:

    There is a difference between torture and coercive interrogation. Bush is asking to spell out what constitutes what. That way the interrogators know what they can or cannot do without being prosecuted. The current guidelines including the third article of Geneva Convention are so vague that no one knows what they mean.

    People who say it is establish international laws are full of B.S. Name one time in an international court that has establish what is or is not torture. Is a Muslim being interrogated by a female torture? Some would say yes others would say no. For most it is just an academic question but for the interrogator they need to know?

    News flash, the rest of the world dislike for the U.S. exists long before Bush came into office. Yes we should live up to high standards but it should not disregard reality. It is like the difference between a Cowboy and Aristocrat. The Aristocrat appears more moral but the Cowboy is the one with the morals.

    Bush is just tackling the job no one else wants to address.

  21. Anderson says:

    Bush is asking to spell out what constitutes what. That way the interrogators know what they can or cannot do without being prosecuted. The current guidelines including the third article of Geneva Convention are so vague that no one knows what they mean.

    Ignorance, pure ignorance. The whole point is NOT to spell out “techniques A, B, and C are forbidden,” because then torturers look for A-prime, or D, or ….

    But [retired Army Lt. Col. Geoffrey S. Corn, who was recently chief of the war law branch of the Army’s Office of the Judge Advocate General], said that Common Article 3 was, according to its written history, “left deliberately vague because efforts to define it would invariably lead to wrongdoers identifying ‘exceptions,’ and because the meaning was plain — treat people like humans and not animals or objects.” Eugene R. Fidell, president of the nonprofit National Institute of Military Justice, said that laws governing military conduct are filled with broadly described prohibitions that are nonetheless enforceable, including “dereliction of duty,” “maltreatment” and “conduct unbecoming an officer.”

    As for the rest of the Republican talking points (“women interrogators = torture!”), you’re going to have to find some stupider people to impress with ’em, Wayne.

  22. Anderson says:

    Thoughtful people interested in the “vagueness” issue can check out this Scott Lemieux post, which discusses the issue & links to other commentary.

    The whole point is that, if you have to even seriously wonder whether what you’re doing violates CA3, you don’t do it. “What Bush sees as a bug–people worried about facing legal consequences for torturing suspects–is of course a feature.”

  23. Pug says:

    Why bother with a kangaroo court at all? Why not just summary execution after we’re done torturing them?

    Maybe we could videotape the execution and post it on the Internet, or give it to Al-Jazeera. Hell, if we want to be like them, then let’s just go ahead and be like them.

    Otherwise, we ought to act like Americans.

  24. anjin-san says:

    One of the fundamental principals of our system is that we are a nation of laws, not a nation of men. Sadly, some in the Bush camp wish to change this.

    In their zeal to do anything and everything that they think will make them a bit safer, they are actually bringing more in line with those they claim to so despise….

  25. Erin says:

    “Still, every documented American atrocity fuels the propaganda fire against us with very little offsetting advantage”. “wtf” propaganda fire, this is their life not a fire, nothing we do to be human will stop them from taking our soldiers and us to be tortured then murdered in a most vile manner. We are committing slow suicide with our gentile manner, this is no game to be played by politicians this is a war to be won by any means so that we can get back to our gentile ways. Without winning we have nothing!

  26. Michael says:

    Zelsdorf:

    please explain why it is you wish to extend the legal protections to those who do not recognize our laws.

    Because we believe that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Because we believe that our laws are just laws, and fair laws, and the laws that define a free and civilized society. Because we believe that justice can served by the application of these laws, no matter the race, gender or nationality of the accused.

    If you disagree, feel free to leave our country.

  27. Michael says:

    this is a war to be won by any means so that we can get back to our gentile ways.

    I’m sure that was a typo, and that you meant “our gentle ways”. However the unintended truthfulness is, I think, much more revealing.

    More the the point, if winning “by any means” includes sacrificing that which makes us Americans, then even in winning we would have nothing.

  28. Anderson says:

    We are committing slow suicide with our gentile manner

    Hey, look where Israeli methods got them … oh, wait, spelling error. Got it.

    If you’re going to advocate junking the rule of law in favor of unbounded executive power and Gestapo tactics, at least spell your advocacy correctly. People might assume you’re uneducated as well as evil.

  29. Wayne says:

    Anderson

    “The whole point is that, if you have to even seriously wonder whether what you’re doing violates CA3, you don’t do it”

    Will lets get of interrogation then! CA3 is so vague that most interrogation and/or detention technique is in seriously question. The “being vague is good” argument is only good for the armchair quarterbacks. It is not good for the one doing the job.

    Does women interrogators = torture question is a valid question. Why won’t the left answer it? There are a great deal of questions like that that need to be answer but the left are to scare to answer them.

    Defining what is allowed and is not allowed does not exclude all else. Saying that chopping off a prisoner leg for the purpose of interrogation falls under the definition of torture and a woman interrogating a Muslim prisoner does not, does not exclude all else. Chopping off a prisoner arm even if not define by the legislation still could and would be determine to fall underneath torture.
    However the interrogators would know that they could use woman interrogators on Muslims.

    Anderson, once again I ask is using women as Muslim interrogators a violation of GNC or not?

  30. Michael says:

    More the the point, if winning “by any means” includes sacrificing that which makes us Americans, then even in winning we would have nothing.

    Or, to quote someone you might respect more than me: “What does it benefit a man to gain the whole world, if he loses his soul?”
    If we accept torture, then we have lost our soul as a nation and a people, and for what? The illusion of safety?

  31. Michael says:

    Wayne,
    Have you even read CA3? Obviously the gender of the interrogator alone cannot constitute a violation.

  32. Wayne says:

    The left argument that if that President doesn’t do what they ant him to do. It means he isn’t following the constitution and/or law is B.S. If he is breaking the law take him to court. Bush has had a very good record in the arena.

    The Supreme Court with strong internal disagreement only said that UMCJ and GNC apply to the Guantanamo Bay detainees not how they apply to the detainees. According to GNC many of the detainees would be allowed to be shot as spies.

  33. Wayne says:

    It is not just the gender. There is the Muslim religion to consider as well. Most Muslim considered it demeaning to be interrogated by a woman. CA3 does not specify what torture or demeaning actions are. So someone can interpret it to say that it is demeaning for a woman to interrogate a Muslim and would be a violation to CA3.

    I am still waiting for answer. Does the CA3 allows for a woman to interrogate a Muslim?

  34. Michael says:

    Wayne,
    CA3 can not be interpreted to include as torture the interrogation of a detainee by a regular member of the opposing force simply because she is female. CA3 does not forbid an action simply because it could be considered demeaning by the detainee. If anybody was seriously concerned that having female officers interrogate muslim prisoners would violate CA3, the question would have been brought up. As it is, the questions being asked about what CA3 allows is more in line with waterboarding and naked human pyramids.

    The fact that you keep bringing up women interrogators as a justification for abandoning CA3 all together simply shows that you are not serious about following the intent of CA3.

  35. Wayne says:

    There are two issues here. One what the Geneva Conventions actually says and the second is what people are claiming it says. Here is a link to the Convention that pertains to treatment of prisoners.
    http://www.genevaconventions.org/

    Many have stated that GNV says that prisoners are subject to torture of demeaning actions. Probably derive from this part of GNC
    “Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”
    You and I may not consider a Female interrogating a Muslim as an insult but many can and do, to them that would be a violation of GNC. So who gets to determine what is demeaning. The reason I brought up the female interrogator argument is to show how the GNC is so open to interpretation and again female interrogators can be view as demeaning.
    Read the above criteria for EPW status. Most of the terrorists do not fit the criteria of EPWs, therefore they need not be afforded rights under the convention. However thanks to the MSM and Liberals, the perception is they do.

    Since according to GNC most terrorists do not fall under EPW status then they are allow to be interrogated by the rules of our country. The current debate is what those rules should be. I personally do not think water boarding or naked pyramids as torture. In some cases torture should be allowed. You may have a different view. For the people out in the field, we need to decide who’s opinion wins out instead of waiting until something does happen then deciding. How many people are going scream if we get caught in a interrogation scandal or on the other hand information is not obtain because of lack of aggressive interrogation.

    We need to take on the responsibilities ourselves instead of just complaining.

  36. Bithead says:

    What enemy of the United States, in a wartime situation, has ever upheld the Geneva convention all the way through the conflict?

  37. Bithead says:

    Because we believe that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights

    The question, however, is a quite valid one. The bottom line here is that the “fix you so easily toss off, is based on a cultural concept. Particularly, a culture that those fighting against us do not value.

  38. davod says:

    The whole no torture meme is a Canard. Check the Geneva convention. Part 3 includes a ridiculously broad statement regarding interrogation – not torture.

    The next part contains the qualifiers, who is not covered, and terrorists are not covered. Why a Supreme would be so disingenuous as to include those specifically excluded is a mystery to me.

  39. Bithead says:

    Captain Ed says it well:

    Senator McCain is hardly the only American POW who had experience with GC violations, and that’s the point. We have yet to fight against a wartime enemy that followed the GC with any consistency at all. The Germans routinely violated it even before Hitler began issuing orders to shoot captured pilots, and the massacre at Malmedy only crystallized what had been fairly brutal treatment at the hands of the Nazis for American prisoners (the Luftwaffe was one notable exception). The Japanese treatment of POWs was nothing short of barbaric, both before and after Bataan. The same is true for the North Koreans and the Chinese in the Korean War, and McCain himself is a routine example of the kind of treatment our men suffered at the hands of the Vietnamese.

    In this war, this argument seems particularly despicable. We have been treated to images of broken and tortured bodies of our soldiers on television and the Internet, courtesy of the animals who oppose us in this war. No one suffers under the delusion that captured soldiers will ever return alive, let alone receive Geneva-approved treatment. Our enemy doesn’t even fight according to the GC, so why should they treat our soldiers any better than they treat the civilians they target for their attacks?

    That is precisely the reality that so many making this argument about the Geneva convention refuse to recognize. Instead of worrying about the message being sent by not following the Geneva convention… a convention that apparently is a convention only to US, if history is a judge, perhaps the bigger question that we are to start asking ourselves, is, what kind of message do we send when we refuse to react to our enemy? What kind of message do we send when we give them the advantage of not being bound to the same nonsensical feel good-ism that the convention represents?

    To make the suggestion that if we follow the Geneva conventions, they will, ignores history, and raises the definition of “absurd” to new levels heretofore unseen. It takes on the same dimensions as the argument that if we merely placate the people that are trying to kill us, they’ll start to like this. History is disprove and both arguments several times over, and yet these arguments keep coming up. Apparently, wishful thinking counts for something.

    As to whether not the basics that are laid out in the Geneva convention are right, wrong, or indifferent, I submit that the ability to make those definitions comes only with having the power to do so. The winners of a war are the ones who get to define morality.

    We’re not there yet. Nor will we be with the Recto-Cranial inversion still in force on this issue.

  40. anjin-san says:

    Bit,

    Great argument. We should sink to our enemies level. Perhaps it was a mistake for us to take a pass on death camps during ww2. Hell, they did it, can’t see any reason why we should not have. Should we have had gulags in American during the cold war? You bet, the winners get to define morailty!

    Bithead has already surrenderd to the terrorists. His America is not about anything but naked force and keeping his butt safe…

  41. Michael says:

    Bithead,
    Nobody here is arguing that we should follow the Geneva conventions because of some hope that our enemies will do the same. The argument has been that we, Americans, do not have to abandon our morality to defeat these enemies. We didn’t have to torture Germans or Japanese in WW2, we didn’t have to torture Russians, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese or even Iraqis in the first Gulf War. Why is it that a bunch of cave dwelling shepherds instills in you such a crippling fear that you would sell your nation, my nation, for a sense of safety?


    Anybody who would sacrifice freedom for safety has neither freedom nor safety.

  42. Michael says:

    Wayne,

    You and I may not consider a Female interrogating a Muslim as an insult but many can and do, to them that would be a violation of GNC.

    The point of the Geneva conventions is to prevent harm against those in captivity. In that spirit, it provides for their protection against physical violence, psychological abuse, and degrading treatment. Somebody might find it disrespectful or demeaning to have a woman given authority over him, but that quite obviously does not fall under the protections of Geneva. It in no way causes them any harm, physically or psychologically. The whole question is a red herring and you know it.

  43. Michael says:

    what kind of message do we send when we refuse to react to our enemy?

    A better question would be, what kind of message to we send when we react to our enemy by becoming our enemy? We’re telling the terrorists that our freedoms, our ideals, our virtues, can be taken away if they can only scare us enough.

    Maybe this shining city on a hill is not safe enough for you, maybe it’s light does show our enemies where we are, but that doesn’t give you the right to snuff that light out just so you can feel safe.

  44. Bithead says:

    Nobody here is arguing that we should follow the Geneva conventions because of some hope that our enemies will do the same. The argument has been that we, Americans, do not have to abandon our morality to defeat these enemies.

    And then we have…

    Great argument. We should sink to our enemies level

    What you both seem to be messing, is the idea that they… our enemy… hopes that we don’t start fighting the battle as they have.

    A better question would be, what kind of message to we send when we react to our enemy by becoming our enemy?

    And that we are willing to do what’s necessary to win. Absent that reaction to our enemy we have no such indication.

    I let’s, however, make some serious progress here, shall we? There is no such thing as civilized were fair. It doesn’t exist. Warfare is the absence, in fact, of civilization. There is no such thing as a moral war. Warfare is the absence of morality. Civilization and morality result from having won the war.

  45. Bithead says:

    Maybe this shining city on a hill is not safe enough for you, maybe it’s light does show our enemies where we are, but that doesn’t give you the right to snuff that light out just so you can feel safe.

    You’d better figure out, and quickly, then absent someone to truly defend it, that city will no longer exist as such. The peace… morality… civilization… a stable culture… are all products defeating the enemy. That hurdle MUST be gotten over BEFORE anything else can be played out.

    The whole question is a red herring and you know it.

    But, that is precisely what the argument degenerates into, isn’t it? Look at your own response to me for a clue as to why that is.

    Should we have had gulags in American during the cold war?

    Old, I don’t know. You might wantna ask the Japanese on that one.

    And speaking of WWII, and death camps and such, here’s a hint; with the Geneva convention as it is today, and we followed today’s Geneva conventions to the letter, we’d all be speaking German, just now.

  46. anjin-san says:

    Bithead,

    Interesting take on WW2. Without people like you, who were ready to commit any atrocity their leader told them was necessary, Hitler could not have risen to, nor stayed in power.

    Actually you scare me more then Bin Laden does. A terrorist may plant a bomb, and it may kill me, but I will die a free man who retains his humanity. Guys like you want to destroy both the freedom & the soul of America.

  47. Michael says:

    Bithead:

    What you both seem to be messing(sic), is the idea that they… our enemy… hopes that we don’t start fighting the battle as they have.

    No, that is exactly what our enemy wants us to do, because that is the only way they can defeat us.

    The peace… morality… civilization… a stable culture… are all products [of] defeating the enemy.

    Once again you are wrong. Peace, morality, civilization, those are not the products of defeating this enemy, those are the means of defeating this enemy. Again you would abandon your means of victory, and lower yourself to the level where they can defeat you, and you call that safety.

    with the Geneva convention as it is today, and we followed today’s Geneva conventions to the letter, we’d all be speaking German, just now.

    There is very little in the Geneva conventions that we violated in the war with Germany. Not violating them would not have changed the outcome of the war. If you think otherwise, give us some compelling argument for it, not just more fear mongering. The American people are no longer afraid of your particular boogie man.

  48. Bithead says:

    What you both seem to be messing(sic), is the idea that they… our enemy… hopes that we don’t start fighting the battle as they have.

    No, that is exactly what our enemy wants us to do, because that is the only way they can defeat us.

    1984 has finally arrived.

    This, I have got to hear.

    Explain to us all how when we win the war they have one. Explain to us all how when we remove their ability to make war on us we’ve lost.

    Once again you are wrong. Peace, morality, civilization, those are not the products of defeating this enemy, those are the means of defeating this enemy.th

    Good God…
    You’re actually suggesting that the way to defeat this enemy is to make peace with them. At what stage of the game had we declared war on them prior to the 1993 bombing of the world trade center, for example? We’ve been dealing with attacks from these bastards for the last 50 years, in the name of ‘peace’. And yet, we’ve HAD no peace.

    The words of Patrick Henry leap to mind…

    I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of (…our enemy)… for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land.


    Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt.

    In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

    It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!

    And if you were to look to Southern Manhattan, you’d find that there was some rather stark evdience to this point.

    Under the Carter administration, we waited for 450 days or so, in the name of “peace”. Tell us, what that bought us, except a repuation of a weakling, and more American dead, in the following years, up to and including 9/11.

  49. Michael says:

    This, I have got to hear.

    Explain to us all how when we win the war they have one. Explain to us all how when we remove their ability to make war on us we’ve lost.

    They will have won the war when their efforts to destroy our society succeed in destroying our society. When their efforts to isolate us, their efforts to remove us from our position to influence the world accomplish those goals. Will you please for the love of God get it into your head that this is NOT A PHYSICAL WAR, but an ideological one. Their ability to make war on us is driven by the psychological and emotional states they build in their populations, not the bombs and guns they build in their factories.

  50. Michael says:

    You’re actually suggesting that the way to defeat this enemy is to make peace with them.

    What I’m suggesting is that terrorists are born of conflict. Conflict has existed in the middle east well before 1993 and, in a large part, the US and US policy was involved in that. I was not suggesting we make peace with the terrorist, because I know they don’t want peace. I’m suggesting that creating peace and prosperity in the region will snuff the fire that keeps creating more terrorists. I’m not alone in this, President Bush has the same goal in mind, just different methods for achieving it.

  51. Michael says:

    The words of Patrick Henry leap to mind…

    I find it more than slightly ironic that someone who espouses the ideals of “Take my liberty to save me from death” would so freely quote Patrick Henry. To further that irony, you quote him advocating war to win freedom while you yourself are advocating fewer freedoms to win a war. But since, you obviously respect the thoughts and feelings of Patrick Henry, I’ll throw in a few more:

    Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

    The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.

    No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

    Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.

  52. Wayne says:

    Michael
    You said
    “The point of the Geneva conventions is to prevent harm against those in captivity. In that spirit, it provides for their protection against physical violence, psychological abuse, and degrading treatment”

    Then you continue on saying women interrogating Muslims do not physically or psychologically harm them therefore it doesn’t violate GNC.
    One, what constitutes psychologically harm. That is an extremely vague standard. Some claim spanking a child or not spanking a child cause psychologically harm.

    Two, you seem to completely ignore the degrading treatment part. Also the actual phrase in the GNC is “insults”.

    You saying something is quite obvious do not make it so. I seen people twist and turn the so call obvious so often that I am not sure if obvious exist any more.

    If such things are so obvious, why not spell it out in black and white? Simply because it isn’t black and white and people don’t want to face it.

  53. Wayne says:

    ” A better question would be, what kind of message to we send when we react to our enemy by becoming our enemy?”

    Does anyone truly believe that the only difference between the terrorist and us is aggressive interrogation techniques?

  54. Michael says:

    Wayne,
    I am not an expert on international law, but I believe that the application of CA3 has always focused on the intent of the captor. Western civilization finds no insult in having women in positions of authority over men, so a western captor would not consider it an insult to anyone’s dignity. A Muslims fasts during Ramadan, and so would not find it inhumane to refrain from feeding captives during daylight. As your rhetorical supposition shows, a captor cannot be forced to accommodate the whims of their captives under CA3. However, naked human pyramids are considered abusive in western culture, so I believe they do constitute a violation of CA3.

  55. Bithead says:

    Like I said 1984 has finally arrived; Our survival will destroy us, say you?

    Look,

    Dr. Sowell says it well, this morning:

    When you enter a boxing ring, you agree to abide by the rules of boxing.
    But when you are attacked from behind in a dark alley, you would be a fool to abide by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. If you do, you can end up being a dead fool.

    Does any sane adult believe that the cutthroats we are dealing with will respect the Geneva convention? Or that our extension of Geneva convention rights to them will be seen as anything other than another sign of weakness and confusion that will encourage them in their terrorism?


    No one has suggested that we disregard the Geneva convention for people covered by the Geneva convention. The question is whether a lawless court shall seize the power to commit this nation to rules never agreed to by those whom the Constitution entrusted with the power to make international treaties.

    The much larger question — the question of survival — is whether we have the clarity and the courage to go all-out in self-defense against those who are going all-out to destroy us, even at the cost of their own lives.

    There are too many signs that we do not and those signs are visible not only in our political and judicial institutions but throughout American society and western civilization.

    Our job is to first suvive… to win this conflict.

    As the doctor says:

    Squeamishness about how this is done is not a sign of higher morality but of irresponsibility in the face of mortal dangers.

  56. Wayne says:

    Michael

    The CA3 is not just up to what a country interpretation of it is. Although there are so many vague areas that it leaves open much to interpretation. Japanese thought one should die before surrendering. Did they have a right under GNC to kill prisoners? No.

    You seem to still be avoiding the reality of this situation. The U.S. is a very PC country. The interrogators and the front line troops do not know what ACLU crap will come back and bite us in the butt. It has happen more times then I care to remember. Why not spell it out?