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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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65 Responses

  1. Evrybdy44
    Evrybdy44 November 13, 2009 at 7:29 pm |

    My questions are this:
    How many of these men standing trial are US citizens?
    If they aren’t why are they protected by our constitution?

    I think that sometimes you can do something that is so heinous that they truly do not deserve all the same protections as the people they committed the atrocities against. And I don’t just mean that for the 9/11 terrorists specifically. Specifically, though, the men responsible for 9/11 meant it as an attack on our way of life. You talk about protecting men who would likely believe women like myself are unworthy based on the fact that I believe women are equal to men and I’ve had sex(and I’m not married) should be stoned. These men believe in mercy killings and destroying all the good things that our freedom to be express our opinions as women is about. They deserve a fair trial. I don’t argue with that, but everyone seems so worried about their rights? When do you think these men have ever given a thought about any of your rights? They probably don’t think you should have any. Your a woman. That’s enough for them. I just think sometimes a spade needs to be called a spade. The men behind 9/11 are evil. I just don’t personally spend alot of time worrying about the rights or terrorists. There are so many injustices and stripping of the rights of innocent people in the world. These men are NOT innocent and don’t deserve the same considerations as those who are.

  2. preying mantis
    preying mantis November 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm |

    “I think that sometimes you can do something that is so heinous that they truly do not deserve all the same protections as the people they committed the atrocities against.”

    Maybe that’s why chucking them into prison for the rest of their lives or executing them, should they be found guilty, wouldn’t be considered kidnapping or murder? Also? Even assuming every dude in Gitmo is a 100% guilty, frothing-at-the-mouth, bomb-throwing, plane-crashing murderer, that still wouldn’t make them special snowflakes in the criminal justice world. Pretty much everything you’ve listed has been dealt with multiple times before, without frenzy-driven ethical compromises, by our system without the sky falling or the guilty being loosed to drink the blood of the innocent on prime-time tv.

  3. Valerie
    Valerie November 13, 2009 at 7:45 pm |

    The diatribe against Bush never loses steam. But I at last understand that emotion, as I feel it towards Obama. You would do well to put it at rest.
    Sleep well and don’t let the terrorists bite.

  4. Becca Stareyes
    Becca Stareyes November 13, 2009 at 7:56 pm |

    Evrybdy44 @ 1

    Because, part of my moral code demands that some things are due to people by virtue of them being human beings, no matter how shitty examples of the same. These are ‘rights’. They have the right to a fair trial and the right to humane treatment, albeit with freedom curtailed to prevent them from hurting others again.

    The fact that they wouldn’t give me the same courtesy — whether because I am American, female, gay, a secular humanist, or just because they didn’t like me — has no bearing. The thing about rights is that you get them whether or not you deserve them.

    It’s not like they need much thought — we have this nice court system and everything, and, while it will be a circus and a half, it is not horrible* to just take advantage of that, then get back to promoting the rights of the innocent.

    * Better than what we have been doing, certainly.

  5. Shelby
    Shelby November 13, 2009 at 8:19 pm |

    Why would we throw out the Constitution our values and our principles? Those are the exact things they tried to destroy– and failed! Abandoning the moral foundation of this country for a group of assholes that wanted us dead? Fuck that noise.

  6. Evrybdy44
    Evrybdy44 November 13, 2009 at 8:30 pm |

    All people deserve basic rights. I never said they didn’t. These men deserve fair trials, speedy trials(which thanks to Bush they didn’t get), to not be tortured(as I imagine many of them were). These men were unlawfully detained and what little I know about the Gitmo is shameful.
    I believe that in general the justice system strips those found guilty of all but their most basic rights as humans. All I’m saying is that those found guilty deserve nothing more than that and that I believe that there are more important violations of human rights happening around the world that deserve more attention that the detainees of Gitmo.

  7. preying mantis
    preying mantis November 13, 2009 at 8:35 pm |

    “[…] I believe that there are more important violations of human rights happening around the world that deserve more attention that the detainees of Gitmo.”

    The idea that humans are incapable of paying attention to more than one issue at a time is a profoundly strange one.

  8. Jason Van Steenwyk
    Jason Van Steenwyk November 13, 2009 at 8:36 pm |

    I think your point of view is extremely short-sighted and naive.

    First of all, normal criminal proceedings typically do not involve top secret national security information. The process of discovery and the usual course of developing a proof beyond reasonable doubt of KSM’s guilt, combined with the public airing of the trial will inevitably compromise the methods, practices, capabilities, and informants in an ONGOING WAR.

    This isn’t a regular mafia investigation where you make the arrest, wrap up the investigation, and go to the trial phase.

    There is a danger that the identities of secret CIA operatives will be compromised, so they or their families could potentially be targeted by terrorists. Details of our satellite and signals intelligence capabilities will doubtlessly emerge, tipping off terrorists (and other criminal elements and foreign intelligence agencies), compromising their usefulness in the future.

    Any attempt by a civilian court to short-circuit the process of discovery will at once set a bad precedent for criminal law, thereby eroding the Constitutional protections in place for Americans, and damage the credibility of the verdict in this case and the American judicial system.

    That is why we have long had a SEPARATE court system to adjudicate FISA cases and warrants in secret. And it is why we have military tribunals.

    The Bush administration was absolutely right to seek military tribunals for these individuals. The Obama decision to jettison decades of experience and common sense is utterly stupid. This foolish notion that Constitutional protections and ordinary criminal law applies to combatants, legal or illegal, is likewise utterly stupid.

    Guatanamo was a good solution to the legal challenges, as were the military tribunals, which would have afforded KSM and his cohorts a vigorous defense and access to all the due process an American serviceman is entitled to, but which would not have damaged our national security interest by compromising state secrets, the identity of our operatives, or by providing a circus forum for the rantings of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

  9. Evrybdy44
    Evrybdy44 November 13, 2009 at 8:47 pm |

    I’m sorry. At what point did I say humans are incapable of paying attention to more than one issues at one time? I didn’t. I said I BELIEVE that there are more important violations of human rights than these. I CHOOSE to make a priority of the hundreds of other issues in the world that I find more important. ME. MY CHOICE. MY OPINION. I don’t need or expect anyone to think the same. I do expect them to respect my opinion.
    If I were saying burn them all at stake or just let them all rot or who cares about them at all – that would be reprehensible. These men deserve their rights and they have not been afforded them. But MY CHOOSING to not make their rights a particular priority is NOT reprehensible. It just happens to be an opinion that isn’t popular here.

  10. preying mantis
    preying mantis November 13, 2009 at 8:57 pm |

    “I don’t need or expect anyone to think the same.”

    And yet generally putting that idea out there on a blog talking about something else is another way of saying “Pay attention to what I think is important instead of this thing that you think is important.”

  11. Evrybdy44
    Evrybdy44 November 13, 2009 at 9:17 pm |

    My opinion is as important as anyone’s – Not more and not less.
    @Preying Mantis All your responses to my posts have been inferences and assumptions. Stop assuming you know what I mean or my purpose in saying it. It’s rude.

  12. Henry
    Henry November 14, 2009 at 3:03 am |

    “They just don’t think it’s good enough for the “worst” criminals. That lack of confidence is kind of terrifying — if our courts aren’t good enough to try terror suspects, why are we using them to try our own citizens?”

    That’s the thing. We don’t believe these guys are “the worst criminals”. We believe that they are foreign illegal combatants, which is nowhere near the same thing. They are guilty of illegal military action, and should be treated as such. Degree of their offense doesn’t enter into it.

  13. Rebecca
    Rebecca November 14, 2009 at 3:37 am |

    What Shelby said. “America” was far more in danger from the government spying on its citizens and detaining people without the most basic protections of our constitution than it was or is from Islamic Terrorism(!).

  14. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil November 14, 2009 at 8:29 am |

    Actually, I think the bigger problem is the one that Glenn Greenwald pointed out: some of the suspects are going to be tried in civilian courts and some are going to be tried by military tribunals. Can’t get a conviction in a civilian court? Well, the standards for the military tribunals are lower.

    Also, the whole ZOMG NATIONAL SECURITY!!!!1!1!!!1 thing is getting REALLY old. Given the expansive view of state secrets endorsed by Bush and continued by Obama, I can only conclude that they’re trying to cover up more malfeasance on the part of the American government.

  15. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz November 14, 2009 at 9:30 am |

    The Bush administration was absolutely right to seek military tribunals for these individuals. The Obama decision to jettison decades of experience and common sense is utterly stupid. This foolish notion that Constitutional protections and ordinary criminal law applies to combatants, legal or illegal, is likewise utterly stupid.

    Let’s keep in mind here that Bush created these military tribunals. They were not premised on “decades of experience and common sense”. On the contrary, the military has long had a system for identifying combatants and adjudicating their cases. It was the Bush administration who cooked up the idea of unlawful enemy combatants and banished them to this legal netherworld.

    Also, there are certainly Constitutional protections which apply in these circumstances, i.e., due process. To suggest that these people have no rights at all is what’s utterly stupid.

  16. sonia
    sonia November 14, 2009 at 9:35 am |

    I find it tragic that the worse the crime someone is accused of, the more people are willing to forgo the whole “prove guilt” phase before coming to punishment phase. When people are accused of crimes like terrorism, murder, rape (especially children), people automatically jump to wanting the person in jail without thinking that there have been plenty of cases where there is an overzealous prosecutor, or the defendant is of a wrong skin color, or something like that and the protections in the constitution for the defendant (which is a word with a distinctly different meaning from criminal) are precisely for these reasons. To remove them because the crime is heinous is a specially stupid thing to do.

  17. amandaw
    amandaw November 14, 2009 at 9:36 am |

    I don’t really see people arguing that white guys who kill their female partners shouldn’t have rights in US court because they don’t have respect for women. But somehow that comes up when it’s the brown guys from foreign places.

  18. Jason Van Steenwyk
    Jason Van Steenwyk November 14, 2009 at 10:30 am |

    “Let’s keep in mind here that Bush created these military tribunals. They were not premised on “decades of experience and common sense”.”

    Wrong. In the United States, the practice of using military tribunals dates back to George Washington and the Revolutionary War. So it wasn’t decades of experience. It was centuries.

    “On the contrary, the military has long had a system for identifying combatants and adjudicating their cases.”

    Yes. For those accused of crimes, including war crimes, that system is military tribunals.

    It was the Bush administration who cooked up the idea of unlawful enemy combatants

    Wrong. It was the Geneva conventions and the US Supreme Court. See Ex Parte Quirin.

  19. charla bolton
    charla bolton November 14, 2009 at 11:48 am |

    Isn’t it better to conduct this trial within a seasoned, fair and just system? It is more likely to ensure that the outcome goes unchallenged, and the guilty are unquestionably given their legal due. I completely agree with Feministe’s well reasoned position. I do have one concern: I hope the New York venue does not focus the world’s terrorists once again, on our city.

  20. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil November 14, 2009 at 12:56 pm |

    Charla, I imagine the defense will seek a change in venue. It seems pretty unlikely that the defendants would be able to get a fair trial in NYC.

  21. MikeF
    MikeF November 14, 2009 at 12:57 pm |

    the idea that we need separate courts for terror suspects because the federal courts aren’t equipped to handle them? Poppycock.

    Agreed – federal courts are the way to go, and the Obama administration deserves praise for deciding to try the 9/11 cases in the appropriate venue. But as the linked article says,

    five other detainees [will] be prosecuted before a military commission.

    So, an improvement, yes, but still a mixed record.

  22. Henrietta G. Tavish
    Henrietta G. Tavish November 14, 2009 at 12:58 pm |

    Double-talk. On the one hand you say they’re entitled to the full panoply of Constitutional protections, and on the other you say “don’t worry, they’ll be railroaded by an angry, contaminated, hanging New York jury.”

    If you really wanted to give them a “fair” trial, you’d be screaming for a change of venue from, as the prosecutors call it, “the shadow of the Twin Towers.” And you’d be calling for the immediate release of the waterboarded Sheik — as a lawyer, Jill, do you think any court could lawfully deny a pre-trial motion to dismiss for prosecutorial misconduct or violation of Miranda rights? But instead you say it’s time to “heal wounds” and “see some justice,” i.e., dump the presumption of innocence and conduct show trials to give these guys what they really deserve.

  23. William
    William November 14, 2009 at 1:24 pm |

    First of all, normal criminal proceedings typically do not involve top secret national security information. The process of discovery and the usual course of developing a proof beyond reasonable doubt of KSM’s guilt, combined with the public airing of the trial will inevitably compromise the methods, practices, capabilities, and informants in an ONGOING WAR.

    Look, if we find a man like KSM in the mountains we know he’s a combatant. We can treat him like a combatant and drop a bomb down his chimney or send a squad of men to shoot him dead. Thats what happens in a war.

    If, on the other hand, we capture him and hold him for years on end, then he starts to look more like a criminal. Thats the mistake Bush made from the beginning, he wanted to have the investigative capacities that a legal system has (through interrogation and detention) while treating the whole exercise like a war. You can’t have it both ways, you have to choose one: either justice or war. If you want to keep your methods and practices secret, then you have to kill high value targets. Otherwise you have prisoners and you’re engaging in law enforcement, with all it’s attendant protections and procedures, rather than a war.

    This isn’t a regular mafia investigation where you make the arrest, wrap up the investigation, and go to the trial phase.

    No, it isn’t. It’s a botched military action that got turned upside down by a wannabe cowboy’s fantasy that you could beat the information necessary to stop fanatics from being fanatics out of fanatics. In a war you don’t arrest the enemy and waterboard them until you know where they’re secret base is (because thats not the way things work in real life), you kill people on the other side until they submit. Thats what war is. Its killing other people until they either give up because the cost is too great or cease to be a threat because they have ceased to be. If Bush had known what he was doing in the first place we wouldn’t have started this whole capture/torture/occupation campaign that got us in this shitty situation.

    That is why we have long had a SEPARATE court system to adjudicate FISA cases and warrants in secret. And it is why we have military tribunals.

    Secret court proceedings are a greater threat to the liberty of Americans than any Islamic fundamentalist. You don’t burn down your house to kill a burglar. If we sacrifice our constitution to protect our country what the hell are we left with?

    Also, why is the military running tribunals? They have two jobs: kill people and blow things up. A tribunal is neither. The military is not the court system, if you need a court system it needs to be public and transparent. I have no problem with killing someone like KSM, nor would I have had a problem with a rough interrogation in the field that quickly ended in his death (this is war, I’m not naive), but this elaborate system we have put together designed to give the appearance of justice is offensive.

    The Bush administration was absolutely right to seek military tribunals for these individuals.

    The Bush administration was absolutely right to seek the death of these individuals through military force. Everything that followed was a failure to lead, to conduct a war, and to understand how conflict works. Every step that followed KSM’s capture rather than his death made this country less safe and less free by eroding the rights of citizens in the name of punishing this man. The farce of a tribunal show trial, the precedent of holding someone without charge, the use of state sanctioned torture, now the ridiculous public trial we’re forced into because we have nothing else to do with the man. Any blowback from it is directly the fault of Bush for not killing him when it would have been an act of war.

    This foolish notion that Constitutional protections and ordinary criminal law applies to combatants, legal or illegal, is likewise utterly stupid

    If you take a prisoner you have either the Geneva Convention or a criminal court. This is why taking prisoners of people you do not want out and about is foolish. You either have to extend Geneva protections or constitutional protections once you’ve taken possession of a living body.

    Guatanamo was a good solution to the legal challenges, as were the military tribunals, which would have afforded KSM and his cohorts a vigorous defense and access to all the due process an American serviceman is entitled to, but which would not have damaged our national security interest by compromising state secrets, the identity of our operatives, or by providing a circus forum for the rantings of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

    You’re internally inconsistent. If KSM is a man who is so clearly guilty, so clearly dangerous, and so clearly of a military rather than civilian defendant status, that he does not deserve Constitutional protections then why does he deserve the protections of a tribunal? What “legal challenges” are you talking about? Traditionally in (modern) warfare you take prisoners so that when the conflict ends the prisoners can be returned to their countries of origin. The point of taking prisoners is to reduce the enemy’s numbers but not kill people who are no longer a threat.

    The only challenge we have here is that we’re in an ill-defined war with an ill-defined enemy that, by definition, will never actually end. Taking prisoners in such a situation is foolish. The only reason the Bush administration did is because they wanted to torture them for revenge (not for information because we’ve known for centuries that it doesn’t work for that). Now we’re stuck with a group of men who we can never release, who’s very bodies are evidence of crimes we have committed, who have no clear status because we have no clear objectives. Bush decided to punt and just hold them until they weren’t his problem because he is a coward. Obama is doing something, anything, to get rid of them (and make no mistake, the end result of KSM’s trial will be death) because people like KSM are an enduring embarrassment.

    Finally, fuck national security interests. I’m sick of hearing that argument. We don’t have the Evil Empire staring over our shoulders, we have a group of petty religious extremists who have barely been able to field two attacks on our soil in a generation. We’re fighting goat herders and the sons of oil barons. The only reason they appear to be a serious threat is because we’ve become obsessed with stomping them out rather than containing them. The sum total of their power and influence comes from the attention we give them. Bush couldn’t have done anything worse than wage a “war on terror” after 9/11. If he knew what he was doing he would have taken a page out of his father’s book and made a big show of force for the cameras while quietly letting the people who have been trained to do the dirty work do the dirty work. Bin Laden isn’t Hitler or Stalin, he’s Jerry Fallwell with bad kidneys and a bunch of children in the mountains who have imagined they are God’s warriors. They don’t have major military capabilities, they don’t have good training, they don’t have the means to really wage a war. All they can do is make little swings and hope we panic like we did on 9/11.

  24. Jason Van Steenwyk
    Jason Van Steenwyk November 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm |

    If, on the other hand, we capture him and hold him for years on end, then he starts to look more like a criminal.

    Wrong. There is zero legal basis for this kind of reasoning. He is an illegal combatant, but combatants, legal or otherwise, can be held for a hundred lifetimes if that’s how long it takes for hostilities to cease, and they don’t look any more like criminals no matter how long they are held. Did German prisoners in WWII look more like criminals because they were captured early than prisoners captured early in the war?

    Thats the mistake Bush made from the beginning, he wanted to have the investigative capacities that a legal system has (through interrogation and detention) while treating the whole exercise like a war. You can’t have it both ways, you have to choose one: either justice or war.

    Bullshit. You’re making ridiculous assertions without a shred of legal or historical basis.

    If you want to keep your methods and practices secret, then you have to kill high value targets.

    Bullshit.

    In a war you don’t arrest the enemy and waterboard them until you know where they’re secret base is (because thats not the way things work in real life),

    Bullshit. In KSM’s case, that’s EXACTLY how it worked, and KSM sang like a bird. In so doing, he exposed a number of plots, and named a bunch of names. Welcome to real life, kiddo.

    Thats what war is. Its killing other people until they either give up because the cost is too great or cease to be a threat because they have ceased to be.

    Only if you’ve already screwed up. To win without fighting is the acme of skill. See Sun Tzu. In a counterinsurgency, it is about intelligence. Interrogation is part and parcel of that process. Without it, you wouldn’t even know who to kill.

    Otherwise you have prisoners and you’re engaging in law enforcement, with all it’s attendant protections and procedures, rather than a war.

    Bullshit. Again. The presence of prisoners has NEVER, in the history of mankind, negated the presence of war or turned war into an exercise in law enforcement. That’s just retarded. Your inflated sense of sophistication and nuance is causing you to think like an idiot. You understand neither warfare nor the applicable law.

    Secret court proceedings are a greater threat to the liberty of Americans than any Islamic fundamentalist.

    Nevertheless, FISA courts exist, for specific reasons, with the advice and consent of Congress. Hell, Congress created them. You might as well joust at windmills.

    Every step that followed KSM’s capture rather than his death made this country less safe and less free by eroding the rights of citizens in the name of punishing this man.

    Bullshit. Capturing KSM saved thousands of lives, thanks to the information he divulged.

    Also, why is the military running tribunals?

    Jesus. Are you daft? Are you just bone ignorant? Who else runs tribunals? Tribunals are run by the military by definition!

    Honestly, if you are so uninformed you don’t even know what a tribunal is, you aren’t intellectually equipped to be having this conversation.

    A tribunal is neither. The military is not the court system, if you need a court system it needs to be public and transparent.

    Not a requirement under Geneva or Hague. Nor is it even remotely a requirement for terrorists or spies or other illegal combatants. And yes, the military does, indeed, have a highly developed and highly respected system of justice internally, including a system of courts, though the tribunal system is considered distinct from courts martial.

    Incidentally, no one had a real problem with military tribunals to try Nazi war criminals after WWII. Those went pretty well.

    Indeed, the military has been conducting tribunals since the dawn of this Republic.

    The farce of a tribunal show trial, the precedent of holding someone without charge, the use of state sanctioned torture, now the ridiculous public trial we’re forced into because we have nothing else to do with the man. Any blowback from it is directly the fault of Bush for not killing him when it would have been an act of war.

    Check your facts. KSM was not taken on a battlefield. He was in a sovereign country. Bush could not have killed him prior to him being in custody without committing an act of war in Pakistan. He was not arrested by US authorities, but by Pakistani authorities.

    I have no problem with killing someone like KSM, nor would I have had a problem with a rough interrogation in the field that quickly ended in his death (this is war, I’m not naive)

    Yes you are. You are very naive. First of all, you just demonstrated you have zero understanding of the law of land warfare. The Geneva conventions specifically prohibit summary executions of ANYONE, legal combatant or illegal combatant. No legal proceeding is necessary, nor has ever been neccessary, to hold a combatant until the end of hostilities (a fact that idiot libtards seem to have trouble getting through their thick skulls), but a court proceeding or tribunal process is neccessary to levy additional punishments beyond detention.

    If you take a prisoner you have either the Geneva Convention or a criminal court.

    Once again, bullshit. The Geneva Conventions work in tandem with court systems and tribunal systems. Indeed, Geneva REQUIRES them, in order to punish detainees beyond detention.

    This is why taking prisoners of people you do not want out and about is foolish. You either have to extend Geneva protections or constitutional protections once you’ve taken possession of a living body.

    Fine. KSM is entitled to all the protections an illegal combatant is entitled to under Geneva. He is also entitled to a tribunal to address the question of whether he can be executed for his crimes. He is NOT entitled to a civilian court, though, any more than our own soldiers are entitled to constitutional protections if they are caught by Al Qaeda.

    The only challenge we have here is that we’re in an ill-defined war with an ill-defined enemy that, by definition, will never actually end.

    Bullshit. How many casualties are we taking from the Moros?

    If KSM is a man who is so clearly guilty, so clearly dangerous, and so clearly of a military rather than civilian defendant status, that he does not deserve Constitutional protections then why does he deserve the protections of a tribunal?

    Because if we want to execute him for 9/11, the Geneva Convention protocols require it, genius.

    Traditionally in (modern) warfare you take prisoners so that when the conflict ends the prisoners can be returned to their countries of origin. The point of taking prisoners is to reduce the enemy’s numbers but not kill people who are no longer a threat.

    Right. We never hung a Nazi after hostilities ended in WWII. Christ – where do you get this shit?

    Taking prisoners in such a situation is foolish.

    Bullshit. First, taking prisoners is required by international law, under the Hague and Geneva conventions.

    Second, where do you think intelligence comes from? If you think it comes exclusively from satellite imagery and gee-whiz technology you watch too many movies. HUMINT is a vital source of information. Vital.

    If you don’t take prisoners, and exploit them for information, you are guaranteed to lose. (C.f. the British destruction of the IRA for instance).

    The only reason the Bush administration did is because they wanted to torture them for revenge (not for information because we’ve known for centuries that it doesn’t work for that).

    A childish myth. While neither I nor Congress buy into the idea that waterboarding as practiced on KSM constitutes “torture,” the fact is that it worked beautifully on KSM, as well as Ramsi Benalshibh. Torture has always worked to extract verifiable information from people. You are dangerously naive and ignorant of the subject, and you are buying into a bunch of shibboleths from hippie-dippy idiots with no grasp of history or human nature.

    Now we’re stuck with a group of men who we can never release, who’s very bodies are evidence of crimes we have committed

    Bullshit.

    (and make no mistake, the end result of KSM’s trial will be death)

    I thought you opposed kangaroo courts. Turned out you haven’t a clue what you believe.

    Finally, fuck national security interests.

    I’m glad they leave this stuff up to adults and not children like you. See how that shit flies.

    1. Cara
      Cara November 14, 2009 at 4:35 pm |

      Jason, ableist language like “retarded” is not allowed here, as per our comment policy. Even putting aside your decision to just generally be an ass, I would have deleted your comment for that reason alone, had I found it in mod. Keep it up, you won’t be allowed to post here at all.

  25. Jason Van Steenwyk
    Jason Van Steenwyk November 14, 2009 at 4:23 pm |

    Jill,

    Please name any international conflict in human history where combatants needed to be found guilty of something in a court of law in order to be detained.

  26. K
    K November 14, 2009 at 5:48 pm |

    if that’s how long it takes for hostilities to cease

    How would you define the cessation of hostilities in this instance, Jason? Do we hold them until we leave Iraq? Until we leave Afghanistan? Must we leave both, or would one or the other do? Does it matter whether the detainees have any connections to either Iraq or Afghanistan? Does it matter whether they have any connections to global terrorism at all?

    It’s a gross human rights violation to hold people indefinitely. It’s an especially gross violation when we can’t even define goalposts for when “indefinitely” becomes “now.”

    And that’s the end of my patience and civility with you, jackass. If you’re gonna lard up your sentences with “naive” and “childish” and the like, then it’s helpful if you don’t exemplify those same qualities. For example:

    Torture has always worked to extract verifiable information from people. You are dangerously naive and ignorant of the subject

    I don’t see a cite here, sugarplum! On the other hand, it’s the work of mere minutes to find testimony from former FBI personnel that torture, in addition to being morally reprehensible, doesn’t work.

    Or here’s a paper from Science and Engineering Ethics that I can’t see all of, alas, but which states in the abstract:

    I explore three principal models of how torture interrogation leads to truth: the animal instinct model, the cognitive failure model, and the data processing model. These models show why torture interrogation fails overall as a counterterrorist tactic. They also expose the processes that lead from a precision torture interrogation program to breakdowns in key institutions—health care, biomedical research, police, judiciary, and military.

    But why dick around with ethicists, am I right? That would be ignorant and naive! We should ask our veterans instead:

    Writing under the pseudonym of Matthew Alexander, a former special intelligence operations officer, who in 1996 led an interrogations team in Iraq, has written a compelling book where he details his direct experience with torture practices. He conducted more than 300 interrogations and supervised more than a thousand and was awarded a Bronze Star for his achievements in Iraq. Alexander’s nonviolent interrogation methods led Special Forces to Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. His new book is titled “How to Break a Terrorist: The US Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.”

    “It’s extremely ineffective, and it’s counterproductive to what we’re trying to accomplish,” he told reporters. “When we torture somebody, it hardens their resolve,” Alexander explained. “The information that you get is unreliable … And even if you do get reliable information, you’re able to stop a terrorist attack, Al-Qaeda’s then going to use the fact that we torture people to recruit new members.” Alexander says torture techniques used in Iraq consistently failed to produce actionable intelligence and that methods outlined in the US Army Field Manual, which rest on confidence building, consistently worked and gave the interrogators access to critical information.

    Publication of the book was delayed for six weeks to allow the Pentagon to scrutinize it. Alexander said he wrote it under a pseudonym for security reasons. He says the US military’s use of torture is responsible for the deaths of thousands of US soldiers because it inspired foreign fighters to kill Americans.

    But all that’s a lot of work. Googling is so exhausting! I vote you just harrumph-harrumph at all the ignorant, naive, hippy-dippy little ladies some more, instead. There’s nothing good on TV right now and I could use the entertainment.

  27. Henrietta G. Tavish
    Henrietta G. Tavish November 14, 2009 at 6:31 pm |

    Believe me, the jury pool that will be pulled in the Southern District will hardly be sympathetic to these guys

    What does this mean, other than that the jury pool is contaminated and will reach a determination based on something other than the evidence?

    Well, I don’t know all the facts here and the evidence hasn’t been released

    There’s no dispute that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. Under what conceivable circumstances would any other defendant not be entitled to an immediate dismissal of the charges?

  28. Jason Van Steenwyk
    Jason Van Steenwyk November 14, 2009 at 7:02 pm |

    There’s no dispute that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times.

    Yes, there is.

  29. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz November 14, 2009 at 7:08 pm |

    *peers at Jason* Former VP Cheney, is that you?

  30. Jason Van Steenwyk
    Jason Van Steenwyk November 14, 2009 at 7:28 pm |

    If Tribunals are wrong, why has the Obama administration decided to try some detainees in tribunals?

  31. Sid
    Sid November 14, 2009 at 9:51 pm |

    “Trying Terrorists in Federal Court”

    “It means that the concerns that terrorists will get off too easy are misplaced.”

    Err, not to be a stickler, but don’t you mean alleged terrorists?

  32. zuzu
    zuzu November 14, 2009 at 10:54 pm |

    All I’m saying is that those found guilty deserve nothing more than that and that I believe that there are more important violations of human rights happening around the world that deserve more attention that the detainees of Gitmo.

    The people being held in Gitmo haven’t been tried. Which is rather a large problem there.

    Jason, you really are confused, aren’t you?

    First, you place an awful lot of faith in the FISA court. Do you even understand what it is or what it’s for? FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The sole purpose of the FISC is to approve warrants to conduct surveillance and adjudicate disputes relating to those warrants. It’s not some kind of all-purpose court for trying terrorists.

    Not to mention, Bush and Cheney had less faith in that court than you do; despite the fact that FISC pretty much rubber-stamped requests for surveillance (and could do so retroactively, up to 72 hours after the wiretap), they created a program to do an end run around the court. That would be that “warrantless wiretapping” you heard tell about.

    As for your whining that KSM might be set free because he was waterboarded, well, that’s the risk you take when you torture suspects, dumbass.

    It’s called the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine, and you don’t seem to understand it well. It’s not an automatic get-out-of-jail-free card; it means that evidence obtained through illegal means — such as torture — is inadmissible. Which means the prosecutors have a damn hard row to hoe to get a conviction.

    Which those FBI interrogators William mentioned knew quite well, because what they do is obtain admissible evidence for trial. In fact, if KSM is convicted, it will be due to their efforts, which produced usable evidence using legitimate interrogation techniques such as playing on his ego and getting him to trust his interrogators. The stuff the CIA got through torture is shit, and inadmissible as the product of Eighth Amendment violations.

    Don’t like it? Take it up with the Supreme Court, including some of the right-wing Justices.

  33. William
    William November 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm |

    Jason, between the sputtering, the spouting of “BULLSHIT!” instead of arguments, the ad hominems, and the persistent decision to assert that I’m wrong by merely saying that I’m wrong there really isn’t much to engage with in your response. It seems that you’ve intentionally chosen to miss what was being said and at times (your response to my comments about tribunals, for instance) it appears that your reading comprehension skills are wanting. I also find your lack of skepticism and reflexive acceptance of the party line to be deeply problematic, not to mention amusingly reminiscent of Democrats and their “hope,” although that is not a discussion for here.

    Still, to boil what stands for your argument down to it’s essentials…

    Wrong. There is zero legal basis for this kind of reasoning.

    The fundamental mistake you’re making is assuming that somehow the law is an objective, easily defined thing and that warfare is anything more or less than an elaborate organization of coercive force. It isn’t. The law is about perception and categorization, followed by the discipline and coercion necessary to enforce those perceptions and categories. War is a conflict between several parties designed to expand holdings, cease resources, exterminate a people, prevent a behavior, or punish a transgression. Wars necessarily have goals which can be easily defined and which are aimed at groups rather than individuals (take over France, make Japan surrender, kill all the Algerians, etc).

    In our society we do not hold people for an extended period of time against their will unless they are criminals. In war we hold prisoners, but for the average American there is no conception of the place of a prisoner on the battle field. Therefore social perception (and thus political and legal reality) is going to define someone who is imprisoned as a criminal. Thats the mistake Bush made, he gave people like KSM the rights of criminal defendants by blurring the line between enemy combatant and criminal defendant in the eyes of the people who define legal and political reality. He didn’t want to apply the protections to soldiers, but by saying that KSM was not a soldier he set the stage for KSM being a criminal because those are the only situations in which our society can explain extended incarceration. Prisoners of war, while a reality in virtually every modern conflict, aren’t part of the narrative.

    To put it bluntly, history doesn’t matter because we’re talking about politics. Right and wrong don’t matter because, again, we’re talking about politics. A man like KSM, held for an extended period of time and separated from an easily defined enemy group or mission goal, becomes a criminal in the eyes of the American people. Criminals get trials. Perhaps that isn’t the way it ought to be in this case, but arguing about that is masturbatory.

    What I find most interesting, however, is how worked up you’ve gotten over this. We all know what is going to happen. The government is going to claim “national security” on a regular basis, very little new information will come out, documents which cannot be effectively shielded will disappear, KSM will be allowed to say exactly as much as is necessary to make him look like a monster and shore up support for the operation, he’ll be declared guilty, he’ll be sentenced to death, and in five or ten years he’ll be strapped to a table. Its a show trial.

  34. Tracey
    Tracey November 15, 2009 at 6:50 pm |

    “Torture has always worked to extract verifiable information from people. You are dangerously naive and ignorant of the subject, and you are buying into a bunch of shibboleths from hippie-dippy idiots with no grasp of history or human nature.”
    Jason, are you for real? While you mention Bush and Congress as agreeing, it might interest you to know that McCain, Ventura and many other pilots or special ops people (who receive toruture, including water boarding, as part of training) say that it is torture and even admit that in that situation they would say just about anything to make it stop. Guess they’re just a bunch of hippie asses as well.
    It amazes me how people like you are willing to stick to the rhetoric that what we were doing was not torture and those calling it such are naive. Yet when our own military personnel, current and former, who received it in their training say it is torture, their voices don’t seem to matter.
    As far as human nature and history:
    Are you aware of witch trials and the Inquisition. Whole lotta confessing going on there. I’ll let you in on a secret. Almost every single last one of those “confessions” was false.

  35. Henrietta G. Tavish
    Henrietta G. Tavish November 15, 2009 at 10:20 pm |

    which produced usable evidence using legitimate interrogation techniques such as playing on his ego and getting him to trust his interrogators.

    By giving him a plate of sugar-free cookies, as noted in the Time Magazine article (Onion parody?) linked above.

    Interesting how hardened, murderous ideologues just melt like buttah when crafty G-men flatter them and offer them sweets. It really has the ring of truth, coming from has-been operatives with huge axes to grind. All of whom, of course, get lucrative gigs consulting for left-wing think tanks.

    Just curious — how many lollipops and compliments would it take to get a pro-choicer to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center? Just askin’.

  36. Jason Van Steenwyk
    Jason Van Steenwyk November 15, 2009 at 11:21 pm |

    I suppose the moderators here are not going to allow me to defend myself by approving my comments?

  37. zuzu
    zuzu November 16, 2009 at 12:38 am |

    By giving him a plate of sugar-free cookies, as noted in the Time Magazine article (Onion parody?) linked above.

    Interesting how hardened, murderous ideologues just melt like buttah when crafty G-men flatter them and offer them sweets. It really has the ring of truth, coming from has-been operatives with huge axes to grind. All of whom, of course, get lucrative gigs consulting for left-wing think tanks.

    Who, which think tanks, and how much? Name some names, don’t just throw out accusations.

    These techniques have been tried and tested. There’s more than mere cookie provision, of course, but in this case, the cookies were the kind of little detail that a good interrogator pays attention to when trying to win the trust of a suspect:

    Abu Jandal’s guards were so intimidated by him, they wore masks to hide their identities and begged visitors not to refer to them by name in his presence. He had no intention of cooperating with the Americans; at their first meetings, he refused even to look at them and ranted about the evils of the West. Far from confirming al-Qaeda’s involvement in 9/11, he insisted the attacks had been orchestrated by Israel’s Mossad. While Abu Jandal was venting his spleen, Soufan noticed that he didn’t touch any of the cookies that had been served with tea: “He was a diabetic and couldn’t eat anything with sugar in it.” At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, a gesture that took the edge off Abu Jandal’s angry demeanor. “We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him,” Soufan recalls. “So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures.”

    It took more questioning, and some interrogators’ sleight of hand, before the Yemeni gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda — including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers — but the cookies were the turning point. “After that, he could no longer think of us as evil Americans,” Soufan says. “Now he was thinking of us as human beings.”

    What’s more, these cookies got more actionable intelligence than 183 waterboarding sessions with KSM got:

    The approach used in these successful interrogations can be called the Informed Interrogation Approach. Until the introduction of the “enhanced” technique, it was the sole approach used by our military, intelligence, and law enforcement community.

    It is an approach rooted in experiences and lessons learned during World War II and from our Counter-insurgency experience in Vietnam – experiences and lessons that generated the Army Field Manual. This was then refined over the decades to include how to interrogate terrorism suspects specifically, as experience was gained from interrogations following the first World Trade Center bombing, the East Africa Embassy bombings, and the USS Cole bombing. To sum up, it is an approach derived from the cumulative experiences, wisdom, and successes of the most effective operational people our country has produced.
    Before I joined the Bureau, for example, traditional investigative strategies along with intelligence derived from human sources successfully thwarted the 1993 New York City Landmark Bomb Plot (TERRSTOP), a plot by the Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, to attack the UN Headquarters, the FBI’s New York office, and tunnels and bridges across New York City, — as a follow-up to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. That remains to this day the largest thwarted attack on our homeland. I had the privilege of working with, and learning from, those who conducted this successful operation.

    The Informed Interrogation Approach is based on leveraging our knowledge of the detainee’s culture and mindset, together with using information we already know about him.
    The interrogator knows that there are three primary points of influence on the detainee:

    First, there is the fear that the detainee feels as a result of his capture and isolation from his support base. People crave human contact, and this is especially true in some cultures more than others. The interrogator turns this knowledge into an advantage by becoming the one person the detainee can talk to and who listens to what he has to say, and uses this to encourage the detainee to open up.

    In addition, acting in a non-threatening way isn’t how the detainee is trained to expect a U.S. interrogator to act. This adds to the detainee’s confusion and makes him more likely to cooperate.

    Second, and connected, there is the need the detainee feels to sustain a position of respect and value to interrogator. As the interrogator is the one person speaking to and listening to the detainee, a relationship is built – and the detainee doesn’t want to jeopardize it. The interrogator capitalizes on this and compels the detainee to give up more information.

    And third, there is the impression the detainee has of the evidence against him. The interrogator has to do his or her homework and become an expert in every detail known to the intelligence community about the detainee. The interrogator then uses that knowledge to impress upon the detainee that everything about him is known and that any lie will be easily caught.

    Whereas torture is slow (especially if you’re going to use sleep deprivation, which requires many days to work and thus isn’t exactly a “ticking time bomb” sort of thing), ineffective, and results in unreliable intelligence, since the people undergoing torture will say any damn thing just to make it stop. John McCain, when tortured in Vietnam, gave the names of the starting lineup of the Notre Dame football team when asked for names of his associates.

    The difference between the Viet Cong and the CIA interrogators is that the VC knew they were getting shit, and didn’t care. Because they were after propaganda material, not intelligence. The unreliability of the information was a feature, not a bug.

    But you seem to think torture produces magic material! If so, why haven’t there been any trials, let alone convictions? I mean, if we got all this great stuff, surely it would be no problem at all to get a conviction, right?

  38. Nyara
    Nyara November 16, 2009 at 6:31 am |

    If you think what the FBI interrogators did can be simplified as “lollipops and compliments”, then you obviously don’t know all that much about successful interrogation tactics.

  39. Henrietta G. Tavish
    Henrietta G. Tavish November 16, 2009 at 8:03 am |

    If you think what the FBI interrogators did can be simplified as “lollipops and compliments”, then you obviously don’t know all that much about successful interrogation tactics.

    Just reading the links, wherein real FBI interrogators describe their methods. Presumably with so much on the line in a interview with a national magazine they’d be careful to convey exactly what they do — but it’s all lollipops and compliments. If you know what their actual techniques are — the ones that melt an Islamofascist jihadist’s heart — feel free to enlighten us.

  40. norbizness
    norbizness November 16, 2009 at 9:09 am |

    Remember who said this?

    “Many who were bruised by the traumatic event were certain that no verdict by a jury or punishment by a judge will exorcise the pain and terror that remain.… the verdict demonstrates that New Yorkers won’t meet violence with violence, but with a far greater weapon — the law.”

    Mayor Rudy Guiliani, about the outcome of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial. For people interested in pre-9/11 history, more here.

  41. Manju
    Manju November 16, 2009 at 9:42 am |

    “There’s no dispute that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. Under what conceivable circumstances would any other defendant not be entitled to an immediate dismissal of the charges?”

    Am I missing something or is this a devastating point? It appears we either return to a the rule of law that was ssupended during wartime and set KSM free, or we admit that this trial is just really just a kangaroo court…in which case why bother to try him in the first place.

    Does soemone hwo suppports this prosecution have an answer?

  42. Stlthy
    Stlthy November 16, 2009 at 10:24 am |

    I agree with Glenn Greenwald on this. The multi-tiered justice system is a joke. The hugely publicised show trials of the very unsympathetic, like KSM will distract from the fact that others will be getting their non-justice in military tribunals, while others still will continue to be held ‘preventively’.

    What I find so devastating about all of this is what’s going to happen to Omar Khadr. He was captured at the age of 15 and sent to Guantanamo, where he’s still held now. He is apparently going to be tried by a military tribunal (guess there’s too high a risk of the government losing if they tried him in an actual court, with all those pesky evidentiary standards).

    How does one win/end a War on [a technique and an emotion] Terror, anyway?

  43. CTD
    CTD November 16, 2009 at 10:54 am |

    So Jill, do you honestly think that if KSM is acquitted in federal court, that Barry O will release him? Of course not. Which makes these nothing more than sham/show trials. And that’s something I can’t get behind in America.

  44. preying mantis
    preying mantis November 16, 2009 at 10:56 am |

    “Does soemone hwo suppports this prosecution have an answer?”

    Not a lawyer here, but I’m pretty sure what happens usually is that if the only evidence for the prosecution was produced under torture or illegal interrogation, the charges are pretty much immediately dismissed. If there is evidence against them obtained independently of illegal means, any evidence obtained through illegal means is excluded and the case goes forward with the evidence obtained through legal means, with the defendant being free to seek whatever redress is available for the crimes committed against them.

    Basically, if a serial killer gets caught because a neighbor calls the cops and says “I saw this guy burying a body in his back yard last night,” and the cops for whatever reason decide to beat a confession out of him while forensics is exhuming a dozen bodies from his basement, that doesn’t result in a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. It means he gets to sue the state for the beating he received at the hands of their agents while the state prosecutes him with only the evidence it gathered without violating his civil rights.

  45. Manju
    Manju November 16, 2009 at 11:20 am |

    “Basically, if a serial killer gets caught because a neighbor calls the cops and says “I saw this guy burying a body in his back yard last night,” and the cops for whatever reason decide to beat a confession out of him while forensics is exhuming a dozen bodies from his basement, that doesn’t result in a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.”

    Oh…ok..so the premise was wrong.

  46. jpe
    jpe November 16, 2009 at 12:17 pm |

    It was the Bush administration who cooked up the idea of unlawful enemy combatants

    That’s not the case. The Geneva Conventions only apply to a select portion of the world of combatants; unlawful combatants are those that are not covered by the GC protections. (and the GC explicitly notes that there are people that do not get the benefit of its protections)

  47. jpe
    jpe November 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm |

    I object to putting them in an amorphous third category, and giving them no legal protections or due process.

    The drafters and signatories of the GCs had no such qualms, so I don’t see why we should.

  48. CTD
    CTD November 16, 2009 at 3:12 pm |

    Jill,

    The Geneva conventions re: POWs apply to those who a) wear uniforms b) have a responsible chain of command and c) carry arms openly. They are a framework of both rights and responsibilities.

  49. jpe
    jpe November 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm |

    Jill,

    I’m not out to defend Bush, just to note that the rights of unlawful combatants are considerably more limited than those of covered combatants (those that are regular armies of signatories or those that, as CTD explains, wear uniforms et&).

  50. K
    K November 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm |

    the ones that melt an Islamofascist jihadist’s heart

    This article in The Independent seems to back up the idea that silly things like acting in accordance with one’s professed principles does more to dissuade potential jihadists than tough-guy posturing:

    Hadiya Masieh, a tiny female former HT organiser, tells me: “You’d see Bush on the television building torture camps and bombing Muslims and you think – anything is justified to stop this. What are we meant to do, just stand still and let him cut our throats?”

    But the converse was – they stressed – also true. When they saw ordinary Westerners trying to uphold human rights, their jihadism began to stutter. Almost all of them said that they doubted their Islamism when they saw a million non-Muslims march in London to oppose the Iraq War: “How could we demonise people who obviously opposed aggression against Muslims?” asks Hadiya.

    And:

    Just as their journeys into the jihad were strikingly similar, so were their journeys out. All of them said doubt began to seep in because they couldn’t shake certain basic realities from their minds. The first and plainest was that ordinary Westerners were not the evil, Muslim-hating cardboard kaffir presented by the Wahabis. Usman, for one, finally stopped wanting to be a suicide bomber because of the kindness of an old white man.

    Usman’s mother had moved in next door to an elderly man called Tony, who was known in the neighbourhood as a spiteful, nasty grump. One day, Usman was teaching his little brother to box in the garden when he noticed the old man watching him from across the fence. “I used to box when I was in the Navy,” he said. He started to give them tips and before long, he was building a boxing ring in their shed.

    Tony died not long before 9/11, and Usman was sent to help clear out his belongings. In Tony’s closet, he found a present wrapped and ready for his little brother’s birthday: a pair of boxing gloves. “And I thought – that is humanity right there. That’s an aspect of the divine that’s in every human being. How can I want to kill people like him? How can I call him kaffir?”

    If simple kindnesses and respect work preventively, why shouldn’t they work in interrogation? I know that’s not the kind of evidence wingnut would-be Tough Guys like to hear, because it doesn’t give them the same kill-brown-people boners that the lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key rhetoric does. But, well, tough shit. If you want to win hearts and minds you have to pay attention to what those hearts and minds are telling you.

  51. William
    William November 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm |

    If you want to win hearts and minds you have to pay attention to what those hearts and minds are telling you.

    I think that you need to be able to both pay attention to the people you are trying to persuade and publicly display empathy while quietly doing the dirty work of national defense. That, to me, is one of the biggest practical problems of Bush’s strategy: he made what ought to be rare, covert, quiet operations common, overt, boisterous ones. Thats the big point that I think people like Jason miss, playing the tough guy actually makes you weaker and requires more resources for similar gains.

    Realistically some people need to die and sometimes people on the ground need to do things that we don’t want to think about in order to get information from that, thats the nature of covert operations (its what the CIA has been doing for years). What is important about a covert operation is that very few people know that it happened and even fewer know the details. The target ends up dead, information is gathered, and those linked to the target become fearful both because they know something happened but they have little proof and because they don’t know exactly what happened and their fantasies fill in the details. The secondary gain of covert operations is that the kinds of people who are likely to know they happened look like conspiracy nuts when they try to talk to others about them, further marginalizing the targeted group.

    At the same time, the vast majority of people are open to persuasion and good operations focus on not on spreading fear amongst the masses but hope. There is a reason the United States has been an extremely popular destination for immigration and there is a reason Western culture has continued to spread at the rate it has. If we make ourselves look more desirable than our enemies, our enemies become further marginalized. It isn’t about being a bleeding heart but about good strategy.

  52. William
    William November 16, 2009 at 5:32 pm |

    I suppose the moderators here are not going to allow me to defend myself by approving my comments?

    Because the mantle of victimhood suits the tough-guy image so well.

  53. Stlthy
    Stlthy November 16, 2009 at 7:54 pm |

    Why are some people so attached to the idea that torturing people is such a fantastic idea? It’s as if some are really desperate to believe that it works, is justifiable and actually really desirable (as long as the people being tortured are evil Arab ‘Islamofascists’, – which is, by the way, an idiotic David Horowitzian term, and people who use it are not to be taken seriously).

    I’ve never found a discussion on here literally nauseating until this one.

  54. William
    William November 16, 2009 at 10:38 pm |

    Why are some people so attached to the idea that torturing people is such a fantastic idea?

    Its simple, really, some people are more interested in revenge than in efficacy. Theres something viscerally satisfying about the idea of torture to some dark little corner of the human brain, something which years for the days of marks on the body and physical punishments serving as means for the expression of dominance. It isn’t about what works, what is justifiable, what is desirable, or even really who is being targeted, its about finding a way to rationalize sadism. If it was about what works it wouldn’t be torture that would find itself defended but rather a range of methods.

  55. Henrietta G. Tavish
    Henrietta G. Tavish November 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm |

    Hmmmm.

    “I don’t think it will be offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him,” Obama told NBC’s Chuck Todd.

    Show trial much?

  56. preying mantis
    preying mantis November 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm |

    Well, if reports are accurate, they would kind of have to be high to fail to convict that particular defendant. And if they’re going to apply the death penalty to anyone, people who commit premeditated mass murder would be at the top of that list. The more telling question is how defendants whose cases are more questionable or whose crimes less severe will be treated.

  57. William
    William November 19, 2009 at 7:35 am |

    “I don’t think it will be offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him,” Obama told NBC’s Chuck Todd.

    Show trial much?

    Look at your average Federal Prosecutor’s conviction rate and you really only have three possible conclusions. Either somehow in this single instance the government draws the best damned talent in the nation, somehow in this one case the Federal government shows remarkable restraint and only tries cases they are almost sure of winning, or most Federal trials are show trials. But hey, can we really blame them? Someone’s gotta put the brown people in prison to show we’re tough on drugs/porn/guns/terrorism/immigration/whatever-moral-panic-has-the-rubes-and-petty-fascists-in-a-lather-this-week, right?

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