Thursday, September 28, 2006

 

Cliff Dwellers at the Times

The Editors at The New York Times write an over-the-top, emotional and dishonest critique of the pending Antiterrorism Bill.

The Editors say a cynical (and by implication, criminal) Bush Administration is driving Congress “over a cliff,” and by fear-mongering and intimidation, forcing them to pass “a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.”

This is a war we fight, not that that’s at all assumed or accepted by the NY Times. Yet, to the Editors, this is entirely about extending complete judicial, constitutional, and Geneva Conventions rights and obligations upon a class of detainees that don’t even fit criteria for legitimate Prisoners of War, let alone prisoners of US law enforcement entities.

It’s all “mindless politics,” with an evil Administration forcing “ghastly ideas about antiterrorism” upon an “irresponsible Congress.”

Dear Lord, what adjectives will the NY Times have left come their treaded but much anticipated American Kristalnacht? (Or did that happen with the defeat of John Kerry in 2004, I might have missed it with all the public mourning.)

The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

According to the Times, we will make American Troops less safe – they’ll be without all that super strong, respected by Tyrants and Dictators Everywhere Geneva Conventions Bullet and Bomb Proof Armor. The Times laments that the Bill will do lasting damage to our nation of laws – despite that the Bush Administration has done far less in fighting this war than did FDR or Truman during WWII, Hoover or FDR during the Depression, and certainly, Lincoln during the Civil War. (I guess Lincoln’s suspension of Habeus Corpus did lasting damage too, but doesn’t lasting mean it doesn’t heal or correct itself after the war is won?)

If we had to fight WWII (or any prior war) by the rules demanded by the NY Times, and the Democratic Party and ACLU allies, we’d have lost. There would be no Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (there’d be no Jews left), and the sun would have set on Democracy and liberty and Western Civilization. The elites of Hyannis and Beacon Hill and Beverly Hills would no doubt be able to concentrate their love of humanity on non fossil fuels, solar and wind power, and the prevailing wages of the working classes, without messy concerns of National Security. Come to think on it, you can understand their sympathy for the 7th Century Jihadis. (“Finishing the job Hitler started.”)

I know I don’t always maintain my personal standard, of presuming that political opponents and critics argue in good faith, that they have good intentions, that they’re not evil, but misguided. But does the NY Times ever adhere to that standard? Must they always paint every action and decision of the President as the act of a would-be tyrant, of a cynical and opportunistic dictator, seeking the destruction of this nation for his own personal ends, and that of his party?

They seem never to consider that the rationale proposed by the US Government for our actions and decisions might actually be truthful (let alone sound). Instead, it’s all evil and illegal, but the Times never finds an opportunity to explain why that would be. They just assume their readers all accept the same moonbattery, the same theses of “Bush = Hitler,” and similar demagoguery.

How else to explain the following:

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

…and…

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These criminal men stopped, according to the Times, only because the US Supreme Court stepped in. The Supremes, by vouching enemy combatants, no citizens these, who fit no category in International Conventions or US law other than saboteurs or spies, with full rights and privileges of US Citizens or US Military under applicable legal frameworks, placed a final barrier between a criminally minded President and his dreams of Dictatorship.

The President’s fiercest opponents, and equally their partisan friends and supporters, at the Times and elsewhere, do indeed inhabit an alternate Universe, where their fevered ravings no doubt appear the norm. Where the American people are perceived to see their bizarro world just as they do, and a Congress can reach broad agreement and consensus, without going against the electorate.

It seems hardly warranted to go through the Times specific objections, given the hyperbolic dressings of their criticisms – how do you reason with what is largely an emotional response? – but for what it’s worth, let’s check them out.

I will grant the Times credit for one objection that I believe should be addressed with some form of oversight or amendment: that of allowing US citizens to be categorized as “illegal enemy combatant.” On the battle field, I want just such a designation for terrorists who refuse to identify themselves or fight as organized military, and target and intentionally kill civilians and other non-combatants by design.

The Times objects that such a designation can be applied against “foreign citizens living in their own countries,” but I don’t see what relevance that has, when the foreign citizen is plotting and executing terror against the US without constraint or intervention by their host country. That defines the Jihadi in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia. Why not? The alternative of letting them find and dwell in safe havens undisturbed is preferable?

If a US citizen is apprehended doing the same in concert with terrorist illegal enemy combatants, then by all means, try for treason within military justice, or as a murderer in civilian courts. I don’t care, whichever seems appropriate to command and civil authorities.

The Times also claims that:

The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

I’m not an Army Lawyer or a Constitutional Scholar, but I’m pretty sure that’s the President’s job – the job of the Executive Branch exclusively – to interpret intenraitonal treaties and reconcile more or less to applicable US Law.

The Time’s objections on not providing Habeus Corpus or Judicial Review protections to military prisoners seems pretty absurd if you accept the premise of a military at war, which of course is dubious to assume of the Times. I don’t want “prisoners of war” -- which these detainees are, except that they ignore and fight contrary to the Laws of War that accord rights to uniformed soldiers – to use or own civil legal processes to interfere with what should be an exclusively military process. Our soldiers are constrained by enough “rules of engagement” (ROE) as it is, do we want them to need more lawyers than guards?

It goes without saying that the Time objects to the concept of Secret Evidence, as they’ve never seen Classified Information that they didn’t want to reveal to the public (and our enemies), unless of course those secrets would hurt the political fortunes of their favored Democratic Party. We have seen ample evidence that prisoners and the lawyer-advocates that support them use legal proceedings and artifacts to convey otherwise sensitive information to their fellow terrorists. I really don’t want National Security endangered just to satisfy some World Jurists’ opinion that terrorism is just a matter of law enforcement and an issue of civil liberties.

The Times even ventures into gender politics, of course without the specificity that would allow readers not versed in such politics to understand, exactly what they’re talking about:

Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

Maybe somebody in comments can explain how non-consensual sex can occur without force or coercion. I am certain such a rationale exists within Gender Studies departments of most universities, but I’m not sure we want to give them standing within military justice of illegal enemy combatants. (Or anywhere else in American Jurisprudence, for that matter, and surely not anywhere within Military Justice.)

The Times patronizes the Congress and “Opposition Party” beyond the bounds that any prideful elected official should be able to tolerate:

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler.

But this is all of a piece with other NY Times Editorial positions that flow quite logically from the premise that “everyone’s a victim,” we’re all the product of external motivations, we can’t help ourselves, but must turn to Bigger Government to find solutions for all our problems.

Congress can’t be held responsible for their votes on Iraq in 2003, that lying President and his phony Intelligence made them vote the way they did. In 2006, they quail in fear that Republicans will unfairly accuse them of being “terrorist enablers.” Because, of course, none of them stand on principle, none have spines:

Come to think on it, they know well the mettle of their fellow partisans. Familiarity breeds contempt, I suppose.

The Times concludes with a Chicken Little warning that history will mark a “low point in American democracy:

But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

They said that about Lincoln, and worse. And his legacy grew to the immortal, contrary to the heckling of the Times of his day.




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