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Old 02-16-2008   #1
davidbfpo
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Default Crimes, War Crimes and the War on Terror

The Lewis and Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon, USA held this symposium in April 2007 and have now published a number of articles. This is the link:

http://www.lclark.edu/org/lclr/issue_11_4.html and this one links to the speakers bios: http://www.lclark.edu/org/artslive/lawreviewsymp.html

The subjects include:

The Role of Federal Criminal Prosecutions in the War on Terrorism

Federal Prosecution of Terrorism-Related Offenses: Conviction and Sentencing Data in Light of the "Soft-Sentence" and "Data-Reliability"
Critiques

Enemies of the State: Rational Classification in the War on Terrorism

Combatant Status Review Tribunals: An Ordeal Through the Eyes of One "Enemy Combatant"

Enemy Aliens, Enemy Property, and Access to the Courts

Hamdan, Terror, War

Why States Need an International Law for Information Operations

Al-Qaeda and the Law of War

Surveillance and Transparency

Electronic Surveillance of Terrorism: The Intelligence/Law Enforcement Dilemma - A History

Rays of Sunlight in a Shadow “War”: FOIA, The Abuses of Anti-Terrorism, and the Strategy of Transparency

I've only read three, on surveillance, they are interesting for a non-American and probably of more value for an American.

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Old 06-05-2008   #2
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The Challenges of Trying Terrorists as Criminals
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Because of the asymmetric effects of many terrorist acts, the public and the press ensure that governments place a very high value on the prevention of terrorism. But dealing with terrorists is problematic for the executive branch, charged as it is with protecting the public. As Alexander Hamilton put it in the Federalist Papers: “Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates . . . to be more safe [nations] at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.” Certainly, if they consider it is not possible for terrorists to be convicted, governments will consider
• changing criminal procedures and truncating the rights of accused terrorists to facilitate convictions
• detention without trial
• rendition (in all of its senses
• military or paramilitary solutions
• specialist courts or tribunals.

Most if not all of those responses may infringe the rule of law. Equally, there is much at stake for the judicial branch in this context. Thus, when terrorism charges are brought, courts must strive to balance the rights of the parties, particularly the accused, on the one hand and national security on the other. Special and sometimes unique questions that arise in such cases include justiciability, deference to the other branches of government, admissibility of evidence, prosecutorial duties of disclosure, and the effect on the press and on public confidence of any departure from open justice.

These issues, which are at the heart of public debate in the United States and a number of ally nations, require continued and close attention. An interdisciplinary colloquium held in January 2008 in Washington, D.C., considered some of them. A feature of the conference was the bringing together of lawyers (including judges, prosecutors, and human rights and international lawyers), strategists, terrorism experts, and intelligence, and law enforcement officials. International representatives also attended, bringing perspectives of U.S. allies, notably, the United Kingdom and Australia, to the debate. A summary of the course of discussion follows.
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Old 06-05-2008   #3
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The question as to what type of trial to give to foreign combatants who are held prisoner begs the question of whether they should be given one at all. Is anyone aware of an explanation for why the detainees should be afforded a trial?

Most arguments seem to assume that a trial should occur and then embark upon a debate over what type of trial and how to conduct it. But I have never seen a justification for why we should hold a trial. I don't understand why non-US citizens who were taken prisoner on a battlefield, during armed conflict, and held prisoner outside of our borders, should have protections in the US Constitution bestowed upon them. Rather than addressing this question, we are subjected to accusations of torture, mistreatment, and denial of due process (again, without clarifying whether the detainees are owed any due process).

In the quote that begins this thread, there is a mention of undermining the rule of law. It seems that undermining the rule of law in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was a good thing. Laws against shaving beards and flying kites don't seem all that virtuous to begin with. If the implication is that rule of law could be undermined in the US, then I don't see how that is possible, so long as the individuals are non-US citizens, not in the US, and captured on a battlefield during time of war.
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Old 06-05-2008   #4
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Hi Schmedlap,

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The question as to what type of trial to give to foreign combatants who are held prisoner begs the question of whether they should be given one at all. Is anyone aware of an explanation for why the detainees should be afforded a trial?
There are several reasons why this should happen. Let's start with the obvious ones. First, are they "combatants"? This is a crucial question, because if they are, then they are protected under international law (at least under some interpretations of it). The US has taken a position that the Taliban are not legal combatants and, as such, no not fall under the purvey of the Geneva Conventions which, IMO, is ridiculous but it's still the reality we are dealing with.

If, as the Bush administration has held, they are not "legal combatants", then what are they? The rhetorical answer was to call them "criminals", but even criminals have rights under international laws to which the US is a signatory. Thus we end up with attempts to create a new category that is not covered under international law. But this attempt has been viewed, both within the US and internationally, as way of operating outside of international law and contravening the UN charter. This is one of the legal reasons for giving them trials.

A second and, IMO, more important reason stands behind all of the rhetoric: by attempting to declare these people as "non-persons" and outside of the law, they are being defined as "non-human" and, hence, anything done to them is fine. But, if history teaches us anything, every time a society has defined one group of people as non-humans (i.e. outside the law), that same society will turn around and define other groups the same way. This process is well summed up in the poem First they came attributed to Martin Niemöller.

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Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
In the quote that begins this thread, there is a mention of undermining the rule of law. It seems that undermining the rule of law in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was a good thing. Laws against shaving beards and flying kites don't seem all that virtuous to begin with. If the implication is that rule of law could be undermined in the US, then I don't see how that is possible, so long as the individuals are non-US citizens, not in the US, and captured on a battlefield during time of war.
How about laws against polygamy and polyandry ? Almost any law that enforces a moral code can, and will, be laughed at by people who don't agree with that code. For example, there are, I believe, still some laws on the books in parts of Ontario that make it illegal for an unmarried couple to dance within 12 inches of each other. And, as far as I know, it is still illegal to drive your flock of sheep down Younge street in Toronto between the hours of 1 and 3 PM.

As far as them being non-US citizens, that is immaterial. They have been captured by US troops and, unless you wish to argue that US troops are not bound by laws when in foreign countries, they have to be treated under a rule of law scenario. If they are captured during a "time of war" then they should be treated under the Geneva Conventions or else the US is breaking those conventions.

Where you (the US) are getting into trouble is by declaring them "criminals" or trying to create uncovered categories. By declaring them "criminals" and bringing them into US jurisdiction, you are automatically typing them and, as such, they have the full protection of your constitution.
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Old 06-05-2008   #5
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Default Well said and I totally agree. Seems to me that

the Lawyers totally blew it in an effort to outsmart themselves. Use of 'PW' instead of 'detainee' and keeping them in the nation where picked up -- or in Afghanistan for those from Pakistan or elsewhere -- would've been the simple solution and far better PR (and, no Lawyer but IMO, legal) decision. All that detainee foolishness and the arch stupidity that was and is Gitmo couldn't have been much worse if the bad guys were the planners.

Hmmm...

On the PR angle, the US is going to get tabbed by not only the opposition but by some of our 'friends' and by many here in the US as the bad guy almost no matter what we do. Why that is so difficult for the squirrels in DC to comprehend and attempt to mitigate by not being stupid I cannot fathom. They need to tumble to that fact and stop trying to 'do the right thing so the world will see we're really nice.' The world is absolutely determined not to see that and to deny it if it appears that way; been that way all my adult life and it's really not much worse now than it has been since about 1947 or so; we just communicate far more widely and rapidly today so it seems worse. Not as bad now as it was during Viet Nam.

So on the PR front (since the late 40s) as well as the international terrorism front (since 1972) we refuse to adapt to reality; "It must be done as we wish it done." Get over it, Washington, not going to happen...

NOTE: This was addressed to Shmedlap's post; Marc beat me

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Old 06-05-2008   #6
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Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
The question as to what type of trial to give to foreign combatants who are held prisoner begs the question of whether they should be given one at all. Is anyone aware of an explanation for why the detainees should be afforded a trial?
The simple answer is that this what a civilized, law-abiding nation does with people who act outside the bounds of accepted behavior (laws and civilized customs in other words).

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Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
Most arguments seem to assume that a trial should occur and then embark upon a debate over what type of trial and how to conduct it. But I have never seen a justification for why we should hold a trial. I don't understand why non-US citizens who were taken prisoner on a battlefield, during armed conflict, and held prisoner outside of our borders, should have protections in the US Constitution bestowed upon them. Rather than addressing this question, we are subjected to accusations of torture, mistreatment, and denial of due process (again, without clarifying whether the detainees are owed any due process).
Protections of one's rights, as codified in the U. S. Constitution and its amendments, are viewed, rightly or wrongly, as the sine qua non of how to treat someone who has been accused of infringing on the rights of others. Another way of saying this is that when one infringes on the rights of others, the infringer does not thereby forfeit his or her own rights. To adopt the alternative position that one forfeits rights as a result of misconduct would be tantamount to adopting a position that "two wrongs make a right," a position that my parents and grandparents (and probably most other readers' as well) taught me was wrong (morally).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
In the quote that begins this thread, there is a mention of undermining the rule of law. It seems that undermining the rule of law in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was a good thing. Laws against shaving beards and flying kites don't seem all that virtuous to begin with. If the implication is that rule of law could be undermined in the US, then I don't see how that is possible, so long as the individuals are non-US citizens, not in the US, and captured on a battlefield during time of war.
Undermining the rule of law is very different from changing poor laws. It may well be the case that sometimes one must use other than peaceful means to change laws, but even in those cases, there are lawful and unlawful ways to do so. By the way, I think it is open to argument whether what may have passed for the rule of law in Taleban-controled Afghanistan really was a version of the rule of law in the eyes of the rest of the cvilized world.
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Old 06-05-2008   #7
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Hi Ken,

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On the PR angle, the US is going to get tabbed by not only the opposition but by some of our 'friends' and by many here in the US as the bad guy almost no matter what we do. Why that is so difficult for the squirrels in DC to comprehend and attempt to mitigate by not being stupid I cannot fathom. They need to tumble to that fact and stop trying to 'do the right thing so the world will see we're really nice.'
Too true! Isn't there a Biblical saying about "the meek shall inherit the Earth - a 6" x 6' x 3' plot"?

On a more serious note, though, there has been a lot of international concern about the US governments position on international law in many areas, and the Gitmo experience (along with extraordinary rendition, etc.) only reinforces the concerns held by other countries (think Italy for a sec...). In Canada, we have been following the Gitmo travesty ever since Khadr was captured, and the ongoing French bedroom farce of his detainment makes headlines fairly often.
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Old 06-05-2008   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
the US is going to get tabbed by not only the opposition but by some of our 'friends' and by many here in the US as the bad guy almost no matter what we do. Why that is so difficult for the squirrels in DC to comprehend and attempt to mitigate by not being stupid I cannot fathom. They need to tumble to that fact and stop trying to 'do the right thing so the world will see we're really nice.'
I do not disagree with your point, but I would hope that we could replace the motivation for doing the right thing. We ought not to be doing "the right thing so the world will see we're really nice." We ought to be doing the right thing just because it is the right thing. (Sorry if this sounds like I'm being naively idealistic )
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Old 06-05-2008   #9
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Default OTOH, he said...

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There are several reasons why this should happen. Let's start with the obvious ones. First, are they "combatants"? This is a crucial question, because if they are, then they are protected under international law (at least under some interpretations of it).
True. Some. The issue is whether they are legal combatants as stipulated in the GC or not; they meet none of the criteria therefor. Oversight in the GC? Possibly but unquestionably they are not members of a uniformed military force.
Quote:
The US has taken a position that the Taliban are not legal combatants and, as such, no not fall under the purvey of the Geneva Conventions which, IMO, is ridiculous but it's still the reality we are dealing with.
What's ridiculous; the US position or the GC failure to protect illegal combatants?
Quote:
If, as the Bush administration has held, they are not "legal combatants", then what are they? ... This is one of the legal reasons for giving them trials.
True, sort of. The rules on illegal combatants say they've got to get sorted as PW or criminals and we blew that aspect. The Commissions are a cover for doing something too late and too little. Thus my contention they should've been called PW from the get go. The Admin didn't do that because they wanted to interrogate some of them which the GC prohibits. That could've been done had the control of those few been retained by other than the Armed Forces (an admittedly arguably illegal act -- but reality will intrude on legitimacy...
Quote:
As far as them being non-US citizens, that is immaterial. They have been captured by US troops and, unless you wish to argue that US troops are not bound by laws when in foreign countries, they have to be treated under a rule of law scenario. If they are captured during a "time of war" then they should be treated under the Geneva Conventions or else the US is breaking those conventions.
That is subject to debate due to the legal combatant distinction.
Quote:
Where you (the US) are getting into trouble is by declaring them "criminals" or trying to create uncovered categories. By declaring them "criminals" and bringing them into US jurisdiction, you are automatically typing them and, as such, they have the full protection of your constitution.
We didn't try to create an uncovered category; we applied a covered category far too broadly, came up with an abysmally stupid plan to hold and interrogate and then developed a really dumb legal 'process' to attempt to cover the stupidity. We get max marks for stupid, no question -- but I disagree we've been illegal (other than in a very few specific individual cases -- and those were probable no matter what had been done ).
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Old 06-05-2008   #10
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Default Marc and wm; good points. But...

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...On a more serious note, though, there has been a lot of international concern about the US governments position on international law in many areas, and the Gitmo experience (along with extraordinary rendition, etc.) only reinforces the concerns held by other countries (think Italy for a sec...). In Canada, we have been following the Gitmo travesty ever since Khadr was captured, and the ongoing French bedroom farce of his detainment makes headlines fairly often.
True, our position on International Law has been subject to many blasts from the remainder of the world in my lifetime. Some warranted, some not -- those viewpoint dependent. Gitmo was stupid. Khadr has been mishandled by the ridiculous commission setup, no question but the fact that he was "a child soldier" who deserves release on that count is I believe wrong. He is said to be 'salvageable' and to have modified his attitude. Sorry, I'm an old cynic...
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I do not disagree with your point, but I would hope that we could replace the motivation for doing the right thing. We ought not to be doing "the right thing so the world will see we're really nice." We ought to be doing the right thing just because it is the right thing. (Sorry if this sounds like I'm being naively idealistic )
I agree with your goal but would point out that others do not operate that way and while some disadvantage to do the right thing can and should be accepted -- and we do that, all day and every day in many ways and knowingly and willingly give others an advantage -- there had better be limits or we will not be around to do the right thing. Thus, regrettably, I do suspect you're being a bit naively idealistic.
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Old 06-05-2008   #11
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Quote:
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True, our position on International Law has been subject to many blasts from the remainder of the world in my lifetime. Some warranted, some not -- those viewpoint dependent. Gitmo was stupid. Khadr has been mishandled by the ridiculous commission setup, no question but the fact that he was "a child soldier" who deserves release on that count is I believe wrong. He is said to be 'salvageable' and to have modified his attitude. Sorry, I'm an old cynic...
I agree with your goal but would point out that others do not operate that way and while some disadvantage to do the right thing can and should be accepted -- and we do that, all day and every day in many ways and knowingly and willingly give others an advantage -- there had better be limits or we will not be around to do the right thing. Thus, regrettably, I do suspect you're being a bit naively idealistic.
I believe we both are aware that a nation's true motives are usually pretty transparent to the rest of the world. So perhaps the better position to take would be one that does not try to sugar coat what we are up to. Just like any other nation, the US is looking out for numero uno and, perhaps, sees this trial process as a way of not getting caught out in a similar series of "kangaroo court" activities against its own citizens without grounds for protest.

The fact of the matter might more likely be that we are trying these folks not because we want the rest of the world to think we are nice but because some part of our leadership needs to be able to live with its collective conscience and is now trying to justify bad actions after the fact. If I am correct in this line of thinking, then it also goes a long way to explaining the spate of recent "kiss and tell" and other funny justificatory books like McClellan's and Feiths that are coming out of the publishing houses.
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Old 06-05-2008   #12
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Default Good points.

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I believe we both are aware that a nation's true motives are usually pretty transparent to the rest of the world. So perhaps the better position to take would be one that does not try to sugar coat what we are up to.
Agreed and that was a large part of my point in the comment. I believe Churdhill had it right when he said "You can always rely on the Americans to do the right thing -- after they have tried every conceivable alternative." We do generally try but our governmental system is conducive to false starts and that is exacerbated by the bureaucracy -- and too often enhanced by stupidity in high places...
Quote:
Just like any other nation, the US is looking out for numero uno and, perhaps, sees this trial process as a way of not getting caught out in a similar series of "kangaroo court" activities against its own citizens without grounds for protest.
Perhaps, however my less benign take is that the lawyers screwed the pooch in the process.
Quote:
The fact of the matter might more likely be that we are trying these folks not because we want the rest of the world to think we are nice but because some part of our leadership needs to be able to live with its collective conscience and is now trying to justify bad actions after the fact.
That too is possible but I'm strongly inclined to believe that it's simply the aforementioned Churchill syndrome in action. As they say, never ascribe to evil what is due to stupidity.
Quote:
If I am correct in this line of thinking, then it also goes a long way to explaining the spate of recent "kiss and tell" and other funny justificatory books like McClellan's and Feiths that are coming out of the publishing houses.
Those types of apologia always appear after every traumatic event; self justification is strong instinct...

I'd submit that in the case of the two you cite, the former is indicative of the fact that those, like Bush (and a lot of Generals), who want 'people they know and trust' in positions of power are the progenitors of the Peter Principle and that the latter author is added proof of that, due to Cheney doing the same thing, as well with the fillip of a massive ego in government not being an asset.

We do the right thing far more often that not and that is a good thing. Generally when we do not do so it's due to a person; a squeaking wheel, in the wrong place at the wrong time who takes deliberate or inadvertent advantage of the governmental system and the bureaucracy to effect an action that he or she believes to be required. Usually, the system catches that, albeit slowly, then corrects itself.

Unfortunately, due again to the system, the correction is frequently an over correction, thus we seem to lurch about like a drunk from one extreme to the other before finally getting it right. It confuses the daylights out of the rest of the world who prefer to take it slow and easy and do not recognize that we are taking it slow -- just not easy. It's not the American way.

The annoying thing to me is that has been a feature (or a bug?) in our government for a great many years. Seems to me that a workaround for that should be developed. It could be easily done -- except for the fact that each new Administration will reject anything that has gone before and try to do it their way. That is just ego driven stupidity.

I can hardly wait until this time next year...
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Old 06-05-2008   #13
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Hi Ken,

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True. Some. The issue is whether they are legal combatants as stipulated in the GC or not; they meet none of the criteria therefor. Oversight in the GC? Possibly but unquestionably they are not members of a uniformed military force.
This becomes a very interesting question - what is a "uniform"? It wasn't a problem back in the day, but I would submit that it is now. Staes are free to decide on what constitutes a "uniform", and I would argue that the Taliban, which whether we like it or not did form a state that was recognized by a few other countries and the UN, is free to choose what it is. I would argue that legally they are in the same position as a "government in exile". As such, any who wear their uniform (even if they define that as civilian clothes) must be offered the protection of the Geneva conventions analogous to the volunteer brigades in the Spanish Civil War. I know, it's not a popular argument .

Quote:
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What's ridiculous; the US position or the GC failure to protect illegal combatants?
Sorry, their definition as "illegal combatants". At the same time, the GC is vastly out of date and, in its categories, somewhat ridiculous.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
True, sort of. The rules on illegal combatants say they've got to get sorted as PW or criminals and we blew that aspect. The Commissions are a cover for doing something too late and too little. Thus my contention they should've been called PW from the get go. The Admin didn't do that because they wanted to interrogate some of them which the GC prohibits. That could've been done had the control of those few been retained by other than the Armed Forces (an admittedly arguably illegal act -- but reality will intrude on legitimacy...
The problem with the sorting is that it doesn't really account for the current reality <sigh>. What is needed, IMHO, is a category of "irregular combatants" who are treated as POWs, but who may be interrogated to determine motivation and possibility for criminal charges based on international law.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
True, our position on International Law has been subject to many blasts from the remainder of the world in my lifetime. Some warranted, some not -- those viewpoint dependent. Gitmo was stupid. Khadr has been mishandled by the ridiculous commission setup, no question but the fact that he was "a child soldier" who deserves release on that count is I believe wrong. He is said to be 'salvageable' and to have modified his attitude. Sorry, I'm an old cynic...
Nothing wrong with that . Still and all, Khadr met the UN definition of being a "child soldier". We can argue back and forth whether it is right or wrong in any individual case (or in general), but under existing international agreements, he meets the definition and law is all about definitions.
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Old 06-05-2008   #14
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The question is why are we bothering with holding trials (perhaps instead of summary execution) for people we just know are guilty of something.

Q: What do the following men all have in common?
Martin Bormann, Karl Donitz, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Hans Fritzsche, Walther Funk, Hermann Goring, Rudolph Hess, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, Robert Ley, Baron Konstantin von Neurath, Franz von Papen, Erich Raeder, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, Baldur von Schirach, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Albert Speer, and Julius Streicher.

A: They were all accused of various war crimes and given trials at Nuremburg.

Not in some kangaroo court in an offshore Cuban penal colony, either. Evidence was presented, and they were given the opportunity to defend themselves against charges. It is because we are Americans. We have a suspicion against arbitrary arrests and imprisonment by either George III (or some possible home grown despot), dating back to the American Revolution.

Interestingly, von Papen and Schacht were acquitted.

I believe most people think that if you are holding somebody as a war criminal or terrorist kingpin, we have some kind of obligation to bring evidence in something like a fair public trial environment. Federal Court or some kind of Nuremberg style military tribunal will do. As it is, the perception is that we are running some kind of Star Chamber.

If we’re dealing with some guy who just happened to be in a Taliban militia, this all seems a bit overkill. What is the problem with just treating him as a POW or turning him over to the Afghan government, anyway, instead of trying to reinvent the legal wheel?
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Old 06-05-2008   #15
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Default More good points. But (yet again...)

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This becomes a very interesting question - what is a "uniform"? It wasn't a problem back in the day, but I would submit that it is now.
Agreed but unfortunately, the GC is not designed to cope with today's modified realities so the Lawyers get to play.
Quote:
...As such, any who wear their uniform (even if they define that as civilian clothes) must be offered the protection of the Geneva conventions analogous to the volunteer brigades in the Spanish Civil War. I know, it's not a popular argument .
I agree. That's why I said the majority (including all the Talib) should've simply been declared PW and confined in Afghanistan. The real issue is with the non-Taliban types, the AQ folks who do not merit the protection you propose and the GC offers and with which I agree.
Quote:
Sorry, their definition as "illegal combatants". At the same time, the GC is vastly out of date and, in its categories, somewhat ridiculous.
Disagree on the former, agree on the latter -- I did however note that the Lawyers did not do the former at all well...
Quote:
The problem with the sorting is that it doesn't really account for the current reality <sigh>. What is needed, IMHO, is a category of "irregular combatants" who are treated as POWs, but who may be interrogated to determine motivation and possibility for criminal charges based on international law.
That might be possible though my suspicion is that any attempt to do that will be fought tooth and nail by the HR community.
Quote:
Nothing wrong with that . Still and all, Khadr met the UN definition of being a "child soldier". We can argue back and forth whether it is right or wrong in any individual case (or in general), but under existing international agreements, he meets the definition and law is all about definitions.
The UN is NOT a legislative body; they may propose things to their hearts content but they do not produce laws. Yes, Law is all about definitions or, more correctly, pocket lining arguments about definitions but it becomes sort of counterproductive when attempts to apply it fly in the face of common sense. A 15 year old can kill you just as dead as can a 30 year old.

Not to start a food fight but instead of looking down noses at the people who simply apprehended a 'child' being where he should not have been and doing something he should not have been doing and correctly in my view attempting to punish him for that, folks might want to look at the fact that the child had no business being there, had no business doing what he was doing and the fact that he was taken to that environment by his Father and possibly encouraged to do those things is not an excuse; the kid was in the wrong place at the wrong time and allegedly doing the wring thing -- and we did not put him there.

An attitude of excessive forgiveness of children for being little monsters has put the entire European hearth in danger of a takeover by the little dears. They need to learn that actions have consequences -- as do Parents who not only tolerate but actively encourage such foolishness (in this case criminality by the definition of the UN you say...). You youngsters will have fun with that, I'll be dead and gone so I'll miss it.
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Old 06-05-2008   #16
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From the Third Geneva Convention:

"Part I. General Provisions

"Art.4 Prisoners of War ...

"(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:[ (a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war."

and

"Art. 5. The present Convention shall apply to the persons referred to in Article 4 from the time they fall into the power of the enemy and until their final release and repatriation.

"Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal."

"Illegal combatant" and "unlawful combatant" don't appear in the conventions. What people are trying to get at with the terms is whether an individual is protected by the conventions. The US has, in fact, provided "the protection of the present Convention" to the detainees at Gitmo. The term "kangaroo court" is a dishonest slur on the US attempt to, in fact, bring the detainees before a tribunal to determine their status, in accordance with Art. 5. of the Third Geneva Convention.
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Old 06-05-2008   #17
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Hi Ken,

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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
That's why I said the majority (including all the Talib) should've simply been declared PW and confined in Afghanistan. The real issue is with the non-Taliban types, the AQ folks who do not merit the protection you propose and the GC offers and with which I agree.
Unfortunately, AQ might, and I say that advisedly and with much gnashing of teeth, fall under the "other militias" clause. Totally agree that the Taliban should have been declared POWs which, BTW, would include Khadr.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
The UN is NOT a legislative body; they may propose things to their hearts content but they do not produce laws. Yes, Law is all about definitions or, more correctly, pocket lining arguments about definitions but it becomes sort of counterproductive when attempts to apply it fly in the face of common sense. A 15 year old can kill you just as dead as can a 30 year old.
Disagree with the first, but agree with the rest . The problem with most supra-national bodies is that they have what, for want of a better term, might be called "para-legislative" powers - they are legislative upon states, not individuals. It's awkward in oh so many ways...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
Not to start a food fight but instead of looking down noses at the people who simply apprehended a 'child' being where he should not have been and doing something he should not have been doing and correctly in my view attempting to punish him for that, folks might want to look at the fact that the child had no business being there, had no business doing what he was doing and the fact that he was taken to that environment by his Father and possibly encouraged to do those things is not an excuse; the kid was in the wrong place at the wrong time and allegedly doing the wring thing -- and we did not put him there.
You know, we really do agree on a lot of things ! Personally, I have no problems with that - in fact, I have a lot of problems with a mind set that says "Oh, he must be a victim!". Where we disagree is in whether or not our disgust with victim poker outweights the agreements our countries have signed on the rights of child soldiers. I'm not ready to call the Crown to account on that one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
An attitude of excessive forgiveness of children for being little monsters has put the entire European hearth in danger of a takeover by the little dears. They need to learn that actions have consequences -- as do Parents who not only tolerate but actively encourage such foolishness (in this case criminality by the definition of the UN you say...). You youngsters will have fun with that, I'll be dead and gone so I'll miss it.
Ken, I'm sure that you will stick around just so you can say "I told you so!!!!" . Actually, we agree on the need for children to learn that their actions have consequences. Then again, with such sterling role models as Doug Feith around, that may be a touch tricky...
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Old 06-05-2008   #18
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Default This has all been facinating but

why are they illegal anything?
If some AQ were moving through the area and thought my house was a good place for an ambush and the US troops found me cowering under my bed - assuming they did not shoot me on the spot - I would presumably spend the next decade trying to convince some GITMO guard I had not planned 9/11.
If I declare Ken an illegal combatant can I lock him up indefinitely? We disagree from time to time but I am not sure that would be very fair.

Last edited by JJackson; 06-05-2008 at 08:53 PM. Reason: changed non combatant to illegal combatant (not watching what I was typing)
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Old 06-05-2008   #19
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Default AQ to Taliban to AQ to ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by marct View Post
...Totally agree that the Taliban should have been declared POWs which, BTW, would include Khadr.
True. Then he'd be a PW with no reason to be tried and no hope of release until the end of hostilities...
Quote:
... The problem with most supra-national bodies is that they have what, for want of a better term, might be called "para-legislative" powers - they are legislative upon states, not individuals. It's awkward in oh so many ways...
Awkward perhaps but even the para legislative powers upon states is there only if the state(s) deign to accept them. For more on which see below.
Quote:
...Where we disagree is in whether or not our disgust with victim poker outweights the agreements our countries have signed on the rights of child soldiers...
You are aware the US has not ratified some of those protocols? One we and Canada have ratified is the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which requires signatories to 'take all feasible measures' to ensure that children under age 18 do not participate in hostilities... ???
Quote:
... Then again, with such sterling role models as Doug Feith around, that may be a touch tricky...
Ordinarily, I would not stoop to citing Maxime or Alphonse as examples that such dimwits abound worldwide but Fido Feith had nothing to do with the discussion.

Or, if he did, I missed the connection,,,
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Old 06-05-2008   #20
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Quote:
Quote:
Nothing wrong with that . Still and all, Khadr met the UN definition of being a "child soldier". We can argue back and forth whether it is right or wrong in any individual case (or in general), but under existing international agreements, he meets the definition and law is all about definitions.
The UN is NOT a legislative body; they may propose things to their hearts content but they do not produce laws. Yes, Law is all about definitions or, more correctly, pocket lining arguments about definitions but it becomes sort of counterproductive when attempts to apply it fly in the face of common sense. A 15 year old can kill you just as dead as can a 30 year old.
The UN does actually, under some circumstances, produce laws--both in the sense that UNSC resolutions are (supposedly) binding on members states, and in that UN conventions comprise treaty law which are, when entered into by the Execute and duly ratified by the US Congress, comprise US law under Article VI.2 of the US Constitution.

That's a quibble, however

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (2002) prohibits the recruitment or use of children in armed conflict, but doesn't actually say what you are supposed to do when you capture one, beyond stating (rather ambiguously):

Quote:
States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons within their jurisdiction recruited or used in hostilities contrary to the present Protocol are demobilized or otherwise released from service. States Parties shall, when necessary, accord to such persons all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration.
One could argue that incarceration in Gitmo is "demobilization" of a sort (although I wouldn't).

More broadly, there are several reasons for playing by the rules of international humanitarian law:
  1. Reciprocity--because you want others to. Of course, its doubtful AQ will, but nonetheless one doesn't want to erode global norms that may be useful in other contexts.
  2. Because you agreed to, and you don't want to erode your credibility in future treaty negotiations.
  3. Because of the political costs of not doing so (for example, the enormous cost of IHL violations at Abu Ghreib), or the political gains from doing so. I would argue that Gitmo policies and procedures have been a significant self-inflicted wound for the US, although I recognize that the issue is an inherently difficult one.
  4. Because its the right thing to do. I actually think this is important.

I've noticed a tendency in many milblogs (not here) to treat IHL as an evil concoction by lawyers who are perversely seeking to prevent "us" from winning. Yet (military and civilian) international lawyers, diplomats, and technical experts involved in treaty negotiation are some of the smartest, best-informed people that I've ever known. Their IHL work involves trying to balance the considerations above, national interest, the compromises of diplomatic-legal coalition-building, and (to the extent they can) the "greater good" in a way that leaves us off better off than we were before--which, given the competing interests, complexity, and evil-doers involved, is no easy task.

There, having established my credentials as a defender of the indefensible (lawyers), I'll next defend the Air Force...

Last edited by Rex Brynen; 06-05-2008 at 09:44 PM. Reason: typos
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