Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A New Democracy under Bush

Imagine what could happen when a high Al Qaeda official gets arrested under the The Military Commissions Act of 2006, and the evidence against him is strong. He sues the government. The Supreme Court rules the law unconstitutonal, and the terrorist is freed with apologies for trampling on his rights. Will Americans even have to pay punitive damages to the man? Will we have to cover the expense for sending him back home to fight another day?

Passing a law that will assuredly be overturned by the Supreme Court-- if, that is the Supreme Court can legally review this "law"-- is endangering our security. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 meets all the criteria of vagueness and trampling of rights that the Supreme Court has invalidated in the past.

More frightening is the assertion in the "law" that no court can consider its legality. Bush and the Republicans are trying to redefine The Constitution of the United States.

In my last post I generously did not say that Bush would trample on the rights of others. I fear that I must have been overly generous in not naming him a potential abuser of human rights. His response in having the lawyer Lt. Commander Charles Swift forced into retirement, after his having any press member that criticizes him fired as he did to the coherts of Dan Rather, after his denunciation of anyone who dares criticize him as anti-American, I now believe the man to be a severely dangerous threat to American Democracy and to The Constitution of the United States. The Separation of Powers in our Constitution and the Freedom of Speech Americans once enjoyed are key factors in preserving Democracy. Bush tramples both. I do hope for the sake of all bloggers and editorialists that the The Military Commissions Act of 2006 doesn't become Bush's weapon to stop the criticism that he so abhors. He is potentially more scary than McCarthy ever was.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Horrors of Current Politics is Torture to Me, and Should be to Bush and all of Congress

We signed the Geneva Convention to protect our own soldiers from torture and to state to the world that Americans are not monstrous; that we believe in human rights.

Now we are fighting an enemy that does not agree with the rules of the Geneva Convention or with the tenents of human rights. What to do? What to do?

We do not abrogate the human and constitutional rights of our nation and its people just to fight this enemy. We do not place the powers of all three branches of our government in the hands of one president for all time. Did we learn nothing from the McCarthy Era? Did the lessons of Hitler's Gestapo and its tactics teach us nothing? Maybe Bushcan be trusted with such power, but no believer in strictly good/evil or God/Godless morality can be. Such power is an instrument for forcing one opinion onto the will and behavior of all others.

War itself is as monstrous as any torture. So war makes monsters of us anyway. There are no human rights in our treatment of an enemy on the battlefield--until they become prisoners. So let's get real. Sticking to the Geneva Convention while fighting against an enemy not tied into the pact does not protect our soldiers. I say, rewrite the Geneva Convention. When fighting an enemy that agrees with this pact, respect the rules of the Geneva Convention so that such an enemy will treat our soldiers--its prisoners of war--humanely.

When the other side of the conflict doesn't uphold the tenets of the Geneva Convention, then the rules are forfeited. After all, the enemy is already treating its prisoners--our brethren and soldiers--with torture and inhumanely. What better way to show them punishment than to fight back equally? What better way to convince them to enter into the same pact agreement as the Geneva Convention than to convince them that it would be to their benefit to do so?

Face facts. War is inhumane. Soldiers are monstrous in battle. Sugar-coating the issue with platitudes does not change the ugliness of war.

What must be protected is the nature of our monstrous selves. We do not rape and pillage. We do not treat the civilians and non-combatants with anthing but the respect and dignity of their human rights. We weep over collateral damage and try to prevent it as much as humanly possible.

But against the enemy we go as far towards evil as they do themselves. If they torture, so do we. If they maime, so do we. Otherwise, we will lose the war.

However, before torture, one must have evidence that the prisoner is actually a member of the enemy forces. A military tribunal is ok for judging the membership of the individual. A clear investigation into how and why the person is believed to be the enemy is necessary before the torture begins--not necessarily identification of an individual, but clear evidence of being one of the enemy. Circumstantial evidence is not enough for torture, only for detainment--temporarily--say duration the war itself or 2 years, whichever is feasible and shortest; or until evidence is presented that the person is not an enemy with the proviso that any such evidence must be immediately reviewed by a military panel which will simultaneously review the circumstantial evidence against the person, also. ANYONE deemed guiltless BY THE EVIDENCE will be released to the regional location of his choice.

Then torture for information of (1) the location of other enemy, (2) future attack plans, (3) information about how attacks can be stopped or prevented, and (4) locations of weapons caches. What other information would we need to know from anyone? Beyond that--confessions, etc., are not important. He is ENEMY. Nothing else matters. When the war is over, he will be repatriated. Once we discover what he knows about the necessary points, let him be (in his prison, with humane care). After all, we need not become total barbarians. We do not decapitate our prisoners just because the enemy does.

And what is so bad about using drugs in interrogation? Seems to me that whatever chemicals work as truth serum these days would be much more humane than torture. We have a duty to protect our people and those peoples under our protective wing. Let us use our modern arsenal of weapons--both psychological and physical.

What we must do is be certain that what we obtain with these techniques is truth. Duress is not the issue, but falsehood offered under the guise of truth under duress is not good. This factor of torture alone should make interrogators careful about how much harm and humiliation they bring to bear on a prisoner. True information must always be the goal, never punishment.

I believe that we Americans can maintain our beliefs in human rights and still be the monsters that fight wars. I believe that we must limit our monstrosities in times of war. I believe that the enemy has rights, but that the artificial dignities of the Geneva Convention were not set in place to protect the enemy. Rather, the Geneva Convention was put in place to protect our own soldiers who were captured by an enemy who is a member nation. When an enemy does not uphold the pact, then the pact is null and void against such an enemy, leaving only our own souls to protect.

What we are left with is a code of conduct that protects our own soldiers from a slide into barbarism and keeps them sane enough to return home as still civilized men with self-pride. The Geneva Convention was written and agreed upon to protect the men and the souls of the men that a nation sent to war. When such protections are not working, then the convention is not being upheld. The rules change. The combatants are left with only the protection of man's souls.

Today we fight a war in which only one side upholds the memes of the Geneva Convention. Today we must protect the souls, the humanity, of our soldiers. That is the sole value of rules against torture in the war against this enemy. Therefore I say, set rules for torture that we as Americans can live with. Call it what it is: torture. And go about our business.

Will we then be tried for war crimes by the UN? Is that the consequences of not sticking strictly to the Geneva Convention? Does the UN mean to apply the war crimes punishment to the enemy? We need to discuss a new interpretation of rules of war and responses to terrorism with the UN. We need to discuss whether the old rules are outdated. Or does anyone believe that we could convince the enemy nations to join the Geneva Convention? Would the insurgents? Will we accept a body of combatants that are not a nation to be a political entity worthy of joining?

Throwing away a meme is complicated. What would replace it? We must take care, for there will be complications.

Another thought: We do not need new rules for dealing with Americans or with legal aliens abiding in the US. If an American associates with terrorists or donates money to terrorists causes, try him for treason (a crime that can be redefined by lawmakers with punishments that can be redefined, too). If he is guilty, send him to jail. Legal aliens can simply be tried and deported. If the person is not found guilty, then he is simply practicing his rights of free speech and association that is part of our Constitutional Rights. DO NOT MESS WITH THE CONSTITUTION or the BILL OF RIGHTS.