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Should 9/11 Trials be heard in Civilian or Military Courts?





deanhills
What do you think, should the 9/11 Trials be heard in Civilian or Military Courts? Why civilian courts, as were the 9/11 attacks not terror attacks and acts of war against the people of the United States?

It would appear that Senator John McCain and five other Senators are urging the Administration to hold the trials by military commission instead. They made the demand in a letter sent Tuesday (26 Jan) to Attorney General Eric Holder:
Quote:
The senators wrote that a civilian court trial could compromise classified evidence and reveal sources and methods used by intelligence agencies. It also would risk the security of New Yorkers and place expensive and unnecessary new security burdens on the city and any others where trials of terrorist suspects are planned, the senators wrote.

News Report - The Hill
jwellsy
How about a military tribunal held in the white house.
liljp617
Another nation.
Bikerman
McCain is right, and doesn't it stink?
What he is saying is - we can't give them a fair trial because their defense lawyers will reveal exactly what we did.

The security argument is a pile of offensive garbage. Is the US really that spineless?
'It is a matter of national security' is the first cry of the repressive, the incompetent and the scared - whatever their politics. It is heard anytime a politician gets caught with coke up their nose, every time the government want to suppress an embarrassing document/report showing incompetence or corruption, whenever a hard and unpopular decision needs to be made and nobody wants to take it, whenever there is a chance of the public finding out something that 'they shouldn't'. It makes me sick.
We are used to that sort of nonsense here but I really thought that you Americans had a lot less of this rubbish.

Obviously they should be tried in a major US city, using civilian legal codes, with the best defence you can give them, and in a blaze of publicity. What else?

a) Do you really want Osama's merry face beaming through the airwaves, laughing himself silly at the scared little yanks?
b) Due process doesn't mean 'when we think it is safe' - it should be absolute (or as near to absolute as is humanly possible), otherwise it is just another weasel worded phrase meaning 'US citizens are entitled to x but we are special so it doesn't apply to YOU, because you are evil/dangerous/not to be trusted/scary/not one of us.'.
(Look at history and tremble whenever you see this sort of confused nationalism, incoherent, inconsistent, basically nonsensical though it is, it manages to still be offensive, and of course it is bottom-wipingly stupid drivel. Talk about archetypal hypocrisy? Is this really the country that went to export democracy to the middle-east?

c) The US has already lost the support of people much more moderate than me all over Europe. I should say of course that most of us manage to distinguish between the perception of a country through the media, its government, and the actual citizens who live there in hugely different states with the sort of scale and variation that make most generalisations both true and false in equal measure. The ones that cannot make that distinction probably don't like lots of people, so don't feel picked on Smile

Seriously though..
What is the best way of recruiting a suicide bomber?
i. Pick someone who has had close family killed or seriously injured by the 'enemy'
ii. Show them FACTS about the enemies behaviour which are pretty solid evidence of evil
iii. Stir in some powerful religion and wait....BANG!

The US and UK lost any moral high ground (with the Muslims, Arabs, Russians, Chinese, Indians and the rest of the world) soon after the invasion of Iraq. Dragging this sorry shameful matter out longer just means another generation will hate the US.

You younger citizens need to bear in mind that the country at the top of the heap only stays at the top for a while. The Romans managed nearly half a millennium. England managed a couple of centuries. The nature of the modern world is such that I think the US has possibly a couple of generations or so before it is overtaken - max. One day, before too long, a small man from China is going to remind you of the time you sold missiles to Taiwan, and you'll both laugh as old memories play themselves in the minds eye. Then the small man will say:
'ah well, got to go Ben, places to go and businesses to run. Just finish sweeping that floor before you lock up and leave, won't you Ben, and if you are lucky I might be able to manage paying you in Renminbi this month instead of dollars."
guggs
Don't bother with trials - just string 'em up now.
ocalhoun
guggs wrote:
Don't bother with trials - just string 'em up now.

Oh, how your attitude about that would change if you were falsely arrested on terrorism charges!

Where possible, they should be tried by civilian courts in the country where they committed the crime they were arrested for.

In the event that important evidence is classified, it will have to be held in a secure courtroom, and all people in the courtroom will need security clearances to match the classification level of the evidence.
This does not completely preclude a civilian trial, though it would take considerable time and effort to set up such a trial.
However, it is worth considerable effort to make sure the trials are held in the correct manner.
deanhills
jwellsy wrote:
How about a military tribunal held in the white house.
Laughing Laughing Laughing I like this one. I'm almost certain it will be very effective and very swift!

Seriously though, and apart from the Republicans' reasons, I'm thinking of the people in New York who had to work their way through great trauma. They probably will never forget it, but almost 9 years later they are getting on with their lives. And now all of it has to be re-opened like a can of worms in a civilian court where no doubt the media is going to pick through every peace of heart break and sensation, sentence by sentence, and take photographs of people in tears, reliving everything that had been buried in the past, and the whole drama being relived from scratch. For me it makes sense to have the trial somewhere without any cameras away from New York with as much speed as possible. It's the circus part of the hearings that is worrisome, and I wonder how much this would be contributing or detracting from justice? From a safety and security point of view it may also be good to keep the public and media away from the hearing, one never knows whether the hearings could become a target for terrorism and a good terror act usually loves the media.
Bikerman
If you are going to treat these people properly then a circus is part of the treatment, since that is how US justice operates if there is sufficient interest. I don't see why that should be a problem. Did anyone suggest holding the OJ trial in a military camp?
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
If you are going to treat these people properly then a circus is part of the treatment, since that is how US justice operates if there is sufficient interest. I don't see why that should be a problem. Did anyone suggest holding the OJ trial in a military camp?
I can't see a comparison between the trial of OJ and 9/11. When OJ was allegedly accused of murdering, the charges were specifically related to one person who got murdered and that was hardly a crime against the people of the United States. The 9/11 terror act was very much a crime against the people of the United States, and part of the crime was to shock as many people as possible and to get the media to pay maximum attention to it. So I would have thought a speedy trial with as little funfare as possible would minimize any further damage that has already been perpetrated by the 9/11 terror attacks. To allow it to re-open the events would be the equivalent of repeating the objective of the crime.
Bikerman
I wish you would keep to the same point for more than one posting.
Your previous point was that you feared the event would become a circus and this might prevent proper justice being done.
I would have thought that the OJ comparison spoke EXACTLY to that.
If you now want to change your point then fine, but it gets very confusing.
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
If you are going to treat these people properly then a circus is part of the treatment, since that is how US justice operates if there is sufficient interest. I don't see why that should be a problem. Did anyone suggest holding the OJ trial in a military camp?

The OJ trial did not potentially include classified evidence.

Suppose one accused terrorist was arrested partly based off of an informant in Afghanistan, and that this informant is still living happily (or at least as happily as possible) there.
During the trial, if the information from that informant is to be used as evidence, the identity of that informant will have to be revealed to everyone in the courtroom. If that courtroom includes the press, then his identity could be broadcast worldwide.
Having the fact that he turned in a terrorist be public knowledge would not be good for his health back in Afghanistan!

Situations like this, and a variety of other situations are why the the court proceedings may have to be (at least partly) classified, and all participants vetted for security clearance.
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
I wish you would keep to the same point for more than one posting.
Your previous point was that you feared the event would become a circus and this might prevent proper justice being done.
I would have thought that the OJ comparison spoke EXACTLY to that.
If you now want to change your point then fine, but it gets very confusing.
You are deliberately twisting my point of view. It was you who introduced the OJ trial to the discussion and suggested that the OJ trial could be held in a military camp. To suggest that the OJ trial be held in a military camp is completely rediculous. For me there is no comparison between the two trials and I gave my reasons for saying they are different.
liljp617
deanhills wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
I wish you would keep to the same point for more than one posting.
Your previous point was that you feared the event would become a circus and this might prevent proper justice being done.
I would have thought that the OJ comparison spoke EXACTLY to that.
If you now want to change your point then fine, but it gets very confusing.
You are deliberately twisting my point of view. It was you who introduced the OJ trial to the discussion and suggested that the OJ trial could be held in a military camp. To suggest that the OJ trial be held in a military camp is completely rediculous. For me there is no comparison between the two trials and I gave my reasons for saying they are different.


From my understanding, he didn't suggest the OJ trial be held in a military camp. He was commenting on people shying away from using civilian courts for the 9/11 detainees on the basis of it being a "circus" -- too much media and hype getting in the way. He made a comparison to the OJ trial, because it was a huge "circus" at the time. On the point of the OJ trial being a "circus," he posed a question on why the OJ trial wasn't removed from civilian courts for being too much of a "circus."

What he's saying is you can't shy away from civilian courts on the basis that it could turn into a "circus." There have been many cases in the past that involved huge media hype and all that nonsense, and nobody suggested they be removed from civilian courts, so why should this case be different?



*I have no intention of putting words in your mouth Bikerman, so certainly feel free to correct me or even edit this post if it's incorrect. It was just may interpretation of what you said and my attempt to possibly bring thoughts together for emphasis/clarity.*
Bikerman
No, you got the gist. To be honest I didn't anticipate anybody not doing, for the simple reason that it was bleedin obvious.

Point made : chance of media circus is a reason the trial shouldn't be held in public glare (alternative? Military seems the only one I can think of, unless you are going to shut a city down).
My response : the chance of a media circus didn't seem to apply in the OJ case (ie nobody suggested that he should be tried in secret, even though it was blatantly obvious that the trial would be huge and the potential social trouble after the jerdict could be catastrophic in several cities).

Now, why is that twisting your words Dean? Can you not see the argument being made?
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
If you are going to treat these people properly then a circus is part of the treatment, since that is how US justice operates if there is sufficient interest. I don't see why that should be a problem. Did anyone suggest holding the OJ trial in a military camp?

The OJ trial did not potentially include classified evidence.
Well, according to OJs team it did. Smile
Remember, that blood conspiracy?
Quote:
.....
Situations like this, and a variety of other situations are why the the court proceedings may have to be (at least partly) classified, and all participants vetted for security clearance.

Oh yes, but that is routine (at least here it is). We often have security evidence either delivered over a telecom link or submitted as affidavit with no release of details.
These are relatively minor procedural points I think...
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:

Quote:
.....
Situations like this, and a variety of other situations are why the the court proceedings may have to be (at least partly) classified, and all participants vetted for security clearance.

Oh yes, but that is routine (at least here it is). We often have security evidence either delivered over a telecom link or submitted as affidavit with no release of details.
These are relatively minor procedural points I think...

Minor procedural points, perhaps, but they are the only real (i.e. not political) obstacle I see to holding the trials in civilian courts of the country where they allegedly committed their crimes.
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Bikerman wrote:

Quote:
.....
Situations like this, and a variety of other situations are why the the court proceedings may have to be (at least partly) classified, and all participants vetted for security clearance.

Oh yes, but that is routine (at least here it is). We often have security evidence either delivered over a telecom link or submitted as affidavit with no release of details.
These are relatively minor procedural points I think...

Minor procedural points, perhaps, but they are the only real (i.e. not political) obstacle I see to holding the trials in civilian courts of the country where they allegedly committed their crimes.
I could not agree more. The only real obstacle, apart from this one, is the political will.
Moonspider
deanhills wrote:
What do you think, should the 9/11 Trials be heard in Civilian or Military Courts? Why civilian courts, as were the 9/11 attacks not terror attacks and acts of war against the people of the United States?

It would appear that Senator John McCain and five other Senators are urging the Administration to hold the trials by military commission instead. They made the demand in a letter sent Tuesday (26 Jan) to Attorney General Eric Holder:
Quote:
The senators wrote that a civilian court trial could compromise classified evidence and reveal sources and methods used by intelligence agencies. It also would risk the security of New Yorkers and place expensive and unnecessary new security burdens on the city and any others where trials of terrorist suspects are planned, the senators wrote.

News Report - The Hill


I argue that the trials should occur in a military court.

We are at war, not a “drug war” or “war on organized crime,” but a traditional, brutal, gut-busting, bloody, mother-loving war. Therefore, any combatants captured should be handled within the military justice system.

Suppose it is 1942 and German agents infiltrate the United States for the purpose of destroying industrial facilities. How would you have dealt with them? Arrest them and send them to a civilian court for trial? If you believe they should have been tried in a civilian court, then yes, combatants in this war should be tried in civilian courts as well. But if you believe captured German saboteurs in World War II should have been tried in the military justice system, then the same process should be afforded to captured combatants in this war today.

Many of you may realize I was baiting here, because German saboteurs were captured on U.S. soil in 1942, before they were able to carry out any of their missions. They were tried by military tribunal and the decision to do so was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Ex parte Quirin So a legal precedent exists to try enemy combatants by military tribunal.

For those familiar with the case, I am not going to argue that this was a shining example of American jurisprudence. However, I do believe wholeheartedly that enemy combatants have no constitutional right to a civil trial. Furthermore, I believe trying them in a civilian court sends the wrong message domestically and overseas. We are at war, and we should treat it as such. If all these people did was violate some laws, let’s pull all of our armed forces in this war home and send the FBI to Afghanistan, Africa, the Philippines, Yemen, UAE, Iraq…

Respectfully,
M
Bikerman
I disagree quite strongly.
Your example is bogus on several levels, in my opinion.
a) The Germans were on US soil - the 'enemies' in this case were not - they were snatched from foreign lands, in some cases almost certainly illegally.
b) The Germans were undoubtedly enemy combatants. The evidence that the people in Guantanamo are enemy combatants is slim to none. Now, of course, they say that they haven't presented their evidence (the Gov, that is) because of security implications. I don't believe that, but it is possible. It doesn't change a thing. The prisoners are SUPPOSEDLY innocent until proven guilty, which is a sick joke, considering that the US have locked them up without due process for years and years.
c) The notion that the US can snatch foreign citizens, imprison them for years and, that because the US says that they are enemies then they de-facto loose their human rights, is an obscene nonsense. Clouding the issue with talk of 'constitutional' rights does not help - the right to a fair trial is a fundamental human right, not a US constitutional privilege.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_a_fair_trial

Now, the US currently adopts a position which I think is both dangerous and legally bogus - that the detainees are not enemy combatants and are therefore not entitled to protection under international laws and treaties.
The reason for this, we are told, is because they do not conform to the 'laws of war'.
Well, here's the thing - I can make exactly the same argument against US troops.
    Fight only enemy combatants.
    Do not harm enemies who surrender; disarm them and turn them over to the chain of command.
    Do not kill or torture detainees.
    Do one’s best to prevent violations of the law of war.
    Report all violations of the law of war to superiors.
    Destroy no more than the mission requires.
    Treat all civilians humanely.
    Collect and care for the wounded, whether friend or foe.

Those are the US's OWN laws of war and every single one of them has been broken repeatedly in both Afghanistan and Iraq.. Therefore US troops have no right to be treated as enemy combatants and it is perfectly legal for Afghans, Iraqis or anyone else to do whatever they hell they like with captured US troops. Notice rule 1 in particular - 'enemy combatants'. So, are they or are they not? If they are then apply Geneva, Hague and the other conventions. If they are not then they are civilians and should be released immediately without ANY trial or hearing, or given the same trial as anyone else could expect.
deanhills
liljp617 wrote:
What he's saying is you can't shy away from civilian courts on the basis that it could turn into a "circus."
Thanks liljp617, I definitely understand it better now.
liljp617 wrote:
There have been many cases in the past that involved huge media hype and all that nonsense, and nobody suggested they be removed from civilian courts, so why should this case be different?
Because they are completely different trials. The one was an act of terror against the people of the United States collectively, the other one was a domestic dispute.

In addition to the "circus" point I made, I mentioned my concern about safety and security, as potentially a trial like this could be an ideal target for terrorists to get their point across. Like waving a red flag in front a bull. The whole point of the terror attacks were to grab the attention of the world in getting massive media response for it. That was part of the crime.
Moonspider wrote:
We are at war, not a “drug war” or “war on organized crime,” but a traditional, brutal, gut-busting, bloody, mother-loving war. Therefore, any combatants captured should be handled within the military justice system.
Are you sure the United States was at war when the terror attacks occurred? As far as I understand a declaration of war against terrorism only followed after the attacks?

For me it does not make a difference whether it is civilian or military trial, as long as it is done as swiftly as possible. Perhaps the people of New York should also have a say in where it is held? It would appear that a great number of New Yorkers want the trial to be held as far away from New York as possible, and there are a number who favour a military trial as well. Some fear that a drawn out civilian trial may create martyrs out of the perpetrators.
Bikerman
Why not simply wave a white flag then?
Seriously, if you are going to abandon fundamental principles of democratic society - such as the right to a fair trial - just because you are scared of terrorists, then the terrorists have already won. That 'level of damage' is incalculable - it effectively renders several hundred years of political progress redundant overnight.
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
Seriously, if you are going to abandon fundamental principles of democratic society - such as the right to a fair trial -
Who said the terrorists should not get a "fair" trial? As far as I can see the debate is whether it should be a military or civilian trial. Problem is that there is nothing simple about the trial, it is very complicated. Terrorism is a real threat, and the trial needs to be considered against the threat of terrorism. You can't just dismiss terrorism as something imaginary based on fearfulness.

This is the type of discussion going on with real issues in it:
Quote:
The mayor is not the only one pondering a military base as the place for a trial. Leaders of Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan also want the government to study the feasibility of holding the trial elsewhere within the Southern District of New York.

On Tuesday evening, the group’s full board voted 42-to-0 to ask Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to consider a list of alternative sites. They include the Unites States Military Academy at West Point, the National Guard base at Stewart International Airport near Newburgh and a federal prison in Otisville.

The Southern District of the federal court system covers Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester and five other downstate counties.

Julie Menin, chairwoman of Community Board 1, said she wanted the federal government to seriously study the costs, security implications and the overall impact to the communities in each of those areas, to “start a dialogue” about moving the trial out of Lower Manhattan.

“We are looking at military installations because they provide a political compromise between those who favor a less public setting, i.e., a military tribunal and those who favor a federal court trial, so what we are recommending is that a federal judge would preside in one of these military settings,” Ms. Menin said on Wednesday. “I’m trying to think outside-the-box solutions that are still jurisdictionally within the Southern District and may provide additional security if they are on a military installation.”

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/a-growing-cry-to-move-a-terror-trial/
Bikerman
deanhills wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Seriously, if you are going to abandon fundamental principles of democratic society - such as the right to a fair trial -
Who said the terrorists should not get a "fair" trial? As far as I can see the debate is whether it should be a military or civilian trial.
Exactly. Military trials are for military personnel. If these people are military then why have they been refused the Geneva Convention, the Hague Agreement, and a host of other international treaty provisions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war?
If they are not military then, by definition, a fair trial is a civilian trial under the normal articles and statutes of jurisprudence.
Quote:
Problem is that there is nothing simple about the trial, it is very complicated. Terrorism is a real threat, and the trial needs to be considered against the threat of terrorism. You can't just dismiss terrorism as something imaginary based on fearfulness.
What a pathetic statement. How DARE you lecture me on terrorism, and to imply that I would dismiss it as imaginary is beneath contempt.

As I said previously you simply wave a white flag to the terrorists and tell them they have succeeded in making you what they say you are.
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:

Quote:
Problem is that there is nothing simple about the trial, it is very complicated. Terrorism is a real threat, and the trial needs to be considered against the threat of terrorism. You can't just dismiss terrorism as something imaginary based on fearfulness.
What a pathetic statement. How DARE you lecture me on terrorism, and to imply that I would dismiss it as imaginary is beneath contempt.
Perhaps because of your statement below, particularly the bolded portion:
Bikerman wrote:
Why not simply wave a white flag then?
Seriously, if you are going to abandon fundamental principles of democratic society - such as the right to a fair trial - just because you are scared of terrorists, then the terrorists have already won. That 'level of damage' is incalculable - it effectively renders several hundred years of political progress redundant overnight.
The bolded portion gave me the impression that you thought that we should not be scared of terrorism.
Bikerman
And how do you equate that with terrorists being 'imaginary'?
The answer is that you can't...it's just not possible. How could imaginary terrorists win?

Why do I have to explain every little thing twice or three times?

Being unafraid is entirely rational. Statistically you are hundreds of times more likely to die in a car crash than be killed by a terrorist. It is also rational in that the alternative is irrational. The purpose of terrorism is, as the name says, terror. Forcing you to change plans, out of what is essentially fear, simply gives power to your enemy - not rational.

And please don't lecture me on terrorism. I've not been blown up but I know two people who have - 1 in the IRA Warrington bomb and 1 in the Manchester bombing. I know what terrorism is.
ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:

And please don't lecture me on terrorism. I've not been blown up but I know two people who have - 1 in the IRA Warrington bomb and 1 in the Manchester bombing. I know what terrorism is.


Rolling Eyes

...That's a little below your usual high standard...
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Bikerman wrote:

And please don't lecture me on terrorism. I've not been blown up but I know two people who have - 1 in the IRA Warrington bomb and 1 in the Manchester bombing. I know what terrorism is.


Rolling Eyes

...That's a little below your usual high standard...

It is indeed - I was quite angry when I wrote that. The point I was trying to convey is that lectures on terrorism are not needed by those who live in the UK (or in Europe for that matter) because we are well aware of what it is and how it works, and many of us have first hand experience. A good friend of mine was badly injured in the Warrington bombings and I knew Tim Parry (one of the two lads killed in the blast).
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
Being unafraid is entirely rational. Statistically you are hundreds of times more likely to die in a car crash than be killed by a terrorist.
Being afraid is also rational especially vis a vis terrorism. Terror attacks may not happen as regularly as car crashes, but they do much greater harm (taking 9/11 as a good example, as well as the Mumbai bombings). Being fearful is not a negative rational thought either. Fear helps to protect us. In the case of terrorism it helps us stay focussed on using every effort to protect ourselves from terrorist attacks. I'm almost certain that those people in New York who had to live through 9/11 would underline fear as something healthy as well as rational to have versus any considerations with regard to terrorism and terrorist trials.
Bikerman
Wrong. It is entirely irrational.
Calculate how many US citizens have been killed by terrorists. Calculate the potential odds based on that. You end up with a risk so insignificant that you can barely actually fit the number of zeros on the calculator.
EVEN if you imagine terrorists blowing up 1 US plane per week, killing everyone on board - in fact make it a fully loaded 747 -the risk is STILL insignificant with regard to other risks.
If you doubt it then ask the most hard-headed risk calculators in the word - the bookies. Go to your local betting shop and see what odds they will give you on being killed by terrorist actions.

Alternatively do some simple sums.
Worst year - 2001. Deaths 3100.
Rank this on the available indices and you get the same ranking as for death by infectious diahorrea. Now, do you lie awake worried about crapping yourself to death? Personally I don't and I'd be a little worried about anyone who did because it would be IRRATIONAL!
http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/lists/deaths.htm
Quote:
Fear helps to protect us. In the case of terrorism it helps us stay focussed on using every effort to protect ourselves from terrorist attacks.

Absolute nonsense. Fear forces irrational decision making which not only doesn't protect you but also encourages more attacks. Fear is an old instinct meant for the 'flight or fight' situations. This is not such a situation. What is needed here is a rational considered response, not a knee-jerk based on fear.
Fear doesn't save lives generally - rather the opposite. Fear turns rational people into mindless beasts.
jmi256
Bikerman wrote:
Wrong. It is entirely irrational.
Calculate how many US citizens have been killed by terrorists. Calculate the potential odds based on that. You end up with a risk so insignificant that you can barely actually fit the number of zeros on the calculator.
EVEN if you imagine terrorists blowing up 1 US plane per week, killing everyone on board - in fact make it a fully loaded 747 -the risk is STILL insignificant with regard to other risks.
Quote:
Fear helps to protect us. In the case of terrorism it helps us stay focussed on using every effort to protect ourselves from terrorist attacks.

Absolute nonsense. Fear forces irrational decision making which not only doesn't protect you but also encourages more attacks.


I have to disagree. While I hate the idea of making decisions based on fear, fear itself can be very rational. For example it is rational fear that keeps a petite woman from walking into a dark alley at 3 am in a seedy part of town by herself. Sometimes actions taken based on that fear, however, may be seen as not entirely rational by some. If you are using your logic above, Bikerman, to decide what initiatives and 'threats' to tackle, then what does that have to say about other liberal pet projects, such as the idea of Manmade Global Warming? Taking into account the world's population, what are someone's potential odds of getting struck and killed by a glacier that was allegedly caused by manmade global warming? Or someone's chances of getting eaten by a polar bear that has lost its ice sheet? I'm sure you'll need a much, much larger calculator to fit all those zeros. Yet, why the push to force everyone to pay more takes, go without needed resources and stifle economic growth in the light of these infinitesimal chances? Now, I understand this example hold deep flaws and I’m not trying to mix apples and oranges with themes from different threads, but I just put it out there just to show the hole in the logic.

My take on the whole civilian vs. military trial thing is somewhat complicated, or at least it seems complicated in application. From a principled standpoint, I agree that if they are US citizens or on US soil, and not designated as military personnel (or in the employ of a foreign government), they should be tried in ‘civilian’ court. If they designated as military personnel (or in the employ of a foreign government), they should be tried in military court, regardless of whether they are US citizens or on US soil. The fly in the ointment, however, is who gets designated as “military personnel”? In the days when you had clear-cut, state-on-state ‘warfare,’ it was simple. But with the rise of state-sponsored organizations, quasi-state organizations, multi-national organizations and non-national organizations, all with military objectives (and terrorism is a military objective), this distinction becomes harder.

For his part, Bush did the right thing, legally, in going to the Department of Justice to get an independent legal opinion on what constitutes ‘military personnel.’ Hence, the ‘enemy combatant’ designation. Whether everyone agrees with that opinion is up for debate, but the opinion was tendered. Bush then used that opinion to separate those who should receive military trials from civilian. The fact that those military trials didn’t take place is another story, and I don’t agree with the notion that holding trials would somehow cause a loss of national security. Every day trial are held that are closed to the public and their transcripts are sealed to avoid the disclosure of sensitive information or intelligence. As a conservative, I think it’s horrible that my own government is holding [i]anyone[i] in custody without clear charges being lodged or a trial. It is offensive. In fact, I think that individual rights should supersede any ‘national interests.’ If the state doesn’t want to present evidence because it feels that evidence is too sensitive, it has the right to hold back that evidence. They have made a choice that the value of keeping the evidence secret is greater than trying someone, and that person should be released.* But the answer isn’t to deny someone his rights to a trial. That’s just not fair nor right.

Obama on the other hand, has made what seems to be a knee-jerk, politically motivated decision to ignore the legal opinion tended by the DOJ rather than confronting the real issue of “who gets designated as military personnel,” which is what really needs to be settled. I don’t see the issue of multi-national, non-national, etc. organizations going away, so if Obama wants to attempt to change that, he should. I don’t recall what the term is, but here in the US we have the idea that legal opinions, laws, enforcement, etc. don’t change from administration to administration, but the succeeding administration does have the right to challenge policies put in place by the preceding administration. That’s why Executive Orders do not ‘expire’ but are either replaced or repealed through new Executive Orders. It seems to me, however, that Obama wants it both ways. He wants to ignore (or at least provide the illusion of ignoring) previous legally binding orders without the political headache of making a clear stand. Perhaps Holder and the DOJ have provided an official differing opinion, but I just missed it.

On the topic of the trial venue, as someone living in New York, I can tell you that we definitely don’t want the trials here. Not to get all “New York,” but 9/11 has left a deep scar on this city, and New Yorkers have no appetite to attract any more attention or present any more of a target, as ‘irrational’ as that may seem. I’m sorry to hear about your friends, Bikerman, and I’m sure it was horrible and has left you at least aware of the threats around you. Here in New York we live like that every day, and any time there is an explosion, a crane falls, a terror plot gets exposed and the actors get arrested, military planes decide to do a photo-op flyby, etc., it sends a chill through the city. (You’d be surprised how often these things tend to happen!) Maybe Obama thinks having the trials here would somehow be cathartic for the city, but that just shows how out of touch he is with normal citizens. I doubt many here would share his sentiment, and I don’t think many other cities would be willing to paint that target on their back.

*I have a whole other opinion on what should happen to someone once they are released, but I think I have written enough for one post and don’t want to go off subject any further.
Bikerman
jmi256 wrote:
I have to disagree. While I hate the idea of making decisions based on fear, fear itself can be very rational.
Debatable. What is not debatable is that fear from dying through terrorism is irrational.
Quote:
For example it is rational fear that keeps a petite woman from walking into a dark alley at 3 am in a seedy part of town by herself.
Nonsense. It is a proper consideration of the risks of doing so - which are pretty high. You don't need to be scared to make that choice, and I suspect that most women who do so are not. It is entirely rational.
Quote:
Sometimes actions taken based on that fear, however, may be seen as not entirely rational by some. If you are using your logic above, Bikerman, to decide what initiatives and 'threats' to tackle, then what does that have to say about other liberal pet projects, such as the idea of Manmade Global Warming?
I don't understand the link. AGW is a fact - it doesn't scare me. An irrational response based on fear would be wrong. A rational response based on analysis of likely and worst case scenarios is what is needed.
jmi256
Bikerman wrote:
jmi256 wrote:
I have to disagree. While I hate the idea of making decisions based on fear, fear itself can be very rational.
Debatable. What is not debatable is that fear from dying through terrorism is irrational.

OK, I’m glad we liberals around to tell us what is debatable and what isn’t. So I’ll have to say that I disagree with you.


Bikerman wrote:
jmi256 wrote:
For example it is rational fear that keeps a petite woman from walking into a dark alley at 3 am in a seedy part of town by herself.

Nonsense. It is a proper consideration of the risks of doing so - which are pretty high. You don't need to be scared to make that choice, and I suspect that most women who do so are not. It is entirely rational.

What’s nonsense? That fear doesn’t keep that woman from walking into a dark alley at 3 am in a seedy part of town by herself? Sorry, again I disagree. I used this example to make a point, but fear doesn’t have to be pissing-your-pants, knee-knocking terror, but can include a concern for oneself and avoidance of ‘bad’ situations. Maybe we’re saying the same thing?


Bikerman wrote:
jmi256 wrote:
Sometimes actions taken based on that fear, however, may be seen as not entirely rational by some. If you are using your logic above, Bikerman, to decide what initiatives and 'threats' to tackle, then what does that have to say about other liberal pet projects, such as the idea of Manmade Global Warming?

I don't understand the link. AGW is a fact - it doesn't scare me. An irrational response based on fear would be wrong. A rational response based on analysis of likely and worst case scenarios is what is needed.

I’m glad it doesn’t scare you. The notion of manmade global warming doesn’t scare me either. Neither do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and unicorns. But again, I was trying to make a point. If Manmade Global Warming isn’t a concern or isn’t ‘scary’ why all the fear tactics? How many articles have we all seen that claim wars will break out, cities will be swallowed up, everyone will die, etc.? If liberals really aren’t concerned, why all the hysterics? I agree with you that a rational analysis is need. If the Earth is undergoing changes as it always has, and those changes present challenges, let’s prepare for those challenges. But the belief that if we stop providing for each other and our families through economic production, and if we all drive Priuses and build more windmills we are going to somehow stop global and perhaps solar forces is comedic. The satire almost writes itself.
Bikerman
The confusion is because of inexact use of words. I am reluctant to intervene on such matters in this forum because such issues are secondary most of the time (unlike the phil/relig forum for example). Here we have a problem with what we mean by fear, action and rationality.
Briefly:
an individual can be scared of all sorts of things, and those fears may themselves be rational or irrational. Thus a fear of spiders is pretty irrational unless you happen to live in a region where there is at least a chance of being bitten by one (such as Australia). Most, if not all of us have some irrational fears. No problem there - that is part of being human. The fear may also be rational. A fear of putting your hand in a fire is pretty rational.
Then we get into organisations and rationality, and it gets more complex. It is rational for a politician to vote a certain way, even if that vote is for something irrational, if his constituents want him to vote that way. The politician is, to at least some extent, a representative. That in itself is a good reason for combating irrationality when you encounter it.

The issue, however, is not how we feel but how we act. We can choose to let our fears dictate our actions - which is ALWAYS irrational, regardless of whether our fears themselves are irrational. Alternatively we can look at the evidence and decide - which is almost a definition of rationality.
We may find that our fear is such that we cannot behave rationally. I don't criticise that - I'm sure I do it myself. What I DO say is that we should call it what it is, and not try to pretend that it is logical, because it isn't.

As for AGW, I don't agree with much you say. Firstly I don't think it is natural* change, in fact I'm pretty certain it isn't. Secondly I don't agree that there is nothing we can do - reduce CO2 emissions and we get back to a normal ice-age-interglacial which gives us thousands of years to address the issues. The notion that this necessitates the end of civilised life as we know it is a nonsense, but the notion that continuing emissions will lead to nothing that we can't handle is, I think, equally nonsense.

* I dislike that word because to me it is meaningless. I use it here in the sense that most people understand it - ie that which would or could happen without the influence of humans
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
Calculate the potential odds based on that. You end up with a risk so insignificant that you can barely actually fit the number of zeros on the calculator.
EVEN if you imagine terrorists blowing up 1 US plane per week, killing everyone on board - in fact make it a fully loaded 747 -the risk is STILL insignificant with regard to other risks.
If you doubt it then ask the most hard-headed risk calculators in the word - the bookies. Go to your local betting shop and see what odds they will give you on being killed by terrorist actions.
Well I'm sure the people of New York would choose to differ with you on this one, so do I. What happened in the United States in September 2001 was an act of war against the people of the United States, and since then the Government and the people of the United States have gone full out to ensure that those guys don't repeat this. They took the war to Afghanistan to engage the terrorists on their own turf and at their roots in an attempt to gather enough intelligence "first hand" and be closer at the source to ensure there is no repeat. If terrorism has not happened that often after the September 11 terror attacks, it has to be a credit to the efforts that have been employed for it not to happen again. There is an enormous investment in ensuring that it never happens again. Similar to the investment in nuclear defense to ensure that there won't be a nuclear war. All of that is based on a very healthy and rational fear of the likelihood that it can happen.

The fact that we do not have a nuclear war that often is that people are focussed on preventing nuclear war. I doubt one could use your analogy of the fear being irrational because nuclear wars don't happen that often and one is more liable to die in a motor car accident than in a nuclear war. Sounds as irrational as your analogy of lack of more regular occurences of death by terrorism being reason to regard fear of terrorism as irrational.

To have a fear of terrorism is healthy and rational and is at the root of terrorism not having happened more frequently by using preventive measures that are taken based on the rational fear of terror attacks. By having the trials without thinking very carefully about the security risk of terrorism would be shortsighted in my opinion.
Bikerman
deanhills wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Calculate the potential odds based on that. You end up with a risk so insignificant that you can barely actually fit the number of zeros on the calculator.
EVEN if you imagine terrorists blowing up 1 US plane per week, killing everyone on board - in fact make it a fully loaded 747 -the risk is STILL insignificant with regard to other risks.
If you doubt it then ask the most hard-headed risk calculators in the word - the bookies. Go to your local betting shop and see what odds they will give you on being killed by terrorist actions.
Well I'm sure the people of New York would choose to differ with you on this one, so do I.
If you choose to differ on statistics then you are wrong. No ifs or buts - plain wrong.
The risk of being killed by a terrorist action is so low, for the average US citizen, that it is negligible.
The reaction of the US post 9.11 hasn't made people safer - anyone who thinks that hasn't been paying attention. The US went into Afghanistan to get Osama. Where is he? All that has been achieved is replacing an Islamic Taliban government with a corrupt western-backed government, and the radicalisation of Muslims around the world. Next stop Iraq. Instead of committing proper numbers of troops to Afghanistan and doing the job properly, Bush goes after Saddam, who had nothing at all to do with 9.11 and ran the least Islamic country in the region.
DUMB!
Playing on fear.
If Americans had been given proper information, instead of Bush playing up non-existent links with Al-Queda, then it is reasonable to suppose that political support for the invasion of Iraq would have been much reduced. Here in the UK we are now starting to get details from the latest enquiry into that war. We have it confirmed that Blair had decided to go to war, regardless of WMD, but needed to sell it. WMD was used here to generate the fear. 45 minutes from doom, ran the headlines, after No.10 briefed that Saddam could launch WMD in 45 mins.
All designed to play on those irrational fears that you think are so healthy.

You point about nuclear war is all over the place. Of course it is rational to be afraid of nuclear war.
So follow the logic. I've already said that we all have fears - rational or irrational. In this case the fear is rational. What is IRRATIONAL is to let that fear dictate your actions.
Let's see why.
Fear = nuclear war
Action dictated by fear = remove/decrease the possibility of nuclear war at all costs
Conclusion = immediately surrender all nuclear weapons. Opponent will not do this, but by doing so unilaterally the threat is averted (or radically diminished).

The idea that possessing nuclear weapons is safer than not possessing them is dependant on mutually assured destruction which is another way of saying 'live with the fear'. It essentially says that there are wider considerations, and fear of nuclear war is only one factor. Now we are being rational. Shame really, I might prefer the irrational action.
deanhills
[quote="Bikerman"][quote="deanhills"]
Bikerman wrote:
Calculate the potential odds based on that. You end up with a risk so insignificant that you can barely actually fit the number of zeros on the calculator.

Possibly you did not read my posting thoroughly. I was trying to let you know that part of the reason for less terror attack stats is that much greater effort is employed to prevent terrorism, than car accidents. So statistically it would be more likely that you would be in a car accident than in a terrorism attack. Car accidents are accidents, terrorism attacks are acts of war and terror. Would appear that the US Government is doing all it can to keep the US safe, based on rational fear of a repeate of September 11 and other terror attacks around the world.

I cannot understand how you would rate a nuclear attack as a rational fear and terrorism attack as irrational fear. How would they be different for you? The terror attacks in New York, Nairobi and Mumbai were very real and sent shivers through everyone, particularly the September 11 terror attacks in the United States. Are you then saying that all the billions of dollars that have been invested in preventing terrorism attacks have been wasted as the decisions leading to anti-terrorism measures have been based on irrational fear?
Bikerman
[quote="deanhills"][quote="Bikerman"]
deanhills wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Calculate the potential odds based on that. You end up with a risk so insignificant that you can barely actually fit the number of zeros on the calculator.

Possibly you did not read my posting thoroughly. I was trying to let you know that part of the reason for less terror attack stats is that much greater effort is employed to prevent terrorism, than car accidents.
Let me know? Ahh...so it is a fact then?
Of course it isn't, it is just another Deanhills assertion.
a) The notion that effort must produce results is a logical nonsense.
b) Is the reason Albania has had no terrorist attacks down to the Government spending and planning? Of course not. The US has HAD to increase security in response to the increased threat of terrorism precisely because of its reaction to 9/11. The US spent about 50 billion on homeland security last year - do you think that the US is safer now than in 2000? I think not.
Quote:
So statistically it would be more likely that you would be in a car accident than in a terrorism attack. Car accidents are accidents, terrorism attacks are acts of war and terror. Would appear that the US Government is doing all it can to keep the US safe, based on rational fear of a repeate of September 11 and other terror attacks around the world.
There is a difference between government and individuals. Individual fear of terrorism is irrational, as is individual fear of nuclear war, since neither is remotely likely to happen to the individual as things currently stand. It is perfectly rational for a government to worry about both, since the government is responsible for the whole population/territory and then the chance therefore is much greater, certainly in the case of terrorism.
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
is a difference between government and individuals. Individual fear of terrorism is irrational, as is individual fear of nuclear war, since neither is remotely likely to happen to the individual as things currently stand. It is perfectly rational for a government to worry about both, since the government is responsible for the whole population/territory and then the chance therefore is much greater, certainly in the case of terrorism.
This to me is a litte bizarre. I thought the Government was respresentative of the sum total of individuals, so if the inviduals's fear in your opinion would be irrational, then by implication Government fear would also be irrational. So are you basically saying that the individuals in typical target cities like New York have nothing to fear, but the Government has? I thought most of the people who were killed during September 11 were individuals, not Government?
Bikerman
deanhills wrote:
This to me is a litte bizarre. I thought the Government was respresentative of the sum total of individuals, so if the inviduals's fear in your opinion would be irrational, then by implication Government fear would also be irrational. So are you basically saying that the individuals in typical target cities like New York have nothing to fear, but the Government has? I thought most of the people who were killed during September 11 were individuals, not Government?

*sigh* why I am wasting time explaining the bleedin' obvious I don't quite know...
Q. What is the chance of a terrorist attack killing a named individual in the US?
A. So small that it is difficult to even represent
Q. What is the chance of a terrorist attack on the US?
A. Pretty good
Q. Is it rational for an individual to fear death by terrorism?
A. No. There are thousands of ways to die which are FAR more likely. Fearing death by something with such a remote chance is as rational as fearing death by crapping oneself.
Q. Is it rational for a government to fear a terrorist attack?
A. Certainly - it would be negligent not to so do.

Do you understand now?
If you don't then I can't explain it any more simply - even my nephew gets it, and he is 6.
deanhills
Bikerman wrote:
deanhills wrote:
This to me is a litte bizarre. I thought the Government was respresentative of the sum total of individuals, so if the inviduals's fear in your opinion would be irrational, then by implication Government fear would also be irrational. So are you basically saying that the individuals in typical target cities like New York have nothing to fear, but the Government has? I thought most of the people who were killed during September 11 were individuals, not Government?

*sigh* why I am wasting time explaining the bleedin' obvious I don't quite know...
Q. What is the chance of a terrorist attack killing a named individual in the US?
A. So small that it is difficult to even represent
Q. What is the chance of a terrorist attack on the US?
A. Pretty good
Q. Is it rational for an individual to fear death by terrorism?
A. No. There are thousands of ways to die which are FAR more likely. Fearing death by something with such a remote chance is as rational as fearing death by crapping oneself.
Q. Is it rational for a government to fear a terrorist attack?
A. Certainly - it would be negligent not to so do.

Do you understand now?
If you don't then I can't explain it any more simply - even my nephew gets it, and he is 6.

Now now Bikerman, no need to be sarcastic and condescending. I understand your reasoning perfectly, but I don't agree with your point of view. Your above explanation is not new from the previous ones you have already made, so for me to reply to it will be a reciprocal duplication. Since we cannot agree, I would respectfully suggest that we agree that we have different opinions on the matter.
Bikerman
If you understood my point then why did you post that nonsense about Government?
Quote:
I thought the Government was respresentative of the sum total of individuals

What does that even mean?
How can a Government represent 'the sum total'? It is a nonsense. Do you think Obama represents all Americans? Of course he doesn't and nor could or should he try to.
The only system of governance that could hope to 'represent the sum total' would be pure Athenian democracy (ie everybody votes on everything), which is not yet possible. The notion that western democratic governments 'represent the sum total' is so naive and so....well...ignorant is possibly the kindest word.
jmi256
Bikerman wrote:
If you don't then I can't explain it any more simply - even my nephew gets it, and he is 6.

If the only one who can "get it" is someone with the mental capacity and maturity of a six-year-old, doesn't that tell you something about the effectiveness of your argument? (Please note: I'm saying this tongue in cheek.)

But seriously, I agree with DH in that the issue appears not to be no one 'understanding' your argument, but rather that some just don't agree (which should be ok, right?). I think DH's "sum" comment refers to the idea that government should represent the will of its constituents. Government itself shouldn’t have an agenda or point of view of its own other than what its citizens tell it. So in the terrorism example, if the government is concerned with terrorism, it is because its citizens say they are concerned with it. It may be silly to you because the mathematical probability is low, but no one lives their lives by mathematical probabilities. That would be just, well stupid, boring and/or impossible. The probability of a child drowning in a pool is higher than that same child dying by a handgun. But I don’t see anyone working to outlaw pools as they have handguns, which would be the logical conclusion to your argument that probability should dictate actions.

Of course the representative issue doesn't mean that every single voice is 'heard,' nor that everyone gets to vote on every single issue, but rather that we elect representatives who we believe represent our point of view. The Obama example you bring up is interesting because I genuinely believe that many of his voters thought they were voting for X and are horrified that they got Y. Hence the low approval ratings and high dissatisfaction.
Bikerman
Well, where do I start with that one...
OK,
a) The notion that a government should represent the 'constituents' without an agenda, is not just incredibly naive, it is dangerously un-American.
Look - I could attack this in two ways. I could give you a forensic account, detailing that the intent of the Founding fathers was almost diametrically opposite to what you are suggesting. The whole idea of the US system of government is to protect the elite and stop the masses getting too restless. The main reason that you have a representative democracy is because they were scared to death of 'mob rule'. It was clear to them that Governance was the province of serious, white, educated men. Real democracy was a dangerous, radical idea that could not possibly be allowed, since it opened up the possibility that the great uneducated masses could decide to do away with the somber, educated men of vision that they obviously were.
That would take a page or two to develop into a proper thesis, but I think I could put a good argument.

The other approach is more 'up to date'.
If you think that politicians should just be a blank slate onto which the voters write their preferences, and send off to Washington so that the slate can be read back in Congress/Senate, well, the first question would be - which 'preference'? Most constituencies will have people of diametrically opposed opinions on many things. Trying to compromise will simply lead to inaction, or worse, totally stupid law based on the median position of the electorate. Half want Z and half want A so I'll give them M because it's nicely in the middle. Recipe for disaster.

Take health care. The nation seems pretty split on this. The 'blank slate' would have to try to reconcile the 40-odd percent on the one side, with the 30-odd on the other and the 30% or so who don't know or don't care. How can you do that? Well a really bad way would be to just halve the difference on everything where there are two strong camps. That's what the 'blank slate' representative MUST do. The conviction politician, however, will do what he/she thinks is correct and will say - "look, you knew what I stood for and a large enough minority voted for me, so I'm doing what I said I would, and if you don't like it then don't vote for me next time".
That is how your (and our) governmental system is designed to function.

But it is worse - not only does the 'blank slate' pass bad compromise laws, the politicians have now handed power completely over to the media and advertising industry. If the politicians must strive to represent their constituents, then the media and advertising agencies are in their element. They are already expert in manipulating public opinion in the short term, now you have made them judge and jury because who but the media 'reports' public opinion? So the media now drive public opinion, and then they go to the politician and say - 52% of your constituents agree with X therefore X it must be.
Very dangerous.

Now, don't mistake me - I would love to see true democracy, or as close as we can go. But the system would need a complete top to bottom change to allow it.
jmi256
Bikerman wrote:
Well, where do I start with that one...
OK,
a) The notion that a government should represent the 'constituents' without an agenda, is not just incredibly naive, it is dangerously un-American.
Look - I could attack this in two ways. I could give you a forensic account, detailing that the intent of the Founding fathers was almost diametrically opposite to what you are suggesting. The whole idea of the US system of government is to protect the elite and stop the masses getting too restless. The main reason that you have a representative democracy is because they were scared to death of 'mob rule'. It was clear to them that Governance was the province of serious, white, educated men. Real democracy was a dangerous, radical idea that could not possibly be allowed, since it opened up the possibility that the great uneducated masses could decide to do away with the somber, educated men of vision that they obviously were.
That would take a page or two to develop into a proper argument, but I think I could put a good argument.

The other approach is more up to date. If you think that politicians should just be a blank slate onto which the voters write their preferences and send off to Washington so that the slate can be read back in congress, well, the first question would be - which 'preference'? Most constituencies will have people of diametrically opposed opinions on many things. Trying to compromise will simply lead to inaction, or worse, totally stupid law based on the median position of the electorate.
Take health care. The nation seems pretty split on this. The 'blank slate' would have to try to reconcile the 40-odd percent on the one side, with the 30-odd on the other and the 30% or so who don't know or don't care. How can you do that? Well a really bad way would be to just halve the difference on everything where there are two strong camps. That's what the 'blank slate' representative MUST do. The conviction politician, however, will do what he/she thinks is correct and will say - look, you knew what I stood for and a large enough minority voted for me, so I'm doing what I said I would, and if you don't like it then don't vote for me next time.
But it is worse - not only does the 'slate' pass no laws or bad compromises, the politicians have now handed power completely over to the media and advertising industry. If the politicians must strive to represent their constituents, then the media and advertising agencies are in their element. They are already expert in manipulating public opinion in the short term, now you have made them judge and jury because who but the media 'reports' public opinion? So the media now drive public opinion, and then they go to the politician and say - 52% of your constituents agree with X therefore X it must be.
Very dangerous.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree/understand with most of what you are saying above, but was just trying to convey my understanding of DH’s comment. My problem with a government/state with an agenda that differs from its citizens wishes is that it opens the door for oppression. If you look at the rise of oppressive, authoritarian states, you see that they usually come about by claiming to ‘help’ their citizens and that its citizens didn’t understand/know what was best for them. They used these arguments to enlarge the role of their governments to the point where the state control most aspects of its citizens’ lives.

Bikerman wrote:
Now, don't mistake me - I would love to see true democracy, or as close as we can go. But the system would need a complete top to bottom change to allow it.

We already have a model for that in the US Constitution. It clearly delineates what roles and rights its citizens have delegated to the federal government, but over time liberals and progressives (and yes sometimes those who called themselves conservatives) have twisted the federal government so that it intervenes in many aspects of its citizens’ lives that the Founding Fathers never intended it to, and for good reason. The entire healthcare debate is a prime example. One important point that liberals do not defend (and I think conservatives fail to make strongly) is whether it is the proper role for the federal government. I have read the US Constitution several times, and I cannot find a single place where the federal government has been give the right to interfere in our healthcare. The “general welfare” argument fails to hold water because after that sentence the roles of the federal government to promote “the general welfare” are clearly listed.
Bikerman
Anyway...this has gone seriously off-topic.
The question was whether the trial should be in the civilian courts.
My position remains that of course it should. The only counter argument to date seems to be that the threat of terrorist action justifies a military court or a secret trial.
That argument explicitly asserts that the prisoners have no right to a fair trial. That, in turn, simply re-enforces the existing abuse of human rights that Guantanamo represents, and makes it clear to the rest of the world that the US is deeply hypocritical when it talks about exporting the values of 'civilised democratic nations'.
jmi256
Bikerman wrote:
Anyway...this has gone seriously off-topic.

We were just following your lead. First the OJ reference, and then the ‘mathematical probability’ topic among others. But I agree we should focus on the topic of the thread instead of going off into such tangents. I think the tendency to attack based on a single phrase or word in someone’s post is leading to this trend of going off topic, however.


Bikerman wrote:
The question was whether the trial should be in the civilian courts.
My position remains that of course it should. The only counter argument to date seems to be that the threat of terrorist action justifies a military court or a secret trial.

There have been other arguments/points if you read the posts. I think if you go back and read one my post (I’ve repost it below, so if you need details please refer to that), you’ll see I made the argument that they should be tried in military courts if they are deemed as ‘military personnel.’ Everyone else should be tried in civilian courts. In my previous post I also argued that the definition of what constitutes ‘military personnel’ has been blurred in recent years with the rise of state-sponsored organizations, multi-national organizations, etc. that attack military targets (think USS Cole, Marine Barracks in Beirut, etc.) as well as target civilians to make a political or military statement (dissatisfaction of US military forces on ‘holy’ ground, a strike against ‘the Great Satan’, etc.). Bush attempted to get an independent legal opinion (therefore the term “enemy combatants”) on what/who constituted ‘military personnel’ while Obama seems to be making decisions based on politics. He has ignored the independent legal opinion without replacing it with another or some other type of rationale, and he seems to be catering to factions within his liberal base. Bush’s error, however, was not bringing those who were categorized as military personnel/enemy combatants to trial in a military setting earlier.


Bikerman wrote:
That argument explicitly asserts that the prisoners have no right to a fair trial.

As a conservative I vehemently disagree that prisoners (or anyone for that matter) have no rights. In fact I would argue against the liberal idea that citizens’ rights are bestowed upon them by the state, and would argue that we have certain rights that no government should infringe upon.


Bikerman wrote:
That, in turn, simply re-enforces the existing abuse of human rights that Guantanamo represents, and makes it clear to the rest of the world that the US is deeply hypocritical when it talks about exporting the values of 'civilised democratic nations'.

Quite honestly, this last part seems to be just more anti-American grandstanding, which you or anyone else have a right to do, but comes off as very angry. If you’re talking about the failure to bring them to trial, I agree that they should have been tried by now. That should and could be done quickly. And I agree that it is Bush who should have done it. But now that Obama has said he was qualified and ready to assume the presidency and was elected, it is his job. You have every right to attempt to condemn the entire US, with its rich history of Democracy, economic freedom, social mobility, libertarian values, coming to the aid of others (from both military and humanitarian perspectives), and much more. But you’ll have to also leave room for those who see through that argument/rant. I’m not trying to get into a “the US is the best country in the world” argument here, because I think such arguments are a waste. But the flipside of that argument that you seem to be trying to make is just as much of a waste.





jmi256 wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Wrong. It is entirely irrational.
Calculate how many US citizens have been killed by terrorists. Calculate the potential odds based on that. You end up with a risk so insignificant that you can barely actually fit the number of zeros on the calculator.
EVEN if you imagine terrorists blowing up 1 US plane per week, killing everyone on board - in fact make it a fully loaded 747 -the risk is STILL insignificant with regard to other risks.
Quote:
Fear helps to protect us. In the case of terrorism it helps us stay focussed on using every effort to protect ourselves from terrorist attacks.

Absolute nonsense. Fear forces irrational decision making which not only doesn't protect you but also encourages more attacks.


I have to disagree. While I hate the idea of making decisions based on fear, fear itself can be very rational. For example it is rational fear that keeps a petite woman from walking into a dark alley at 3 am in a seedy part of town by herself. Sometimes actions taken based on that fear, however, may be seen as not entirely rational by some. If you are using your logic above, Bikerman, to decide what initiatives and 'threats' to tackle, then what does that have to say about other liberal pet projects, such as the idea of Manmade Global Warming? Taking into account the world's population, what are someone's potential odds of getting struck and killed by a glacier that was allegedly caused by manmade global warming? Or someone's chances of getting eaten by a polar bear that has lost its ice sheet? I'm sure you'll need a much, much larger calculator to fit all those zeros. Yet, why the push to force everyone to pay more takes, go without needed resources and stifle economic growth in the light of these infinitesimal chances? Now, I understand this example hold deep flaws and I’m not trying to mix apples and oranges with themes from different threads, but I just put it out there just to show the hole in the logic.

My take on the whole civilian vs. military trial thing is somewhat complicated, or at least it seems complicated in application. From a principled standpoint, I agree that if they are US citizens or on US soil, and not designated as military personnel (or in the employ of a foreign government), they should be tried in ‘civilian’ court. If they designated as military personnel (or in the employ of a foreign government), they should be tried in military court, regardless of whether they are US citizens or on US soil. The fly in the ointment, however, is who gets designated as “military personnel”? In the days when you had clear-cut, state-on-state ‘warfare,’ it was simple. But with the rise of state-sponsored organizations, quasi-state organizations, multi-national organizations and non-national organizations, all with military objectives (and terrorism is a military objective), this distinction becomes harder.

For his part, Bush did the right thing, legally, in going to the Department of Justice to get an independent legal opinion on what constitutes ‘military personnel.’ Hence, the ‘enemy combatant’ designation. Whether everyone agrees with that opinion is up for debate, but the opinion was tendered. Bush then used that opinion to separate those who should receive military trials from civilian. The fact that those military trials didn’t take place is another story, and I don’t agree with the notion that holding trials would somehow cause a loss of national security. Every day trial are held that are closed to the public and their transcripts are sealed to avoid the disclosure of sensitive information or intelligence. As a conservative, I think it’s horrible that my own government is holding [i]anyone[i] in custody without clear charges being lodged or a trial. It is offensive. In fact, I think that individual rights should supersede any ‘national interests.’ If the state doesn’t want to present evidence because it feels that evidence is too sensitive, it has the right to hold back that evidence. They have made a choice that the value of keeping the evidence secret is greater than trying someone, and that person should be released.* But the answer isn’t to deny someone his rights to a trial. That’s just not fair nor right.

Obama on the other hand, has made what seems to be a knee-jerk, politically motivated decision to ignore the legal opinion tended by the DOJ rather than confronting the real issue of “who gets designated as military personnel,” which is what really needs to be settled. I don’t see the issue of multi-national, non-national, etc. organizations going away, so if Obama wants to attempt to change that, he should. I don’t recall what the term is, but here in the US we have the idea that legal opinions, laws, enforcement, etc. don’t change from administration to administration, but the succeeding administration does have the right to challenge policies put in place by the preceding administration. That’s why Executive Orders do not ‘expire’ but are either replaced or repealed through new Executive Orders. It seems to me, however, that Obama wants it both ways. He wants to ignore (or at least provide the illusion of ignoring) previous legally binding orders without the political headache of making a clear stand. Perhaps Holder and the DOJ have provided an official differing opinion, but I just missed it.

On the topic of the trial venue, as someone living in New York, I can tell you that we definitely don’t want the trials here. Not to get all “New York,” but 9/11 has left a deep scar on this city, and New Yorkers have no appetite to attract any more attention or present any more of a target, as ‘irrational’ as that may seem. I’m sorry to hear about your friends, Bikerman, and I’m sure it was horrible and has left you at least aware of the threats around you. Here in New York we live like that every day, and any time there is an explosion, a crane falls, a terror plot gets exposed and the actors get arrested, military planes decide to do a photo-op flyby, etc., it sends a chill through the city. (You’d be surprised how often these things tend to happen!) Maybe Obama thinks having the trials here would somehow be cathartic for the city, but that just shows how out of touch he is with normal citizens. I doubt many here would share his sentiment, and I don’t think many other cities would be willing to paint that target on their back.

*I have a whole other opinion on what should happen to someone once they are released, but I think I have written enough for one post and don’t want to go off subject any further.
Bikerman
The reason I did not cite your previous posting as a possibility is that it recognises in the opening word the 'if'. Now, we both know that these particular 'prisoners' have not been classified as military personnel. This, I believe, is largely because that title bestows rights on the prisoner according to many international treaties. Since they are not classified as military then I took your other point as the position - that they should indeed be tried in a civvy court.
Did I misunderstand?

PS - I did not 'rant' against the US. You will find my postings generally free of rants. My opinion that Guantanamo is an obscenity is based on my own ethics and is not exactly an extreme or even uncommon position. Yes, Gitmo makes me angry. I think it makes many people angry.
jmi256
Bikerman wrote:
The reason I did not cite your previous posting as a possibility is that it recognises in the opening word the 'if'. Now, we both know that these particular 'prisoners' have not been classified as military personnel. This, I believe, is largely because that title bestows rights on the prisoner according to many international treaties. Since they are not classified as military then I took your other point as the position - that they should indeed be tried in a civvy court.
Did I misunderstand?

Perhaps a bit. Or maybe I was not clear. I was saying that if they are classified as ‘military personnel’ they should be tried in a military court. But I was also asserting that when Bush went to the Department of Justice to obtain an independent legal opinion on whether these people should be classified as civilians or military personnel, the DOJ rendered an opinion that they were indeed military personnel under the designation “enemy combatants.” This designation is appropriate I believe because they are not clearly soldiers in a certain state’s army, which I believe international treaties cover (but I’m not trying to say I’m an expert in international treaties). I believe treaties are between states/countries, and cover the treatment of soldiers between the countries/states. That was the point I was trying to make about how these enemy combatants belong to multi-national organizations, ‘state-sponsored’ organizations (verses ‘official’ state entities), etc. If these organizations fall outside of the definitions and standards covered in treaties and/or are not part of the treaties, I don’t believe that the titles and the negotiated treatment protocols apply. If these organizations want to negotiate to be included in the treaties they should do so, but I don’t think they are automatically ‘in’. This may seem like legalistic reasoning, but that is exactly what is needed, a legal designation. Hence my critic of Obama and his discarding of the legal precedent without offering an alternative.


Bikerman wrote:
PS - I did not 'rant' against the US. You will find my postings generally free of rants. My opinion that Guantanamo is an obscenity is based on my own ethics and is not exactly an extreme or even uncommon position. Yes, Gitmo makes me angry. I think it makes many people angry.

My apologies if I miscategorized your posting, but to be honest I have seen some of your postings in this thread and others that border on belittling attacks. I’m no saint myself and have allowed myself to devolve into unproductive back and forths in the past, but I am trying to not do that, which it sounds like you are as well. So again, I apologize.

I appreciate your sickness over Gitmo, and I can earnestly say that I wish it was already resolved. As I said earlier I think it was a failure in Bush’s part to not wrap this up before his presidency ended. I seem to (or at least like to think I do) understand the legal issues, but what is bedeviling to me is why didn’t he just hold the military trials and be done with it? But as much as his inaction was a failure, I think Obama’s ‘solution’ of simply making a campaign promise to close Gitmo without any plan or thinking it through shows a deeper lack of leadership, and instead screams politics.
deanhills
jmi256 wrote:
I think Obama’s ‘solution’ of simply making a campaign promise to close Gitmo without any plan or thinking it through shows a deeper lack of leadership, and instead screams politics.
This is a very good point, and his hesitancy to clear everything up with expediency must have something to do with the complexity of the matter and why Bush could not have sorted it by the time that Obama had taken over. Wonder whether Gitmo is really that unsuitable these days however, as a major reason for all the delays seems to be the inability to find equivalent prisons of the same high standard as Gitmo's, because since it has become internationally renowned, so many modifications have been made to Gitmo, to the extent that the prison has become of higher standard than any comparable ones in the United States.

Back to the topic on hand, JMI, I found the following information in Wikipedia, and wonder whether any of this has been amended, and why it could not be used as justification for trying the 9/11 suspects by Military Commission?
Quote:
The American Bar Association announced that: "In response to the unprecedented attacks of September 11, on November 13, 2001, the President announced that certain non-citizens (of the USA) would be subject to detention and trial by military authorities. The order provides that non-citizens whom the government deems to be, or to have been, members of the al Qaida organization or to have engaged in, aided or abetted, or conspired to commit acts of international terrorism that have caused, threaten to cause, or have as their aim to cause, injury to or adverse effects on the United States or its citizens, or to have knowingly harbored such individuals, are subject to detention by military authorities and trial before a military commission."

On September 28 and September 29, 2006, the US Senate and US House of Representatives, respectively, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, a controversial bill that allows the President to designate certain people with the status of "unlawful enemy combatants" thus making them subject to military commissions, where they have fewer civil rights than in regular trials.

ocalhoun
Bikerman wrote:
Half want Z and half want A so I'll give them M because it's nicely in the middle. Recipe for disaster.

Uh, you do realize that's often exactly how it works, right?

Individual politicians often stick hard-and-fast to an idea, but the government as a whole often takes the middle road when two diametrically opposed ideas collide.
Bikerman
ocalhoun wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
Half want Z and half want A so I'll give them M because it's nicely in the middle. Recipe for disaster.

Uh, you do realize that's often exactly how it works, right?

Individual politicians often stick hard-and-fast to an idea, but the government as a whole often takes the middle road when two diametrically opposed ideas collide.
Hmm, it might be different here then, because that's not generally what happens here.
Moonspider
Bikerman wrote:
I disagree quite strongly.
Your example is bogus on several levels, in my opinion.
a) The Germans were on US soil - the 'enemies' in this case were not - they were snatched from foreign lands, in some cases almost certainly illegally.

I’ll concede that point.

Bikerman wrote:
b) The Germans were undoubtedly enemy combatants. The evidence that the people in Guantanamo are enemy combatants is slim to none. Now, of course, they say that they haven't presented their evidence (the Gov, that is) because of security implications. I don't believe that, but it is possible. It doesn't change a thing. The prisoners are SUPPOSEDLY innocent until proven guilty, which is a sick joke, considering that the US have locked them up without due process for years and years.


The case to which deanhills referred at the start of this whole debate revolves around the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whom I believe to undoubtedly be an enemy combatant in this war. Therefore in my opinion he should be tried in a military court. The man planned a military attack against a financial center and the political and military leadership of the United States utilizing craft of opportunity (civilian airliners) as improvised guided weapons, with trained volunteers as the guidance systems. And those involved in the execution of the plan did an exceptional job in carrying out the attack, undoubtedly one of the best surprise attacks launched in the history of modern warfare. It was also a war crime. How does that constitute a civilian trial!?

Now, let’s remember that this is not a debate of one or the other for all GITMO prisoners, civilian trial versus military tribunal.

The Obama Administration plans to keep 50 of the prisoners currently at GITMO indefinitely without trial, period. I disagree with this course of action. They all should be tried at some point whether in civilian court or by military tribunal. For those captured in intelligence operations, where they should be tried is murky for me. But if someone was captured on the battlefield and is suspected of a crime, then they should be tried by military tribunal.

Furthermore, the Obama Administration does plan to try other prisoners there by military tribunal. The first, set for this July, will be the trial of a 15-year old for murder and war crimes stemming from the death of a Green Beret in a grenade attack in Afghanistan. (He was 15 at his capture, I believe, a few years ago.) I disagree with this as well. Aside from his age, the circumstances surrounding this child seem to be so extenuating that to try him for murder and war crimes seems outrageous. So how is it that the Obama Administration thinks this boy deserves a trial by military tribunal whereas the accused mastermind of the attack that started the war, an attack that left more than 2,000 people dead, should not?

As I recall I think about six of the prisoners there are scheduled to be tried by military tribunal. More than a hundred will be released or turned over to other governments. The other forty or so I am not sure if a venue has yet been decided.

In short, I would consider anyone engaged in military actions and captured on a battlefield by U.S. or other NATO forces an enemy combatant. Those apprehended by intelligence or law enforcement fall outside of the “enemy combatant” definition, at least insofar as to be considered for a military court.

I honestly cannot make heads or tails out of the Obama Administration’s decision-making process, however.

Bikerman wrote:
c) The notion that the US can snatch foreign citizens, imprison them for years and, that because the US says that they are enemies then they de-facto loose their human rights, is an obscene nonsense. Clouding the issue with talk of 'constitutional' rights does not help - the right to a fair trial is a fundamental human right, not a US constitutional privilege.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_a_fair_trial


I agree with you regarding a fair trial. Whether held in a civilian or military court it must still be a fair trial. Surely no one is arguing that it should not be, only the constitutionality of a civilian trial versus a military tribunal.

I’ve been terribly frustrated with the speed of the judicial process myself in these matters. The issue is tangled in a messy briar of politics, law, security, and intelligence. And as such has been a disservice to both the accused and the people of the United States. The president of the United States just needs to say “This is my call and this is how it is” and do it. Instead with Bush and now Obama they make a decision and then allow politics and arguments to ensue and delay action. If I was President Obama and I made the call to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court in New York City only to have people start complaining, my response would be, “I made the call. It’s my responsibility. And this is what’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen forthwith.” If someone in my administration started dragging their feet after that and delaying the process, I’d fire them and find someone else better able to carry out my wishes in a timelier manner. I honestly don’t understand why we’re debating it.

However, my background is in the military, so I’m use to giving my opinions and recommendations (or taking the opinions and recommendations of others) and then waiting for or giving an order. Everyone then says “Aye, sir” and moves on to carry out the order.

Bikerman wrote:
Now, the US currently adopts a position which I think is both dangerous and legally bogus - that the detainees are not enemy combatants and are therefore not entitled to protection under international laws and treaties.
The reason for this, we are told, is because they do not conform to the 'laws of war'.
Well, here's the thing - I can make exactly the same argument against US troops.
    Fight only enemy combatants.
    Do not harm enemies who surrender; disarm them and turn them over to the chain of command.
    Do not kill or torture detainees.
    Do one’s best to prevent violations of the law of war.
    Report all violations of the law of war to superiors.
    Destroy no more than the mission requires.
    Treat all civilians humanely.
    Collect and care for the wounded, whether friend or foe.

Those are the US's OWN laws of war and every single one of them has been broken repeatedly in both Afghanistan and Iraq.. Therefore US troops have no right to be treated as enemy combatants and it is perfectly legal for Afghans, Iraqis or anyone else to do whatever they hell they like with captured US troops. Notice rule 1 in particular - 'enemy combatants'. So, are they or are they not? If they are then apply Geneva, Hague and the other conventions. If they are not then they are civilians and should be released immediately without ANY trial or hearing, or given the same trial as anyone else could expect.


I agree with you regarding the treatment of prisoners. I too do not believe in a netherworld between civilian and enemy combatant. But I also believe that enemy combatants not wearing uniforms are entitled to a trial followed by a swift execution if found guilty. Traditionally nations accept this as a matter of course, as do soldiers who volunteer for action in civilian or enemy attire. If they do not abide by the laws of war but are engaged in hostilities, it is very simple in my mind. You treat them as enemy combatants, hold them as POWs, try them for war crimes and if found guilty you execute them.

However, I will have to disagree vehemently with your assessment of the U.S. military. No military in the history of mankind takes more steps to prevent the actions you describe. We go out of our way to avoid civilian casualties, which in every war are always higher than military casualties. In fact the United States possesses the best technology in the world to avoid civilian casualties. The Geneva Conventions allow a lot of subjective decision making in this regard, weighing the value of a target against the risk of innocent lives lost, but I honestly believe the United States military today usually goes beyond even the Geneva Convention in this regard, because we have the ability to do so and consciously decide to do so. Certainly you will never find a policy or general order that supports any of your claims against the U.S. military.

Given, individuals and groups of individuals in the U.S. military have violated and will violate the laws and traditional decorum of warfare, just as members in other militaries might. No one’s blood boils more than mine when this occurs!! I was serving in Kuwait when the Abu Ghraib story broke. If I had my way every one directly involved with that (or any similar atrocity) would be either shot/hanged or sentenced to life in prison, preferably the former. All immediate NCOs and officers would receive very harsh sentences. If they did not know what was going on, they were incompetent and deserve no less than ten to twenty years in prison. If they did know and condoned it, I would have them hanged less a bullet convey too much honor upon their corpses. Senior officers in their chain of command may or may not receive sentences, but certainly would have their careers ruined. As president my first actions would have been to fire Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and relieve Lieutenant General Sanchez. If I’d been the SECDEF, I would have relieved the senior general in Iraq and then penned my letter of resignation to the President. If I’d been the senior general in Iraq, I would have relieved the general in charge of the prison (Karpinski at the time) and then penned my letter of resignation to the President.

Respectfully,
M
Bikerman
Moonspider wrote:
..
The case to which deanhills referred at the start of this whole debate revolves around the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whom I believe to undoubtedly be an enemy combatant in this war. Therefore in my opinion he should be tried in a military court. The man planned a military attack against a financial center and the political and military leadership of the United States utilizing craft of opportunity (civilian airliners) as improvised guided weapons, with trained volunteers as the guidance systems. And those involved in the execution of the plan did an exceptional job in carrying out the attack, undoubtedly one of the best surprise attacks launched in the history of modern warfare. It was also a war crime. How does that constitute a civilian trial!?
Quite easily. We have war crimes committed by non-military people all the time - surely that is well established from Neuremburg onwards?
Quote:
Now, let’s remember that this is not a debate of one or the other for all GITMO prisoners, civilian trial versus military tribunal.
LOL..OK, you caught me Smile
Quote:
The Obama Administration plans to keep 50 of the prisoners currently at GITMO indefinitely without trial, period. I disagree with this course of action. They all should be tried at some point whether in civilian court or by military tribunal. For those captured in intelligence operations, where they should be tried is murky for me. But if someone was captured on the battlefield and is suspected of a crime, then they should be tried by military tribunal.
Well, let's be clear then.
a) He wasn't captured on the battlefield. He was arrested in Pakistan, so it is, as you say, 'murky'
b) I don't see how you are defining military personnel and what distinction you make between a terrorist and a soldier. I am pretty clear in my own mind that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a terrorist. I think you demean the word 'military' if you define him as a soldier. One expects soldiers to behave according to international treaties and honour various minimum standards - at least notionally.
Quote:
Furthermore, the Obama Administration does plan to try other prisoners there by military tribunal. The first, set for this July, will be the trial of a 15-year old for murder and war crimes stemming from the death of a Green Beret in a grenade attack in Afghanistan. (He was 15 at his capture, I believe, a few years ago.) I disagree with this as well. Aside from his age, the circumstances surrounding this child seem to be so extenuating that to try him for murder and war crimes seems outrageous. So how is it that the Obama Administration thinks this boy deserves a trial by military tribunal whereas the accused mastermind of the attack that started the war, an attack that left more than 2,000 people dead, should not?
Dunno...but I don't disagree with you....
Quote:
..In short, I would consider anyone engaged in military actions and captured on a battlefield by U.S. or other NATO forces an enemy combatant. Those apprehended by intelligence or law enforcement fall outside of the “enemy combatant” definition, at least insofar as to be considered for a military court.
Well surely you have now ruled out Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, since he was captured in just such a manner...
Quote:
However, I will have to disagree vehemently with your assessment of the U.S. military. No military in the history of mankind takes more steps to prevent the actions you describe. We go out of our way to avoid civilian casualties, which in every war are always higher than military casualties. In fact the United States possesses the best technology in the world to avoid civilian casualties. The Geneva Conventions allow a lot of subjective decision making in this regard, weighing the value of a target against the risk of innocent lives lost, but I honestly believe the United States military today usually goes beyond even the Geneva Convention in this regard, because we have the ability to do so and consciously decide to do so. Certainly you will never find a policy or general order that supports any of your claims against the U.S. military.
Hold on soldier! Did I say otherwise? I said I could make the argument, not that I believe it, or even support it. I merely make the point that the case can be made, and with impressionable minds it can be made quite convincingly with some photographs or personal accounts...
I certainly don't wish to question your personal integrity and I agree in most part with your response to the situation - the shame is that the perception I have is that a couple of people were put in prison (Lindy someone or other sticks in the mind....[nb-I'm deliberately not looking any references up here so that I can give you a fair impression of how this is seen] but no major brass was ever brought to book and Rumsveldt went because his general position became untenable)
Moonspider
Bikerman wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
..
The case to which deanhills referred at the start of this whole debate revolves around the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whom I believe to undoubtedly be an enemy combatant in this war. Therefore in my opinion he should be tried in a military court. The man planned a military attack against a financial center and the political and military leadership of the United States utilizing craft of opportunity (civilian airliners) as improvised guided weapons, with trained volunteers as the guidance systems. And those involved in the execution of the plan did an exceptional job in carrying out the attack, undoubtedly one of the best surprise attacks launched in the history of modern warfare. It was also a war crime. How does that constitute a civilian trial!?
Quite easily. We have war crimes committed by non-military people all the time - surely that is well established from Neuremburg onwards?


Very true. But in the United States the rules in a civilian court are very different from the rules in a military court. I simply feel more comfortable having such men tried by the military rather than in a civilian court of law. Plus you have the added advantage of holding the trial on a military facility, instead of having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to secure a public courthouse for months.

Bikerman wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
Now, let’s remember that this is not a debate of one or the other for all GITMO prisoners, civilian trial versus military tribunal.
LOL..OK, you caught me Smile

I get lucky sometimes. Wink

Bikerman wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
The Obama Administration plans to keep 50 of the prisoners currently at GITMO indefinitely without trial, period. I disagree with this course of action. They all should be tried at some point whether in civilian court or by military tribunal. For those captured in intelligence operations, where they should be tried is murky for me. But if someone was captured on the battlefield and is suspected of a crime, then they should be tried by military tribunal.
Well, let's be clear then.
a) He wasn't captured on the battlefield. He was arrested in Pakistan, so it is, as you say, 'murky'
b) I don't see how you are defining military personnel and what distinction you make between a terrorist and a soldier. I am pretty clear in my own mind that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a terrorist. I think you demean the word 'military' if you define him as a soldier. One expects soldiers to behave according to international treaties and honour various minimum standards - at least notionally.


Once again, a “murky” area. I think this is how we found ourselves in this predicament to begin with. We don’t want to treat “terrorists” as soldiers because that grants them a title that carries with it a deal of honor, not to mention benefits and legal status when they are captured. However, their acts are by their nature acts of war. 9/11 was a military strike using terrorist tactics. If they’d bought their own planes, worn uniforms, and painted some logo on the wings and made suicide dives into those structures, they would have been no different than a Japanese pilot diving into an aircraft carrier in 1944.

However the Bush, and now Obama, administrations don’t really want to treat them all as simple criminals either. So many of them exist in a legal status between the two, a status that I believe you and I both agree does not legally exist.

Ironically I tend to be a little more lenient with defining them as “military.” We are at war with them. Therefore, they must be a military of some sort. Sure, their tactics are barbaric, dishonorable, illegal, murderous, and abominable by Western standards and warfare tradition. Nevertheless they are tactics aimed at achieving military objectives. Their military objectives happen to be interwoven with religious objectives which are little different from their political objectives.

9/11 was a terrorist attack and a military operation. I have no doubt about that and can’t fathom calling it anything but. Secretary Napalitano attempted to call it a “man-caused disaster” last year. However all military strikes aimed at causing significant damage to infrastructure are “man-caused disasters” in my opinion, whether caused by a B-52 dropping bombs or a 757 used as a bomb.

Terrorism is a military tactic, just not a legal one.

Therefore, yes, I would prefer to treat all those involved in planning or carrying out terrorist operations as military personnel. So I am definitely going against the grain in that belief, certainly against the grain of my conservative colleagues! But we can’t define this style of warfare without calling those who wage it warriors, can we?

I’d treat them as military and treat them as POWs. Try them for war crimes in a military court and then execute them if/when found guilty. Afford them the “honor,” if you will of being soldiers. But punish them according to Western tradition and law for not playing by the rules. (And I’d recommend incinerating their bodies and scattering their ashes.)

Bikerman wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
Furthermore, the Obama Administration does plan to try other prisoners there by military tribunal. The first, set for this July, will be the trial of a 15-year old for murder and war crimes stemming from the death of a Green Beret in a grenade attack in Afghanistan. (He was 15 at his capture, I believe, a few years ago.) I disagree with this as well. Aside from his age, the circumstances surrounding this child seem to be so extenuating that to try him for murder and war crimes seems outrageous. So how is it that the Obama Administration thinks this boy deserves a trial by military tribunal whereas the accused mastermind of the attack that started the war, an attack that left more than 2,000 people dead, should not?
Dunno...but I don't disagree with you....


Sorry, I should have imbedded references:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/02/09/gitmo.omar.khadr/index.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/09/AR2010020904020.html?hpid=topnews

Bikerman wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
..In short, I would consider anyone engaged in military actions and captured on a battlefield by U.S. or other NATO forces an enemy combatant. Those apprehended by intelligence or law enforcement fall outside of the “enemy combatant” definition, at least insofar as to be considered for a military court.
Well surely you have now ruled out Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, since he was captured in just such a manner...


You were right, I did. After careful thought I had to reevaluate my stance, hence my opinion above.

Bikerman wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
However, I will have to disagree vehemently with your assessment of the U.S. military. No military in the history of mankind takes more steps to prevent the actions you describe. We go out of our way to avoid civilian casualties, which in every war are always higher than military casualties. In fact the United States possesses the best technology in the world to avoid civilian casualties. The Geneva Conventions allow a lot of subjective decision making in this regard, weighing the value of a target against the risk of innocent lives lost, but I honestly believe the United States military today usually goes beyond even the Geneva Convention in this regard, because we have the ability to do so and consciously decide to do so. Certainly you will never find a policy or general order that supports any of your claims against the U.S. military.
Hold on soldier! Did I say otherwise? I said I could make the argument, not that I believe it, or even support it. I merely make the point that the case can be made, and with impressionable minds it can be made quite convincingly with some photographs or personal accounts...
I certainly don't wish to question your personal integrity and I agree in most part with your response to the situation - the shame is that the perception I have is that a couple of people were put in prison (Lindy someone or other sticks in the mind....[nb-I'm deliberately not looking any references up here so that I can give you a fair impression of how this is seen] but no major brass was ever brought to book and Rumsveldt went because his general position became untenable)


Sorry for my rant. My defensive ire emerged! But you are right, one could make the argument you suggested. However we could put every captured person up in the Ritz-Carlton and give them a $500 a day per diem and our enemies would treat any American, NATO, or other coalition troops captured the same way as they do now. It doesn’t matter to them how we treat our prisoners.

However it should matter to us. Our moral behavior may not positively affect the behavior of our enemies, but our immoral behavior taints our souls and our civilization. It demeans us as human beings more so than our enemies. No amount of intelligence is worth it.

Respectfully,
M
Bikerman
Moonspider wrote:
Once again, a “murky” area. I think this is how we found ourselves in this predicament to begin with. We don’t want to treat “terrorists” as soldiers because that grants them a title that carries with it a deal of honor, not to mention benefits and legal status when they are captured. However, their acts are by their nature acts of war. 9/11 was a military strike using terrorist tactics. If they’d bought their own planes, worn uniforms, and painted some logo on the wings and made suicide dives into those structures, they would have been no different than a Japanese pilot diving into an aircraft carrier in 1944.
No, I don't buy that argument. Firstly they are not acting on behalf of any sovereign nation and therefore applying the term 'military' is a nonsense from a legal perspective. Who controls the military? Who do you negotiate with? Secondly it grants Al-Queda far too much importance. The core movement is probably a few hundred people. Thirdly 9/11 wasn't anything like a military strike. The tactics and objectives were straight out of the terrorist manual. Japanese pilots were attacking military targets, and although you could say there were certain similarities - the 'terror' nature of the kamikaze and the suicide element - they are not really comparable IMHO.
Here is the core dispute and here is where the problems start. If you define them as criminals, as I believe you should, then everyone knows where they stand. The only semi-convincing arguments I've seen against this are:
  • the nature of the detentions is such that guilt is apparent but not well enough documented to put before a court. I don't buy that either. Most of the people at Gitmo, and certainly the subject of this thread, were 'detained' away from live battles.
  • it would be necessary to compromise intelligence 'assets' in any trial, leading to possible loss of such 'assets'. That may be true, but that same argument could be applied to trials of citizens, which most people would agree are matters for civilian courts. I don't think it is sufficient. Civilian courts are well used to dealing with information from 'sensitive' sources and are well used to handling cases of huge national interest where lives are at stake. I see no reason to make an exception here.
Quote:
Ironically I tend to be a little more lenient with defining them as “military.” We are at war with them. Therefore, they must be a military of some sort. Sure, their tactics are barbaric, dishonorable, illegal, murderous, and abominable by Western standards and warfare tradition. Nevertheless they are tactics aimed at achieving military objectives. Their military objectives happen to be interwoven with religious objectives which are little different from their political objectives.
No, I disagree. You are at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Their fighters are certainly military and should be treated as such. You cannot be at war with 'terror' and the whole phrase was ridiculous from the first time it was used. America has a war on drugs, so do you treat dealers as military?
The objectives are not military, or at least in any meaningful sense. You could say that any objective is military, so I'm not sure how useful the term is. After all, one could have an objective to kill 1/2 the population of a country by using the army - would that not be a military objective?
Quote:
9/11 was a terrorist attack and a military operation. I have no doubt about that and can’t fathom calling it anything but. Secretary Napalitano attempted to call it a “man-caused disaster” last year. However all military strikes aimed at causing significant damage to infrastructure are “man-caused disasters” in my opinion, whether caused by a B-52 dropping bombs or a 757 used as a bomb.

Terrorism is a military tactic, just not a legal one.
Again, I'm not sure how useful the word 'military' is there. Anything is a military tactic, potentially. I refuse to call an attack by a dozen terrorists a military operation. It was a well planned crime. How many people have to be involved before you call it a military operation? 2? 4? 10? 20? Once you start labelling terrorists as military then where do you stop?
Bikerman
Moonspider wrote:
Once again, a “murky” area. I think this is how we found ourselves in this predicament to begin with. We don’t want to treat “terrorists” as soldiers because that grants them a title that carries with it a deal of honor, not to mention benefits and legal status when they are captured. However, their acts are by their nature acts of war. 9/11 was a military strike using terrorist tactics. If they’d bought their own planes, worn uniforms, and painted some logo on the wings and made suicide dives into those structures, they would have been no different than a Japanese pilot diving into an aircraft carrier in 1944.
No, I don't buy that argument. Firstly they are not acting on behalf of any sovereign nation and therefore applying the term 'military' is a nonsense from a legal perspective. Who controls the military? Who do you negotiate with? Secondly it grants Al-Queda far too much importance. The core movement is probably a few hundred people. Thirdly 9/11 wasn't anything like a military strike. The tactics and objectives were straight out of the terrorist manual. Japanese pilots were attacking military targets, and although you could say there were certain similarities - the 'terror' nature of the kamikaze and the suicide element - they are not really comparable IMHO.
Here is the core dispute and here is where the problems start. If you define them as criminals, as I believe you should, then everyone knows where they stand. The only semi-convincing arguments I've seen against this are:
  • the nature of the detentions is such that guilt is apparent but not well enough documented to put before a court. I don't buy that either. Most of the people at Gitmo, and certainly the subject of this thread, were 'detained' away from live battles.
  • it would be necessary to compromise intelligence 'assets' in any trial, leading to possible loss of such 'assets'. That may be true, but that same argument could be applied to trials of citizens, which most people would agree are matters for civilian courts. I don't think it is sufficient. Civilian courts are well used to dealing with information from 'sensitive' sources and are well used to handling cases of huge national interest where lives are at stake. I see no reason to make an exception here.
Quote:
Ironically I tend to be a little more lenient with defining them as “military.” We are at war with them. Therefore, they must be a military of some sort. Sure, their tactics are barbaric, dishonorable, illegal, murderous, and abominable by Western standards and warfare tradition. Nevertheless they are tactics aimed at achieving military objectives. Their military objectives happen to be interwoven with religious objectives which are little different from their political objectives.
No, I disagree. You are at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Their fighters are certainly military and should be treated as such. You cannot be at war with 'terror' and the whole phrase was ridiculous from the first time it was used. America has a war on drugs, so do you treat dealers as military?
The objectives are not military, or at least in any meaningful sense. You could say that any objective is military, so I'm not sure how useful the term is. After all, one could have an objective to kill 1/2 the population of a country by using the army - would that not be a military objective?
Quote:
9/11 was a terrorist attack and a military operation. I have no doubt about that and can’t fathom calling it anything but. Secretary Napalitano attempted to call it a “man-caused disaster” last year. However all military strikes aimed at causing significant damage to infrastructure are “man-caused disasters” in my opinion, whether caused by a B-52 dropping bombs or a 757 used as a bomb.

Terrorism is a military tactic, just not a legal one.
Again, I'm not sure how useful the word 'military' is there. Anything is a military tactic, potentially. I refuse to call an attack by a dozen terrorists a military operation. It was a well planned crime. How many people have to be involved before you call it a military operation? 2? 4? 10? 20? Once you start labelling terrorists as military then where do you stop?
Bikerman
Moonspider wrote:
Once again, a “murky” area. I think this is how we found ourselves in this predicament to begin with. We don’t want to treat “terrorists” as soldiers because that grants them a title that carries with it a deal of honor, not to mention benefits and legal status when they are captured. However, their acts are by their nature acts of war. 9/11 was a military strike using terrorist tactics. If they’d bought their own planes, worn uniforms, and painted some logo on the wings and made suicide dives into those structures, they would have been no different than a Japanese pilot diving into an aircraft carrier in 1944.
No, I don't buy that argument. Firstly they are not acting on behalf of any sovereign nation and therefore applying the term 'military' is a nonsense from a legal perspective. Who controls the military? Who do you negotiate with? Secondly it grants Al-Queda far too much importance. The core movement is probably a few hundred people. Thirdly 9/11 wasn't anything like a military strike. The tactics and objectives were straight out of the terrorist manual. Japanese pilots were attacking military targets, and although you could say there were certain similarities - the 'terror' nature of the kamikaze and the suicide element - they are not really comparable IMHO.
Here is the core dispute and here is where the problems start. If you define them as criminals, as I believe you should, then everyone knows where they stand. The only semi-convincing arguments I've seen against this are:
  • the nature of the detentions is such that guilt is apparent but not well enough documented to put before a court. I don't buy that either. Most of the people at Gitmo, and certainly the subject of this thread, were 'detained' away from live battles.
  • it would be necessary to compromise intelligence 'assets' in any trial, leading to possible loss of such 'assets'. That may be true, but that same argument could be applied to trials of citizens, which most people would agree are matters for civilian courts. I don't think it is sufficient. Civilian courts are well used to dealing with information from 'sensitive' sources and are well used to handling cases of huge national interest where lives are at stake. I see no reason to make an exception here.
Quote:
Ironically I tend to be a little more lenient with defining them as “military.” We are at war with them. Therefore, they must be a military of some sort. Sure, their tactics are barbaric, dishonorable, illegal, murderous, and abominable by Western standards and warfare tradition. Nevertheless they are tactics aimed at achieving military objectives. Their military objectives happen to be interwoven with religious objectives which are little different from their political objectives.
No, I disagree. You are at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Their fighters are certainly military and should be treated as such. You cannot be at war with 'terror' and the whole phrase was ridiculous from the first time it was used. America has a war on drugs, so do you treat dealers as military?
The objectives are not military, or at least in any meaningful sense. You could say that any objective is military, so I'm not sure how useful the term is. After all, one could have an objective to kill 1/2 the population of a country by using the army - would that not be a military objective?
Quote:
9/11 was a terrorist attack and a military operation. I have no doubt about that and can’t fathom calling it anything but. Secretary Napalitano attempted to call it a “man-caused disaster” last year. However all military strikes aimed at causing significant damage to infrastructure are “man-caused disasters” in my opinion, whether caused by a B-52 dropping bombs or a 757 used as a bomb.

Terrorism is a military tactic, just not a legal one.
Again, I'm not sure how useful the word 'military' is there. Anything is a military tactic, potentially. I refuse to call an attack by a dozen terrorists a military operation. It was a well planned crime. How many people have to be involved before you call it a military operation? 2? 4? 10? 20? Once you start labelling terrorists as military then where do you stop?
Moonspider
Bikerman wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
Once again, a “murky” area. I think this is how we found ourselves in this predicament to begin with. We don’t want to treat “terrorists” as soldiers because that grants them a title that carries with it a deal of honor, not to mention benefits and legal status when they are captured. However, their acts are by their nature acts of war. 9/11 was a military strike using terrorist tactics. If they’d bought their own planes, worn uniforms, and painted some logo on the wings and made suicide dives into those structures, they would have been no different than a Japanese pilot diving into an aircraft carrier in 1944.
No, I don't buy that argument. Firstly they are not acting on behalf of any sovereign nation and therefore applying the term 'military' is a nonsense from a legal perspective.


True. However this is a very traditional view of geopolitical reality. Non-state actors, like Al-Qaeda, play a much larger role than they once did and may play an even greater role in the future. At the end of World War II would anyone have even considered it possible that the most powerful nation on Earth would go to war over the actions of a non-sovereign entity?

I personally believe that non-state actors will play an ever increasing role in geopolitics, even redefine it to the point that the global political model we grew up with, the development of the nation-state, is virtually unrecognizable from the state of affairs in the future. Technological advancement and the rate of information exchange will continually increase the political viability and power of corporations, NGOs and especially super-empowered individuals and organizations, like bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. To stick with old models is to deny the reality of that with which we deal.

So yes, “…the term ‘military’ is a nonsense from a legal perspective.” Nevertheless it is a reality. Law enforcement alone cannot adequately deal with such a threat as Al-Qaeda. Nor can law enforcement and intelligence coupled together. The military must be involved in military operations, overt and covert. Therefore this non-sovereign entity possesses a military component.

This is a reality that I believe will become more and more common in the future. To be honest I think the U.S. entered a stage of empire decay during the last third of the 20th Century, but that may be the subject of another debate. More importantly, I believe the relevance of the nation-state itself is on the decline. With each passing year it will become harder to fit the round peg of reality into the square civilization model of yesteryear.

Bikerman wrote:
Who controls the military? Who do you negotiate with?


Good points. But once again I’ll argue that you are thinking of a military in terms of traditional models of strict hierarchy and command-and-control. An organization like Al-Qaeda is far more effective the more decentralized it is. “Commanders” can operate with great autonomy. Even loosely connected individuals or small cells can act independently drawing simply from information and leadership openly provided by the non-state actor through media outlets and the Internet. It’s not unlike the growing trend to “flatten” business models, to push responsibility down the lowest possible levels, to “empower” the laborer to make critical decisions. It doesn’t make them less of a “military.” They’ve simply developed a different model that allows them to function more effectively while reducing the risks to their political body.

If and when nano-manufacturing becomes available, as sci-fi as it may sound, even weapons technology and equipment in the form of data could be passed via the Internet with loosely connected cells and individuals manufacturing their own equipment .

If they tried to fight the West using a traditional Western military model, they would be soundly defeated in very short order because the West developed and perfected that model. And the West holds the biggest cards in this model. Using their decentralized model, they can effectively engage the West on multiple fronts and make it extremely difficult for the West to utterly destroy them (which has been the U.S. military stratagem since the days of Sherman and Grant). The West has been forced to adapt its militaries greatly to fight Al Qaeda, not so much vice versa.

Perhaps future military models will have semi-independent organizations guided simply by core principles and objectives. Maybe NGOs and Corporations will start employing their own military forces, decentralized in organization, receiving funding but accountable only to themselves for procurement of equipment and the prosecution of objectives based only on core principles and over-arching goals.

But I digress.

Bikerman wrote:
Secondly it grants Al-Queda far too much importance. The core movement is probably a few hundred people.


They are important. Their actions and scope of influence make them important. We can try to minimize their importance all we want in our own minds and countries. However that does little to minimize their importance and influence in heavily Muslim regions. Nor does minimizing their importance help to neutralize their threat, quite the opposite IMHO.

We could just publicly ignore them. Bury our dead and rebuild whenever they attack. Use only intelligence, law enforcement, and covert military operations to mitigate their threat. Keep everything in the shadows with only the occasional suicide bombing to draw attention to them. In our affluence and with our population sizes, even attacks like 9/11 can fade to barely painful memories for the vast majority of us Westerners in a fairly short amount of time. That might greatly minimize their importance (at least in Western eyes) and would (have been) be a viable option, and one not without merit.

But I don’t think we can define their importance, certainly not to those who might fill their ranks or provide support. Their importance is defined by the amount of damage they can cause and the size of their influence.

Bikerman wrote:
Thirdly 9/11 wasn't anything like a military strike. The tactics and objectives were straight out of the terrorist manual. Japanese pilots were attacking military targets, and although you could say there were certain similarities - the 'terror' nature of the kamikaze and the suicide element - they are not really comparable IMHO.


I disagree. All three targets were military targets. The World Trade Center was a symbol but also an important commerce facility. Therefore it was an economic military target. The attacks in Washington, the successful strike on the Pentagon and the failed attack on either the White House or the Capital Building, were military targets, the respective centers of military and civilian leadership. The tactics were terroristic, but the targets very much viable military targets. No one would argue that New York City and Washington D.C. never made it to the Soviet Union’s ICBM target list. The difference is that Al Qaeda does not possess ICBMs or other traditional military delivery systems. Thus they utilized hijacked civilian aircraft. Militarily they thought outside of the box.

Their greatest failure was in failing to achieve “simultaneous time on target.” The third strike failed only because the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon occurred early enough to alert the passengers on the third hijacked flight. They should have hijacked an earlier flight (if possible) or delayed the other attacks (if possible) to achieve near simultaneous hits. I’m sure they wanted to do so as much as practical, but simply failed to account for cell phone communications and may not have had favorable flight schedules.

Bikerman wrote:
Here is the core dispute and here is where the problems start. If you define them as criminals, as I believe you should, then everyone knows where they stand.


Yes, they are criminals. But that does not necessarily mean that they have to be tried in a civilian court. Trying them in a military tribunal doesn’t make them any less a criminal, just as trying Herman Goering by military tribunal in Nuremberg made him any less a criminal.

Bikerman wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
Ironically I tend to be a little more lenient with defining them as “military.” We are at war with them. Therefore, they must be a military of some sort. Sure, their tactics are barbaric, dishonorable, illegal, murderous, and abominable by Western standards and warfare tradition. Nevertheless they are tactics aimed at achieving military objectives. Their military objectives happen to be interwoven with religious objectives which are little different from their political objectives.
No, I disagree. You are at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Their fighters are certainly military and should be treated as such. You cannot be at war with 'terror' and the whole phrase was ridiculous from the first time it was used. America has a war on drugs, so do you treat dealers as military?


I agree that the phrase “War on Terror” is ridiculous. You can’t be at war with a tactic. But I do believe we are at war with Al Qaeda, just as we are at war with the Taliban. And I believe we can be at war with non-sovereign entities that utilize terror as their primary tactic. Your comparison to the “war on drugs” is invalid from my perspective. Drug cartels do not seek political objectives by military means. They engage in criminal activities, primarily illicit drug trades, and might use force against police or politicians that stand in the way of their criminal activities. The U.S. military is even used to help stop drug smuggling, such as tracking vessels or aircraft. But law enforcement always engages the targets, such as the U.S. Coast Guard boarding a vessel tracked by a U.S. Navy destroyer.

Bikerman wrote:
The objectives are not military, or at least in any meaningful sense. You could say that any objective is military, so I'm not sure how useful the term is. After all, one could have an objective to kill 1/2 the population of a country by using the army - would that not be a military objective?


Once again you are right to some degree, from a traditional way of thinking. A military is used to achieve political ends by the use of force: acquire territory/resources, achieve greater political power by eliminating or weakening political rivals, etc. Terrorism also seeks to achieve political goals by the use of force, such as the Al Qaeda train bombings in Spain altering the course of elections. The difference lies in tactics and target selection.

A traditional military model utilizes traditional military forces to destroy or take traditional military targets. An army may take a strategically important hill that controls traffic through a specific region or allows one to control a large area through the use or threat of force. An air force may destroy a power generation facility. One nation’s military may seek to destroy another nation’s military with or without taking territory to alter the balance of power, etcetera.

Non-state actors like Al-Qaeda have geo-political goals as well, goals that place them at odds with some of the greatest powers on Earth. They may not have the political or economic clout to effectively use diplomacy to achieve their goals. However they cannot use traditional military methods to achieve those goals either, because they cannot compete with their political adversaries militarily. Thus they have chosen terrorism as their preferred methodology.

Terrorism targets are usually soft, civilian targets, like a crowded market in Baghdad. However they may also be traditional military targets, like the Pentagon on 9/11, the USS Cole in Yemen, or a barracks in Saudi Arabia. Whatever the target, the intent is to significantly alter the balance of political power to be more favorable to their cause and objectives. Organizations like Al-Qaeda cannot hope to do this by traditional applications of force. They cannot destroy the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, for example. So they use force to alter the political behavior of their adversaries, with the occasional bold if not fool-hardy move like 9/11 in an attempt to alter the actual reality of their adversary’s political existence. For example, the suicide bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut. Did this significantly damage the military capability of the U.S. Naval Department? No, but it did alter U.S. plans in Lebanon to the favor of those who attacked the barracks.

I will concede that one can argue that terrorism, although a use of force, is not a military action. I believe this to be untrue because to counter a substantial terrorism threat from a sub-national entity requires a warlike footing on the part of a nation-state, utilizing diplomatic, intelligence and military resources as well as law enforcement assets. The application of force using terrorism also aims to achieve political objectives.

Bikerman wrote:
Moonspider wrote:
9/11 was a terrorist attack and a military operation. I have no doubt about that and can’t fathom calling it anything but. Secretary Napalitano attempted to call it a “man-caused disaster” last year. However all military strikes aimed at causing significant damage to infrastructure are “man-caused disasters” in my opinion, whether caused by a B-52 dropping bombs or a 757 used as a bomb.

Terrorism is a military tactic, just not a legal one.
Again, I'm not sure how useful the word 'military' is there. Anything is a military tactic, potentially. I refuse to call an attack by a dozen terrorists a military operation. It was a well planned crime. How many people have to be involved before you call it a military operation? 2? 4? 10? 20? Once you start labelling terrorists as military then where do you stop?


A military operation in the traditional sense can be a small squad or even just one person. I prefer to label terrorists as military because they are attempting to accomplish political objectives through the application of force, the same purpose as a military. The fact that there method is illegal does not make it any less military. Using lethal chemical munitions in combat is illegal as well, but a military that does so is still a military.

Furthermore, a significant threat from an organization that employs terrorism as a primary tactic can only be countered by a nation-state using military force at least in part.

The path of civilization reminds me of two warships dueling in the age of sail. They make circles in the water as each constantly attempts to cross the “T” of the other. These circles go in a line based upon wind direction. Civilization too is advancing in a line of progress, but it also tends to repeat itself in circular patterns. I think now we may be circling back to a time when sub-national entities play a much larger role than they once did, like the East India Trading company and the Caribbean pirates of the 17th and 18th Centuries. But once more, I digress!

Always good to speak with you, Chris

Respectfully,
M
Bikerman
And I also enjoy our exchanges. The fact that we disagree quite strongly on some issues and yet can challenge each other in a cordial manner is, I hope, an example of how to conduct civilised debate.

It will get too long if we continue to use the normal technique of quote/reply so let me try, I hope impartially, to sum up the main point of contention.

You contend that the modern world makes traditional notions of 'terrorism as criminality' redundant, or at least inadequate. The increased ability to organise and destroy means that terrorism has now become something we need to redefine, and that means regarding some groups, like Al-Queda, with the ability and resources to launch powerful attacks with political objectives, as military organisations rather than criminals.

Is that fair?

My general response to that line is going to be to attack it on the main ground that it makes the term 'military' redundant. Any individual can, with sufficient dedication, produce a device powerful enough to kill many. I think the assassin of Archduke Ferdinand would probably argue that the power to shake the world has always (or at least for some considerable time) been within reach of a sufficiently motivated person. To use this as an argument requires more.
Let me take the liberty, not unfair I hope, of presuming a possible response.
It is only recently that the power to topple states has become more widely 'available'
True in the sense that it is conceivable for any group to obtain some serious killing power - up to and including nuclear. But again this is not something that has suddenly arisen since 2001. This was the subject of thriller novels 40 years ago and has been possible for decades. Nor is it a reason to regard the perpetrators of any such atrocity as military.

I think you may be assuming that, because I refuse to regard such people as military, it logically (or legally) follows that they cannot be the legitimate targets of military action by the state (whatever state that be). If so then let me disabuse you of that.
I'll give you a terrible (from my point of view) example of Northern Ireland. It is terrible from my point of view because I have already said that I would have to seriously think about calling the IRA 'military' - in fact I should be honest and say that I probably would. It is, though, worth using because I think it cuts through this point. The military were used by the UK authorities, ironically, because it became necessary to support the Catholic community against the Protestant discrimination and violence. There is no question in my mind that such use of the military was, at the time, correct, and there is also no question in my mind that the 'enemy' were not a military.
A nation state uses the military to defend its national interests. If that becomes necessary from criminal activity then so be it, but it should not be the first resort.
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