Dick Durbin Apologizes,

or does he really?

Henry (mail):
I am disappointed in Durbin's caving in by addressing the matter in any manner beyond stating the obvious: that the critics who claim that he equated Guantanamo to a Nazi concentration camp or the Soviet gulag are lying in order to avoid answering the question he posed. As Andrew Sullivan has observed, "Durbin focused on one very credible account of inhumane treatment and abuse of detainees ... and asked an important question:
'If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.' "
6.21.2005 9:16pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Well, he had nothing to apologize for. He said nothing wrong. Specifically, he said that if one were to read that FBI report without knowing that it was a description of American practices, one would assume it was a description of practices of the Nazis, the Soviets or Pol Pot. Is that wrong? Or is the so-called right really "proud" of Gitmo and Abu Graib? Unfortunately, as PowerLine has shown with its "I heart Gitmo" shirts, it seems the the modern right really is proud of Abu Graib and Gitmo. I'm sorry, but that is not my America, it is not the America I was taught to love. God Bless Dick Durbin for saying what he said. And shame on all those who have twisted his words in order to take attention away from the real issue of what in God's name is this country doing. Here's an exercise for all those who condemn Durbin -- look up the number of American POW's who died while in North Vietnamese custody. Now go look up the number of foreign fighters/terrorists who have died in American custody in the last four years. Which number is greater? Pretty sad.
6.21.2005 9:19pm
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
Henry and Greedy clerk: Yes, Durbin's statement was wrong.

Those brutal regimes didn't mess around with tying people in uncomfortable positions and leave them in a cold room. They beat people every day with clubs and kicking. They broke bones. They burned people. They electrocuted people (they didn't just threaten to do it, they actually did it). They crushed, cut off, and burned out body parts. They sodomized people. They starved people (they didn't just let people go hungry, they actually killed people by starvation). Nothing that the Americans have been accused of is even remotely like real torture.

And even further, one of the reasons those regimes were so horrible is that they did these things to people who were innocent of any crime and that were no threat to the regime. They were just in the wrong class. By contrast, the people in Gitmo are all there because we have credible reason to believe that they are both criminals and a threat to the United States.

These are stark contrasts. If you don't understand the differences then I doubt that you even really understand what is wrong with torture or brutality in the first place.
6.21.2005 9:55pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Durbin's remarks were uncalled for in the middle of a war. I'd like to note that the Nuremberg trials mean that Durbin wasn't just comparing upper-level policy makers to Nazis, he was comparing the entire chain-of-command from Dubya to Private First Class. It was like walking up to a random person in uniform and calling them a baby killer. I don't have much tolerance for that. I've read plenty of soldiers who took his remarks personally. I have not seen the full transcript of his apology, so I'm not sure whether he really apologized or not, but what I've read sounds like a non-apology to me.

I'll reprise some of what I said here:
Austin Bay said that all wars are "at some point morally compromised". Actually, this is true of all governments, all criminal justice systems and all prisons, too, not to mention all media organizations, all religious institutions and all political parties.

So, when the Democratic Party was trying to elect Kerry, did they spend a lot of time agonizing about their many moral lapses beginning with Madison and Jefferson's support of slavery, or did they put heart and soul into winning? Generally, they toed the party line and tried to win, just like the Republicans. After the election there was much soul searching. If Dick Durbin can understand that, maybe he can understand how to support the troops.
I'm trying to recall the dramatic criticisms within the Democratic party during the election where senior Democrats like Durbin compared Kerry's mistakes to those of the Klan, or the Nazis, or other assorted disgusting historical groups, all in the name of supporting his election efforts. I can't remember them.

6.21.2005 10:02pm
erp (mail):
Greedy Clerk: Your comment proves once again that liberals have no sense of humor. The "I heart Gitmo" t'shirts are sarcasm, and a large part of the problem with you is <i>what</i> you were taught to love about Ameerica. Since you're reading VC, there may hope that you will figure it. I hope so.
6.21.2005 10:07pm
Patrick (mail):
You are completely whacked if you think that Durbin meant anything except the literal reading of his words. He was throwing red meat to the uberleftists, and he wouldn't have said he was sorry (if his words offended you) except for the earslapping that Daley gave him today. But his statement is farcical on it's face. Comparing chaining suspects to the floor and depriving them of sleep to regimes responsible for the butchery of millions. Goof.

Dick Durbin knows which Democrat in IL really holds the power, and said what he did because he thought he was safe to do so. No other visible Democrat had the stones to give him a crack and send him to his room except for Daley, for which I give him credit.

As for your POW question, the references I find are 108 in Iraq and Afghanistan (roughly 25% being investigated as possible abuse), and 144 not including MIA in Vietnam. Your statement was "pretty sad". So we should start killing more detainees in Iraq? Pretty brutal suggestion on your part.

6.21.2005 10:08pm
Sad, really. I consider myself conservative in most ways, but when others who self-identify that way cannot read a plain statement of fact without twisting it to shoot the messenger, I'm now faced with rethinking rather a lot about who my fellow travellers are.

Durbin's statement was factually correct. The point-scorers and apologists should really think about where they want their nation to go, rather than (intentionally, it seems, in most cases) misinterpreting him and attacking the straw man.

I say "was factually correct", because now, and for a long time to come, the description of those things will now first bring to mind not the repressive regimes of the past mentioned by Durbin, but rather the country I live in, and have been proud of. Pretending that this slander of our ideal (if not our actions) happened because of the people trying to stop it is not simply short-sighted and plainly wrong headed; it is extremely destructive to our nation and what it stands for.
6.21.2005 10:26pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
one of the reasons those regimes were so horrible is that they did these things to people who were innocent of any crime and that were no threat to the regime. They were just in the wrong class. By contrast, the people in Gitmo are all there because we have credible reason to believe that they are both criminals and a threat to the United States.

The irony -- how do you know that? Given that the people on Gitmo have never been given any process, it is impossible to know.

And Patrick, I hope you are kidding -- remember the Vietnam war lasted twice as long, so we have already beaten the N. Vietnamese. Very sad, and I am sure the North Vietnamese "investigated" a lot of the killings that happened on their watch too.

As to the accusation that we are not reading Durbin's quote literally, you have to be kidding -- Durbin never said what you accuse him of saying -- he said exactly what I said he said, and what Henry quoted him as saying -- he never said jack about the "soldiers" -- go look at his quote, instead of getting your news from Instapundit and Bill O'Reilly.

6.21.2005 10:29pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Here is a complete list of the 108. It's worth scanning. Cecil Turner notes in the comments here:
18 killed in riots (or whilst attacking US personnel), 22 killed in a single insurgent attack on Abu Ghraib, 28 or more listed as "natural causes or accidents,"
Here is a CBC article on the 24 or so which are being investigated as homocides. We've processed somewhere around 34,000 to 68,000 detainees. Given that the North Vietnamese took only 2,459 Americans prisioner, I'd say we're doing pretty well.

Do law clerks still believe in innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? (Grin) Does it apply to US soldiers, or just the enemy?

6.21.2005 10:36pm
Patrick (mail):
Fishbane, that Durbin read a quote from an FBI agent (reproduced on the ACLU website), is "factually correct".

That it is flaming hyperbole, clearly meant to bring the Senator some publicity and feed the frothing anti-war left, is also correct.

That you can actually, with a straight face, now earnestly bemoan the future reputation of our country while defending the hyperbolic and inaccurate partisan rhetoric that is to blame, is laughable. If Durbin was as concerned now with backing the military actions of our President as he was in 1998 when Bill Clinton was taking action against Saddam's "defiant protection of his weapons of mass destruction", he would be backing this President rather than figuring out ways to get his face on the news.
6.21.2005 10:51pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):

Dick Durbin Apologizes,
or does he really?

Barbara Skolaut
6.21.2005 10:59pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):

I'm afraid all prisons remind me of the gulag. I have a personal horror of prison. Dave Kopel's comparison is germaine. I suspect our interrogation techniques are very like those of the British confronted by the IRA terrorists and the Israelis confronted by the PLO terrorists.

We cannot draw the torture rule so daintily that there is nothing left. I've had people claim that Koran abuse can be torture, depending on the sensibilities of the prisoner. That's nonsense. If Durbin and you want to talk about the right way to treat prisoners you can do it without hyperbole and we'll get along fine. Solitary confinement isn't torture. But everyone agrees it is pretty freakin' awful. Chaining someone on the floor for a long time isn't torture, but I'd be willing to discuss the proper limits on it. What do you do about a prisoner who soils himself on purpose? Isn't that good tactics when claiming abuse?

I'd be very interested if some prison guards would weigh in.

6.21.2005 10:59pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Greedy Clerk, you'd probably score more cash if you knew your facts. The Viet Minh ("North Vietnamese") took roughly 40,000 prisoners during the French war in Indochina. They starved or summarily executed close to 30,000 of them. The number of Americans taken POW but not accounted for is lower because the U.S. never suffered any catastrophic defeats along the lines of the major French losses, but many prisoners were simply disappeared. It is believed some were shipped to Russia ("rendered" is the term, I believe) for more systematic interrogation. Their brutality toward prisoners and political exploitation of them was quite exceptional, rivalling the Japanese treatment of U.S. POWs - human medical experimentation excluded, as far as we know.
6.21.2005 11:30pm
Adam K:
I think the whole thing was really a Catch-22. No matter what analogy Durbin made, the comparison would have been the subject of any subsequent commentary or criticism, not the underlying substantive issue. Also, if Durbin had made a more accurate comparison than one to the Nazis or Soviets, it would likely also have been too obscure for most people to get the point, and would have gone unnoticed.
6.21.2005 11:30pm
Patrick: In the interests of being polite, and recognizing there is no hope of finding common ground, I'll only note that I "bemoan the future reputation" because, again, I believe that this is true: in the future, when some tinpot dictator gets ahold of a US soldier and does to them what we've done to others, you tell me what the international reaction will be. You can skip the but-they-behead-people dance; anyone reasonable is both already rightly appalled and also not likely to be swayed by the agument that not being as bad as a bloodthirsty terrorist means your actionas are OK.

Wince: I appreciate the reasoned response. That is an enormous topic, and one that, at least for me, quickly intersects the treatment of our own (U.S. citizen) prisoners. Even without straying there, it starts becoming a huge topic, very far afield from the post at hand, and I don't want to abuse welcome here.

Suffice it to say that my personal feelings on the matter are that a respect for human dignity is not something the U.S. should turn on and off. At the time a nation founded on inalienable rights accepts the notion that some can be treated as less than human, I believe moral authority is lost.

It is true that reasonable people can disagree as to what it means to treat people as less than human. Our host, for instance, seems to have on at least one occasion found execution by torture acceptable, for instance, and while I disagree with him (and he later modified his published views), I find him a reasonable person.

I personally believe that we should not be testing limits. We should be a shining light in the matter of human dignity. The long term value of being not only morally correct but also a model of how most other people, given the chance, wish to live, will nearly always be greater than any short-term tactical advantage. (I say nearly, because one can always posit silly ticking-bomb scenarios, or whatever.)

On the other hand, we can simply admit that we do what ever it expedient. If that is the benchmark, and "the gloves are off", then fine. At least have the courage to admit that morality is relegated to the back seat, and stop pretending.
6.21.2005 11:37pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):

I think there is indeed a way for you and Patrick to find common ground, just as you and I did. After all, I am far closer to Patrick's stance than I am to yours, as I consider myself a memeber of the US Military Anti-Defamation League. You have actually taken the first step towards that common ground, which is to try to make those you disagree with feel safe to comment, and to seek safety for yourself as well.

6.22.2005 12:02am
SupremacyClaus (mail):
Out of respect and cultural sensitivity, one captive should be beheaded on TV each week. I am looking up if Brown delivers to their regions, and packing requirements.

I am very upset by our side's racism, sexism, homophobia, transgender insensitivity, speciesism, lawyerism, and just cultural bias.

This would also give our side leverage. I doubt if any of the unfortunates have considered the reality versus the theory of servicing 72 virgins after a martyrdom operation. I would tell my captor anything to avoid being beheaded, then confronting the demands of 72 hyper, horny, jealous, unshaven, ululating virgins. If told one of the virgins will be a law student? I would give up info on the whereabouts of my own blessed mother.
6.22.2005 12:42am
Mahan Atma (mail):
Do law clerks still believe in innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? (Grin) Does it apply to US soldiers, or just the enemy?

What, you mean the U.S. has a prison camp where it indefinitely holds soldiers accused of abuse, without any due process whatsoever?

Last I checked, reasonable doubt is a standard you apply to someone in a trial, before convicting them of a crime and locking them up.

Or are you saying we can't criticize the government until we've proven beyond a reasonable doubt that its policies are deeply flawed? Very peculiar, that.
6.22.2005 1:02am
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
Greedy clerk: I know that they are reasonably imprisoned because I quite reasonably reject any wild conspiracy theories about our soldiers who captured them. I don't believe that prisoners of war have ever in history been granted due process. You get caught on the battlefield and you go to prison until the war is over (or until a prisoner exchange). End of discussion. Odd how you suddenly want to change the rules now that changing them will hurt the American war effort.

Fishbane: if I had any hope that captured American soldiers would be treated as well as they are treating the prisoners at Gitmo, even assuming all these allegations are true, then I'd be thrilled. And so would American soldiers.

Oh please, Brer Fox, don't mishandle that Bible, oh the pain!
6.22.2005 3:08am
Kazinski (mail):
Dick Durbin doesn't believe that American GIs are the moral equivilent of Pol Pot, the Nazis or the Soviet Gulag. And his critics know it. He just said it in an attempt to damage the Bush adminsitration. Which says a lot more about Dick Durbin than it says about Bush.

And one comment, by a non-lawyer, those of you who are calling for trials of the Gitmo detainees are ignorant. If our POW's in Vietnam, or Korea or WWII would have been put on trial we would have been livid. POWs or detainees are not criminals, and to suggest that they are disrespects their status. If there is any credible evidence that they have commited war crimes then we should put them on trial. If not they should be kept honorably in detention until the conflict is over. Putting them on trial and treating them like criminals degrades their status as combatants.
6.22.2005 3:23am
Some Jarhead:
Let's get real, huh? We had to fly these prisoners to Cuba... inhumane would have been pushing them out of the plane on the trip over.

3 squares a day, vegetables, fruit, deserts, air conditioning, fresh religious material, and even the occasional “sexual torture” of the female guards. Some people have to pay for that kind of treatment.

So what if they have to spend 5 years in a cage. That’s a small price to pay for shooting at Marines, considering the alternative. But, if you’d like, I train with some motivated individuals who would be happy to clear out the cages at Gitmo, if you catch my drift. I’m quite prepared to keep them far away from any courts martial.

As for Law Clerks; what do you expect from a kid who can’t be bothered to get an actual job in the legal profession? Clerking is all well and sweet, but stick to the professionals when you want, you know, product.
6.22.2005 7:50am
SupremacyClaus (mail):
I am going to give the answer here, because everyone seems adrift.

Give the prisoner a lawyer for lawyer welfare jobs, then some kind of tribunal for billings. Controversy over. If you do not pay Tony Soprano, he busts up your restaurant. If Tony refuses to pay the New York Cappo, union trouble mysteriously arises at his construction site. Cappish?
6.22.2005 8:16am
AppSocRes (mail):
Durban is outrageous on many levels: (1) The scale: 10s of millions of prisoners vs 100s; (2) The legal justification: purposeful mass terror involving 10s of millions of completely innocent citizens vs detainment of 100s of likely foreign terrorists (plus some 10s of accidentally detained innocents); (3) The level of violence/torture: purposeful mass starvation/brutal overworking/exposure resulting in the death of 10s of millions and grotesque physical tortures of millions rivaling the worst porno-sadistic fantasies vs humane general conditions for prisoners that in some circumstances rival those of their wardens and relatively mild interrogation techniques that do not affect the long- or short-term physical or mental health of detainees in good health; (4) Purposeful elimination of any restraint on the behavior of wardens plus encouragement to violence vs a real, formal system of restraint along with real sanctions for violations.

No liberal such as Durban is would think or has thought to compare the recent behavior of communist/saddam hussein's governments towards American POWs with Hitler's or Stalin's behavior, yet one has only to read Sen. John McCain's accounts of his torture or recollect the images of beaten American pilots during the Kuwaiti conflict to realize that these governments behaved much worse than the US in situations where international law was much clearer on how wrong their behavior was. (Reminder to Durban and his lib buddies: the Geneva Conventions do not deal with how terrorists -- not soldiers or partisans -- are to be dealt with.)

Every so often liberals forget to lie and dissimulate and Americans get a look at the cesspools in their skulls that pass for brains. This is one of those moments and as is always the case a clear vision of where liberals are coming from generates more converts to the right.
6.22.2005 9:17am
Patrick (mail):
By some "tinpot dictator", do you mean the way our POWs were treated in Gulf War 1? Beaten daily, denied medical treatment, forced to make video interviews that were broadcast on Arab TV?

If you want to be delusional, feel free. But don't seriously try to convince anyone that turning the AC down or feeding prisoners Lemon Chicken that is only 135 degrees (less than 40 or more than 140 is the rule) is tantamount to having your limbs broken.
6.22.2005 9:23am
Mahan Atma (mail):
" I know that they are reasonably imprisoned because I quite reasonably reject any wild conspiracy theories about our soldiers who captured them."

It doesn't require any "wild conspiracy theories", only facts. Many of the detainees were simply handed over to the US by Northern Alliance warlords who were paid large sums of money to do so. It has been well documented.

The government has already admitted that many of the detainees were innocent. How can you deny this?
6.22.2005 9:32am
aslanfan (mail):
Putting aside the issue of whether Durbin should have apologized, I’d like to opine on whether he did. No, he didn’t, not in any meaningful sense. It’s a typical conditional, qualified, Washington Apology: [paraphrase] “If anyone took offense, I regret it”. When was the last time anyone in Washington said: “I did something wrong, I’m sorry, and I’ll try my best not to do it again.” It never happens.
6.22.2005 10:01am
RPS (mail):
Thank you "aslanfan" I couldn't believe it took that long for someone to bring that up. Not that Durbin is alone. It's become commonplace in our society for everyone to offer the pseudo-apology: "If I offended anyone, I am sorry."

Well, if you have to say those words, then, yes, clearly you did offend some people. I don't see why an individual's remorse should be conditioned on the reaction of the listener. In other words, "if I did not offend you, then I am not sorry and I stand by my words. If I did offend you, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that."

Either he is sorry for what he did or he is not. I really don't care, but you can't have it both ways.
6.22.2005 10:21am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"It’s a typical conditional, qualified, Washington Apology"

Really? How would you describe all those apologies Bush has made? Oh yeah - nonexistent.
6.22.2005 10:26am
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Seems like some folks are declaring our Military guilty without reviewing all the evidence. Thirty-eight detainees have been freed after having been given a hearing. That sounds like due process.

My comment about reasonable doubt was a joke (note the grin) intended to get people to think. I was very clear that it is proper to discuss the limits of coercise interrogations., which would necessarily include criticism of the government, and which could necessarily not be conducted under the weight of reasonable doubt. But really, if you support our troops, do they deserve the benefit of the doubt, or not? And if they do, has Durbin given it to them? Have we?

6.22.2005 10:46am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"That sounds like due process."

You have mighty low standards for what comprises due process. Under the traditional definition, due process requires things like an impartial adjudicator, a lawyer for the defendant, rules of evidence, and so on. The mere fact that some detainees were released does not somehow change the definition of due process.

"But really, if you support our troops, do they deserve the benefit of the doubt, or not?"

I had given them the benefit of the doubt, until abundant evidence demonstrated otherwise. For example, when I read about the (completely innocent) detainees at Bagram Airbase had been beaten to death after being hung by their arms for days at a time, I decided the benefit of the doubt was no longer reasonable to grant.

Tell me, what evidence would it take to convince you that the benefit of the doubt is no longer warranted? If you haven't changed your mind by now, I don't know what it would take. Or else you just aren't paying attention...
6.22.2005 10:59am
Dick Durbin is a Dick (mail):
His first name is Dick. I rest my case!
6.22.2005 12:02pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
BTW, Mr. Wince, I take exception to the implications in your loaded question re "don't you support the troops?"

Sir, I believe the vast majority of our soldiers are fine, upstanding men and women doing an extraordinary job in an impossible situation.

The blame for human rights abuses lies not on that majority of fine soldiers, it lies directly at the feet of the civilian leadership whose job it is to protect and command the troops. It is they who have let down this country, and indeed, the soldiers under their command.

Funny, isn't it, how Bush was so anxious to dress up in a flight suit and land on an aircraft carrier following the invasion of Iraq, implicitly taking the credit for the initial success of the war. Now that the war is seriously foundering and scandals are rife, it's not George Bush's war anymore. Don't have enough troops on the ground? Well then, that's simply because the generals in the field haven't requested them. Abuses of detainees? Oh, well that's not a result of deliberately formulated policies, it's just the out of control behavior of a few "bad apples".

Right... I'm sorry but nobody buys this BS anymore. And it strains credulity to keep pushing it.

They say success has a thousand parents, and failure is an orphan. Well lately, George Bush is starting to look a lot like a deadbeat dad.
6.22.2005 12:03pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Mahan Atma,

Did you read any of the articles I linked? The due process in question was mandated by our Court system, in a case where I agreed with the Court and disagreed with the Administration. Based on your behavior in this thread alone, including your unsupported comments about due process, I don't believe you are giving our soldiers the benefit of the doubt, athough I will accept that you intend to. Try harder.

The next way you could try harder is to measure these incidents against a reasonable historical and civilian perspective. These incidents are absolutely typical of prisons and of war. Every war, including the vaunted Good War against Hitler. They are both good to prevent sometimes and impossible to prevent always. I wouldn't be surprised or shocked to read about such an incident in any State of the Union in a civilian prison. I seem to remember a rather celebrated incident involving an innocent man and a broom handle in true blue New York City. The best we can hope for is what we've got: military trials of the soldiers responsible.

6.22.2005 1:20pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"The due process in question was mandated by our Court system, in a case where I agreed with the Court and disagreed with the Administration."

I don't know what you mean by "the due process in question". Due process has certainly been mandated, but that doesn't mean those military tribunals meet that standard.

Yeah, I read the article. Of course, it's a military press release. Given that the military has publically announced its intent to lie and spread propaganda, you'd have to be awfully naive to take their word for it that these tribunals are "fair and balanced".

"I wouldn't be surprised or shocked to read about such an incident in any State of the Union in a civilian prison."

Maybe, but I wouldn't defend it, and I would expect the persons involved to be charged. And if it was a result of policy, I'd expect the policy-makers to be held liable as well.

"The best we can hope for is what we've got: military trials of the soldiers responsible."

You refuse to admit that the civilian leadership bears any responsibility for what's going on. That's pure head-in-the-sandism.

"I don't believe you are giving our soldiers the benefit of the doubt"

I don't believe you want to hold responsible the military commanders and civilian leaders who are in charge of the soldiers.
6.22.2005 1:46pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
Oh, and Mr. Wince, since you seem so inclined to give soldiers the benefit of the doubt, I wonder what you make of this testimony by one of the military lawyers who was assigned to "represent" Gitmo detainees:

The military tribunals of suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay were a "tremendous failure", a US military lawyer told Congress yesterday.

Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift was testifying before the first full Senate hearing on the Bush administration's treatment of detainees since the "war on terror" began.

His comments come amid calls from Democrats and some Republicans that the Guantánamo Bay prison camp be closed down.

Lt Cdr Swift was assigned to represent Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver, whom he said had been left mentally disturbed after being held in solitary confinement for seven months. Lt Cdr Swift said that Mr Hamdan was offered the opportunity to see a defence lawyer only if he pleaded guilty to the charges made against him.

He told the Senate judiciary committee: "Mr Hamdan was on the verge of being coerced into a guilty plea or deteriorating mentally to the point that he would be unable to assist in his defence if he ever came to trial.
"We have lost sight of our fundamental values to the point that Mr Hamdan faces judgement for allegedly violating the law of war in a tribunal that fails to live up to the standards of justice required by that same law."


So Mr. Wince, as one example of how these tribunals work — a detainee is given a lawyer only if he pleads guilty — Is that your idea of "due process"?
6.22.2005 2:07pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):

I see we are cross-posting. I will reply to your second comment later.

Given that the military has publically announced its intent to lie and spread propaganda, you'd have to be awfully naive to take their word for it that these tribunals are "fair and balanced".

That's not the benefit of the doubt. Rather the opposite.

I do want to hold responsible the military commanders and civilian leaders who are in charge of the soldiers. But I also think they, not just the soldiers, are doing a great job in a difficult situation. Why? Based on the evidence. I do make a basic assumption. I assume that a war is very, very hard to run. I apply my experience as part of a large organization doing software development. Our large projects typically fail. War is much harder than software.

Oddly, I think you agree with me, so I'm flummoxed by your take on things. You also said:

Sir, I believe the vast majority of our soldiers are fine, upstanding men and women doing an extraordinary job in an impossible situation.

Good. So why aren't their commanders, including the civilians at the top also doing an extraordinary job in an impossible situation? My experience has been that it is very hard to manage people so they do an extraordinary job in an impossible situation. It doesn't get easier to understand and easier to figure out the right thing to do as you move up the chain. It gets harder. Perhaps some examples will illustrate. Which is easier, city alderman or U.S. Senator? Which is easier, Justice of the Peace or Chief Justice? Which is easier, Private or President?

Let's take Dick Durbin as another example. I often say, in my more hyperbolic moments, things like, "I'd make a better Senator than Durbin!" But if you took my resume - mediocre student, demoted from bookstore manager to assistant manager, mediocre software engineer, no political experience - I'd be lucky to get fifteen votes. Durbin has twenty-two years in Congress. So am I giving Durbin the benefit of the doubt? Probably not, but I don't say that his speeches should be delivered arm upraised while wearing a little black mustache for historical accuracy.

I'm not sure what your profession is, but if I held it to the same standard you are using, and used the same kind of rhetoric you are using I bet you would be very insulted, especially considering how easily you took exception to my question. That question was intended to assume people intended to support the troops. I was questioning their methods of doing so.

6.22.2005 3:14pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Ok, I read your linked article. You did not mention this bit:
Brigadier General Thomas Hemingway, a legal adviser to the military commissions, denied that access to lawyers had been made conditional on a guilty plea.

He also objected to the description of Mr Hamdan's conditions as "solitary confinement", describing it instead as "segregation". He did not explain the difference.
Benefit of the doubt includes not glossing over contrary evidence like this. Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift sounds like a wonderful defense lawyer! I've noticed that good defense lawyers often complain about failure to follow due process, probably because it is so easy to mess up a complex process. When I think about how much trouble my organization has following it's one hundred years worth of rules I wonder how the justice system with rules back to the middle ages functions at all. Isn't it great that we gave Osama Bin Laden's driver good legal counsel?

Your own articles contain such excellent reasons for giving our people the benefit of the doubt. Why not give it? If you think about questioning your own thought processes as a way of questioning authority it might help.

6.22.2005 5:07pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Forgot to answer your question. No, I do not think that giving a detainee a lawyer only if he pleads guilty is an example of due process. But it does sound like a claim that a detainee might make and his lawyer might - in a perfectly ethical way - repeat.

Have you paid attention to how insane Moussoui sounds in his trial? Great way to waste American tax money.

6.22.2005 5:58pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"That's not the benefit of the doubt."

As I already stated, I'm no longer willing to grant the benefit of the doubt; the Bush Administration and military commanders squandered that a long time ago.

"I do want to hold responsible the military commanders and civilian leaders who are in charge of the soldiers. But I also think they, not just the soldiers, are doing a great job in a difficult situation. Why? Based on the evidence."

I honestly don't know what evidence you're looking at. The war in Iraq has turned into a fiasco. We have no exit strategy, the insurgency is still raging, it's costing us hundreds of billions of dollarss and by all honest accounts we are going to be stuck in this mess for years to come.

Is that your idea of a "great job"?

"So why aren't their commanders, including the civilians at the top also doing an extraordinary job in an impossible situation? "

Because they AREN'T doing an extraordinary job! Look, soldiers on the ground can't be held responsible for strategic mistakes made by the leadership, right? Well guess what, the leadership has been making mistake after mistake, of which a scandal like Abu Ghraib is only one example. If you honestly think that was just the fault of a few misguided low-level soldiers, you simply haven't been paying attention.

"I assume that a war is very, very hard to run."

I would assume you're right. But you know what? Apparently the civilian leadership in charge of the war in Iraq didn't know that, because they completely failed to adequately prepare for the occupation. They thought it was going to be a "cakewalk", remember?

In fact, when General Shinseki advised Congress about how difficult it would be, he was basically forced into retirement.

How is that doing a "great job"?

And what about all the blatantly false claims the Bush Administration made in the lead-up to the war -- is that your idea of a "great job"?

"Benefit of the doubt includes not glossing over contrary evidence like this."

You're right, I don't give any credence to the Brig. General's statement. You know why? Because he has every motive to lie; that military lawyer had NO motive to lie -- to the contrary, I'm sure he's taking a huge risk by making that testimony.

"Isn't it great that we gave Osama Bin Laden's driver good legal counsel?"

What good is it to provide legal counsel, when the only reason you do so is to coerce a guilty plea? Is that honestly your idea of "good legal counsel"?

Honestly, you have some mightly low standards.

That's pretty much the whole story behind the Bush Administration and its supporters: LOWER THE BAR.

Sure, we're not as bad as Hitler and Stalin. Great! What a standard! Not as bad as Hitler and Stalin! Congratulations to us...
6.22.2005 7:38pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"I'm not sure what your profession is, but if I held it to the same standard you are using, and used the same kind of rhetoric you are using I bet you would be very insulted..."

Well yeah, I would. Why? Because I'm not the president, and I don't command the most powerful military on earth.

I honestly don't get your argument. Are saying the president, Sec.Def. and other military commanders shouldn't be held to a higher standard than the average Joe? I would have thought that, for them having an incredible amount of responsibility and power, it would make sense to hold them to a higher standard than a student or "mediocre software engineer" in your words.

Like I said... LOWER THE BAR. That's Bush's Number 1 political strategy.

I don't know about you, but I expect more from our leaders than I do from our janitors.
6.22.2005 8:02pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):

Well, you are clearly ignoring all the positive evidence of success in the War on Terror, both inside and outside Iraq. Here are some big ticket items:

Saddam is gone.
So are his death squads and torture chambers.
Udya and Qusay are dead.
We have an interim Consitution. It was well written.
We have had sucessful elections.
Iraq is being rebuilt better than when Saddam was in charge.
There is freedom of the press in Iraq.
The Iraqi economy is growing.
The insurgents are losing the war, and have been for over a year.
The Iraqis are building up their security forces.
Kofi Annon agrees with me that things are going well in Iraq.
The flypaper strategy succeeded in turning the Iraqis against terror and kept the terrorists from attacking us.
Libya gave up the bomb.
Syria gave up Lebanon.
Syria, Saudi Arabia, Eygpt, Jordan, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern states are modernizing.
The Arab world is actively discussing it's own failures.
The people of Iran are glad we otherthrew their hated enemy, and are now far better disposed towards us than their own rulers.

I haven't even written the best list. this is just off the top of my head. Did you know that the average Iraqi is more likely to die in a car accident than in a terror attack?

Here are some of the many dire anti-Bush predictions which have not come to pass:

Saddam did not use WMDs on our troops.
We did not have a horrible time taking Bagdhad.
The oil fields did not burn, creating an environmental catastrophe.
There was no massive humanitarian crisis, complete with millions of starving Iraqis.
Saddam did not draw Israel into the war, leading to a wider conflict.
The Shi'ite mullahs are not imposing a theocracy.
Bin Sadr is not taking over.
The Arab street did not erupt in continuous massive demonstrations against us. In fact it seems rather pleased with our efforts in many cases.

I also disagree with all your assertions about the war. I've seen the arguements for them and against them. The best minds that I read, like Victor Davis Hanson, think Bush is doing a great job. That's becuase he knows what a fiasco really looks like. Tell me, which mistake has Bush made which is comparable to Pearl Harbor? Which battle was as deadly as Okiniwa? How did we mess up worse than the Battle of the Bulge? Do you really think Bush's post war planning has had a worst result than Roosevelt's post-war planning, where the only philosophy and governmental system worse than the Nazis controlled a third of the world only three short years later?

Myself, I also give Roosevelt the benefit of the doubt.

I've also read about Lincoln and the Civil War. What a concatenation of calumnities! I think Lincoln did a fine job.

And then there is the Revolutionary War. What a bunch of bumblers! I think Washington did a fine job, too.

Yes, this war is well run - except for the PR department.

I am beginning to think that consistently using hyperbole as a rhetorical tactic eventually impedes thoughtful consideration. It's a bad habit.

6.22.2005 8:41pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Oh no, I don't want us to hold our janitors to lower standards than our leaders. I want our buildings to be clean and our wars to be well fought. BTW, why do you think that the military folks - you know, the ones who are dying - think things are going so well? Why do they love Bush, and Rumsfeld and General Franks, even though they are dying? Why do they despise the war critics like Moore?

Could it be that they know things about these men and about their own mission from personal experience that you don't?

And why, when I read the military historians and professional military strategists do I find people positive about our war effort, but when I read the folks who spend most of their time playing politics from Bush's left I hear nothing but wailing.

There are exceptions, like Jerry Pournelle. But he doesn't complain too much about the war going badly. He mainly complains that the old American Republic is dead.

And that wailing is very odd. It sounds very like the globalization wailing, and the climate change wailing and the Social Security wailing, etc.

I've hashed out these arguments. They are old. They didn't change my mind then, and, since new positive news keeps happening, they don't change my mind now.

6.22.2005 9:00pm