The Deadman Night Rider

A forum for evening students of the SMU Dedman School of Law and other outlaws..

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Christopher Hitchens is, not to put too fine a point on it, the man. Aside from George Will, there is no other pundit that I admire more for simple command of language. In his Slate piece this week, he writes of Al Qaeda and similar groups in response to the Amnesty International charge that Guantanamo Bay is the “gulag of our times”:

In Afghanistan and Iraq, they sought to destroy the electoral process that alone can confer true legitimacy, and they are in many, if not most, cases not even citizens of the countries concerned. Their announced aim is the destruction of all nonbelievers, and their avowed method is indiscriminate and random murder. They are more like pirates, hijackers, or torturers—three categories of people who have in the past been declared outside the protection of any law.

The administration therefore deserves at least some sympathy in its confrontation with an enemy of a new type. I should very much like to know how a Gore administration would have dealt with the hundreds of foreign sadists taken in arms in Afghanistan.

I have often wondered that myself (leaving aside the question of whether Gore would have invaded Afghanistan at all, or succumbed to the calls from some in his party to cast the 9/11 attack as a law enforcement issue under the purview of the International Criminal Court). It begs the question, what else can be done?

The grim reality is that most alternatives are tantamount to doing nothing – simply letting the 300 or so still in custody walk out the front door. Legally we can’t justify keeping them, but morally, realistically we can’t countenance releasing them. In many cases, extending them even some of the protections we afford citizens and non-citizens alike would be too dangerous or destroy the value of holding them. In the end, they’ll probably be split up and farmed out to more remote locations as the name Guantanamo acquires more and more negative connotation.

That’s why most of the attacks on the President on this front are irresponsible. His critics are more than happy to let the administration twist in the wind, knowing the next Koran-flushing incident or naked human pyramid photo to come along is only a matter of time.

It may be anathema to the philosophies that underlie our system, but in one sense it is not so unjust for these men to suffer a mild form of outlawry considering how thoroughly they have renounced modern civilization – though even so, they are not without some basic protections. The Guantanamo Bay prisoners enjoy the level of care they receive now if for no other reason than fear of bad publicity from our free press. In the abuses that have occurred – documented in excruciating detail in a manner virtually no other government would allow - the perpetrators have been held to account, even up to senior levels in the military. Detainees are issued Korans, religious literature, and adequate, appropriate diets. If anyone thinks their state is inhumane, consider for a moment how long 300 Chechen militants would last under the tender mercies of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Army, many of whose impressed soldiers routinely endure far harsher conditions.


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