Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Brief Attempt at Devil's Advocacy

The recent ruling by the Supreme Court, regarding Guantanamo and the limits of power for the Executive Branch of the US Government, touched off a firestorm of opinion on both sides of the issue. Personally, I agree with the court that detainees held by the U.S. in any camp have the right under habeas corpus to challenge their detention and demand to address the evidence used to justify their detention.

Yet, the presumptive Republican nominee and scores of others in his party, such as Newt Gingrich, seem to think that the Court has just made it easier for terrorists to escape justice by giving them access to lawyers and due process under the U.S. Constitution. They believe this ruling will lead to untold horrors, including "the loss of a city" if Gingrich is to be believed.

Bottom line, the Bush administration asserted at the Supreme Court hearings on this issue that it had the power and the right during wartime (even a non-traditional war like the Global War on Terror) to capture a foreigner abroad and hold him for the rest of his life without any independent review of the courts. This is about as dangerous and wide-ranging a power as you could find anywhere in a democratic society. It is a good thing the Court rejected Bush's arguments.

Yet, in a brief but thougtful piece today by Dr. Steven Taylor, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Troy University in Alabama, he writes three paragraphs that gave me pause. I thought about what an uninformed, average-joe voter might think about them. I know such a guy, a former co-worker of mine who was a combat veteran in the first Gulf War. He and I had one conversation about politics years ago that left an indelible mark in my mind about how people can form opinions independent of reason, empathy, or even basic humanity. He was, in short, one of the angriest people I'd ever met, with a pathology so convoluted I was awe-struck at how he managed not to kill someone each and every day. So I will try to respond to these three paragraphs in his voice.

Since it is clearly possible for US forces to have arrested the wrong people, I cannot see how it is an abuse for SCOTUS to decide that those in captivity should have the right to question their detention.
We don't arrest the wrong people. If they're standing in our way as we go after the bad guys, then they might as well be bad guys. In any event, what's the harm in getting extra Muslims off the street for a few years? They would have eventually turned into terrorists.

It is incredibly selfish and myopic to take the attitude that because foreigners are being detained that it somehow doesn’t matter that innocent people are being caught up in the dragnet.
Selfish? It's selfish to want to stay alive? Those fuckers wouldn't hesitate to bury a knife in my back while smiling and hugging me and calling me Sadiq. What's "myopic" mean?

To put it another way, when the FARC kidnaps someone for political reasons and holds them without chance of release simply because they believe they have the right to do so within the context of a self-defined cause, we all find that to be an abomination. Why is it is any different if the US government engages in the same activity?
Because we're the fucking United States, that's why! We do whatever we want, when we want, and no one can tell us shit. That's what makes us great -- we don't take shit from anybody, and we make up all the rules. And what's the FARC, anyway?

This, in my reasoned, human -- and now empathetic -- opinion, is why we should be afraid through the summer and fall. How do you reason with the unreasoned? How do you generate empathy in the angriest of people, or even those who aren't quite as angry but truly believe that America's always right?

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