Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Doublethinking About Terrorism

By N.S. Palmer, Ph.D.

Today’s New York Times chronicles the American government’s quest for ever-more-intrusive airport security systems. The ostensible purpose is to thwart terrorists and wannabes like last week’s Nigerian “pants bomber.”

But what if the solution to terrorism is much simpler?

The fact is that Americans suffer from classic “doublethink” about terrorism.

Doublethink, a term coined in George Orwell’s novel 1984, is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time while ignoring the contradiction.

Even if they watch Fox News, most Americans know that their government bombs people and sponsors repressive regimes all over the world. At the same time, they believe that America just minds its own business in the world, never bothers anyone, and certainly doesn’t do anything to make people hate us and want to attack us.

As a result, they are completely baffled by acts of terrorism. They think that terrorists are irrationally hostile toward the United States and the Western way of life, and that nothing short of an impenetrable security system can stop them from attacking us.

And because there’s no such thing as an impenetrable security system, the result is a never-ending parade of more oppressive and intrusive security procedures. And more billions of taxpayer dollars wasted.

The solution to terrorism is not to shovel more and more tax money into boondoggles such as the Transportation Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, nor to let the government wiretap everyone, nor to lock Americans into their houses and let them out only under police supervision.

The solution is to stop bombing wedding parties and to tell local dictators that they’re on their own.

Copyright 2009 by N.S. Palmer.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


We always hear about Turkey Coma. Well I have been in the sway of the Post-Christmas Coma. And trying to come out of it. Rather unsuccessfully. >.<

Let's see... Ah yes. Congress.

They slipped the healthcare bill through. On Christmas Eve. I hate that.

It's so cowardly- they can't bear to actually try to compromise and consider that they might be wrong about it; we have to get it through at all costs, even if said costs include lying about it and pushing it through when we know no one is paying attention, and they can't do anything about it.


Which leads me to another topic. Why is Congress in session so often?

I mean, I don't think they even have the right to say they live in their home districts anymore. They don't live there. They live in D.C. for practically the entire year. I don't see how that is good for our country. When they have enough time to pass an attaboy for an athletic 'hero', we have problems. That shows that they have entirely too much time on the floor, and not enough time actually listening to their Constitutents.

And that, in turn, leads me to yet another pet peeve.

Why in the world is the Senate/House floor always empty when anyone is speaking? I mean, it's like the minute they aren't the center of attention anymore *shoom* out the door they are.

I understand they are busy men. I mean, they have to work hard to schmooze all those lobbyists and come up with 1,000 page bills none of them even read, and of course, there's all the Pork Cram Time they have to get in. All those things are very, very important.

"No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session."
Mark Twain

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers- I hope all of you have a blessed, and happy day. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"War on Christmas"?

It happens every year. Around Halloween, Christians begin to get geared up- they buy bumper stickers online that proudly proclaim their position, and begin chanting catchy slogans to themselves. Thanksgiving hits. The day after (and often before) the Christmas decorations go up in stores all over America.

And the holiday wishes start.

A smiling young salesman, after handing you your receipt, widely smiles and wishes you- "Happy holidays!" At this point, there are two responses: 1) smile, return the greeting, and walk away, 2) glare at him, turn away, and walk off in a huff, determined to spread the word of the highly offensive greeting you were given amongst all your friends and online acquaintances.

Heh. I guess you know where this is going, eh?

Every year, we go through the same thing. Christians, their tender sensitivities hurt by the salesman's greeting, loudly yell- "Jesus is the Reason for the Season!" and "Keep Christ in Christmas!" until, by the end of the Christmas season, they're all so tired, they have to retreat back to the comfortable, worn holes of gay rights and abortion.

The most outspoken 'War on Christmas' soldier is the American Family Association, which annually posts a 'Naughty or Nice' list of companies that are "FOR" Christmas. (They can't even find a way to incorporate Christian terminology into the name. They have to borrow from Santa Claus!)

Christmas has become the holiday of the MasterCard. Our only thoughts on Christmas morning are "I hope Sally likes what I got," and "I wonder what I got!" Very Christian thoughts, there. In effect, Christmas has ceased to be the celebration of Christ's birth that the Catholics made it into, and it has more and more begun to resemble the original pagan origins.

So what are we putting Christ's name to? Christ's name is more and more used to justify the most excessive consumerism that is seen the whole year 'round. Do we really want Jesus' name reduced to that?

But beyond that, the 'War against the War on Christmas' is just plain petty. Does it really matter what the greeter at your local grocery store says in the way of holiday greeting? 'Happy Holidays' is a nice- and much shorter- way to say "Merry Christmas, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa!" all in one simple greeting. How can you get offended by that?

And in the end, the way someone greets you is really irrelevant. Christians waste their time fighting about such a fringe issue when what they should really be concerned about is winning souls!

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bush-ism With a Human Face

By N.S. Palmer, Ph.D.

Waaaay back in the 1960s — yes, during that tiresome decade of Woodstock and flower power and Vietnam — something remarkable happened in Czechoslovakia.

From the end of World War II in 1945 until 1989, Czechoslovakia was dominated by the Soviet Union, which was the 20th-century’s nom de voyage for the Russian Empire. Its official ideology was communism. Its official governing method was oppression.

In 1968, a reformer named Alexander Dubček became leader of the Czech Communist Party, which was the country’s ruling party. He wanted to keep the egalitarian goals of communism (such as equality and social welfare) but get rid of its oppressive aspects. His government allowed free speech, including open dissent from government policies. He reined in the secret police.

Dubček called his movement “communism with a human face.”

Naturally, the Russians couldn’t allow it. They invaded Czechoslovakia and put an end to that experiment.

How little things have changed. In 2009 under President Obama, the United States is now being treated to “Bush-ism with a human face.”

One must admit that it is a slight improvement. Instead of having to endure the smirking, murderous, simian countenance of Dubya Bush, we now hear very similar policies from the serious, calm, intelligent visage of President Obama. It cuts the nausea factor by quite a bit. It’s been months since I threw my shoes at the TV set.

But it’s still Bush-ism: Bail out the Wall Street sharks who wrecked the economy, but not the unemployed whose jobs and lives the Wall Streeters destroyed. Sell out health care reform to the in$urance companies, the drug companies, and their hired lackeys in Congress. Crank up the war against Afghanistan. Slow down the exit from Iraq. Beat the drums about largely imaginary terrorist threats. Provide legal defense for the Bush regime’s chief torture apologist, John Yoo. Leave in place the instruments of oppression established by the Bush regime, such as the Transportation Security Agency, no-fly lists, warrantless wiretapping, and the Department of Homeland Security: instruments that never stopped a real terrorist threat, but hyped plenty of fake ones and beat down the American people into cowed submission lest they be put on a “watch list.”

An article in today’s New York Times recalls the worst paranoia and propaganda of the Bush years, when hapless loudmouths and street thugs were framed as dangerous terrorists. The Times article, “Domestic Insecurity,” uses the same weasel-words that we saw over and over in propaganda from the Bush-Cheney regime: the supposed terrorists were “accused of being drawn into terrorist scheming,” “accused of helping plan the killing spree in Mumbai,” “accused of going to Pakistan for explosives training,” and they “allegedly participated in a rocket attack against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.”

Anyone can be accused of anything, and since the Bush-Cheney regime’s signature event of 9/11, they have been. Jose Padilla was accused of plotting to explode a “dirty bomb,” and was then tortured in an unsuccessful attempt to get any evidence at all that would implicate him in such a plot. The “Miami Seven,” who couldn’t have assembled a bomb even if they’d bought it “ready to assemble” at Wal-Mart, were led by an FBI agent provocateur to take an “oath of allegiance to Al Qaeda” before being framed for a virtually non-existent plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. There are many more such cases.

Are any of our current “accused people” actually guilty of anything? The Bush years taught us to doubt it. The Obama administration hasn’t given us good reasons not to doubt it.

I still believe that President Obama is trying to do the right things. The problem is that he’s not trying very hard. Instead, he’s “going with the flow.” Since 2001 (and even before that, to a lesser degree), the flow has been in the wrong direction.

Copyright 2009 by N.S. Palmer. May be reproduced as long as byline, copyright notice, and URL ( are included.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Afghanistan Part II

The second part to my former Afghanistan post- which is below.

I am critiquing President Obama's recent strategy/policy speech for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"They've blown up buildings, derailed foreign investment, and threatened the stability of the state. "

Yes and only we can do that. Because we are the all-important American people. The fact that we did this to two countries already (well, maybe not the second one...not all the way) is of no import. The only thing that matters right now is that....

Terrorists are evil. They want to kill us. Allah is evil. Muslims are evil. Terrorists are evil. Kill them!!!

"We will insist that action be taken, one way or another, when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets."

I have an idea. When you hear about some high-level al-Qaeda operative somewhere...send an assassin! A good assassin- you know, like one from a movie or something. It would be cheaper, and vastly more effective than our current regimen of invade - occupy - switch countries.

"The government's ability to destroy these safe havens is tied to its own strength and security."

I love how he makes it sound like we're going to be helping the Pakistani people. They don't want our help. They've been feeding us low-lifes from the Taliban for years- many of whom have absolutely no knowledge of anything.

And now we're going to invade them. Despite his high-flown words, that is basically what we're doing. We're going to send in troops. And occupy them.

"It's important for the American people to understand that Pakistan needs our help in going after Al Qaida. .... And that's why we must focus on military assistance on the tools, training, and support that Pakistan needs to root out the terrorists."

Uh-huh. Military assistance, my eye. We'll be giving military assistance as in oh, a bunch of troops occupying them.

"And after years of mixed results, we will not and cannot provide a blank check."

Really? I mean, that's worked so well for us in the past. You know, what with the Afghan-Soviet war (where we channeled funds to the Mujahideen...through Pakistan), or 'Nam. Or Korea. Or pretty much any other country where we went in to help and ended up making a bigger mess than we started with.

The fact is President Obama, that you can't provide a check at all. Maybe you haven't noticed, but your country is like...bankrupt. There is no money. There is no more money to pursue your dreams of imperialism, begun by your predecessor. Sorry. But there is no way we can pursue this or any other war!

"To avoid the mistakes of the past, we must make clear that our relationship with Pakistan is grounded in support for Pakistan's democratic institutions and the Pakistani people. "

What mistakes of the past would that be?

Because I seem to remember...oh let's see, a failed mission in Vietnam. Or a blood bath in Korea. Or the Afghan-Soviet debacle that ended in (recently) disastrous outcomes for us. Or a war in Iraq/Kuwait that was waayyy out of our proper role.

So maybe this time, just this once, we could pursue a policy of non-interventionism. After all, if we don't mess with them, I doubt they'll feel inclined to mess with us.

"Now a campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone. Al Qaida offers the people of Pakistan nothing but destruction. We stand for something from the time."

Oh yeah. We see how beautifully an American invasion turned out for the Iraqis. And the Afghans. I mean, they're dancing in the streets, they're so....wait.

Oops. Was that our bomb?

"So, today, I'm calling upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years, resources that will build schools, roads, and hospitals, and strengthen Pakistan's democracy. I'm also calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co- sponsored by Maria Cantwell and Chris Van Hollen and Peter Hoekstra that creates opportunity zones in the border regions to develop the economy and bring hope to places plagued with violence. "

No. No. That is not the way it's done. Of course, considering the precedent that has been set by previous presidents, it's no wonder he's a bit confused.

When you invade a country, you have to declare war on them. Not just send in soldiers and give them money. That is way unconstitutional.

"As we provide these resources, the days of unaccountable spending, no-bid contracts, and wasteful reconstruction must end. So my budget will increase funding for a strong inspector general at both State Department and USAID and include robust funding for special inspector generals for Afghan reconstruction."

Unfortunately, your budget is already bankrupt. Sorry.

"I remind everybody the United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on September 11, 2001 for doing nothing than going about their daily lives. Al Qaida and its allies have since killed thousands of people in many countries."

Apparently, President Obama, just like his predecessor, sees no problem with invading an entire sovereign country to get at a couple hundred terrorists. And going over there and attacking them simply confirms what the terrorists think of us.

In Osama bin Laden's announcement of the inauguration of the World Islamic Front, he proclaimed their purpose in attacking the US and her people:

"The Arabian Peninsula has never -- since Allah made it flat, created its desert, and encircled it with seas -- been stormed by any forces like the crusader armies spreading in it like locusts, eating its riches and wiping out its plantations. All this is happening at a time in which nations are attacking Muslims like people fighting over a plate of food ... No one argues today about three facts that are known to everyone: ...
First, for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples ... If some people have in the past argued about the fact of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula have now acknowledged it. The best proof of this is the Americans' continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.
Second, despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million... despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation. ...
Third, if the Americans' aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel's survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula."

Considering this (which was written during the Gulf War), its easy to see that we're merely repeating past mistakes. And that Osama bin Laden's points, at least in his mind and the minds of his followers, are still quite valid. We are confirming his position and his beliefs about us.

And I am quite sure that others will see that he still has a point. And though they may not join his organization to perpetrate violence, they will still agree with him, and bin Laden wins a PR victory.

Well, I guess that's the end. The rest of it is just kumbaya, everybody loves everybody else.... ^.^

Here's a link to the transcript, if you'd like to read.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I was thinking about this the other day. Okay, I admit- my thoughts were provoked by three things. 1) a bunch of American flags fluttering outside someone's house, 2) a bunch of yellow ribbons tied around trees, and 3) two American flags on the back of someone's motorcycle. Don't ask me why he needed two. I have no idea.

Anyway. My question is this- what is patriotism? What comprises patriotism?

I don't think patriotism includes blindly following a certain party because they profess to be 'American'. Nor is patriotism hanging an American flag outside your house. Nor is patriotism merely acceding to the demands of our politicians, or accepting what they do. Neither, in my opinion, is patriotism agreeing with a war merely because we're fighting it.

Some of those reasons are misguided. Some are silly. And some are just...well, lemming-ish.

When we think patriotism is based on what party we are a part of, we're really just giving in to pride about how smart we are. Patriotism is not based on your beliefs. Patriotism is also not based on a show in front of your house, either of American flags or little yellow ribbons. That leads into the war thing.

Just because we're fighting a war, doesn't mean you have to support it. And just because you don't support it doesn't make you less American. It makes you critical, but not un-American. Patriotism is also not just submitting to what our politicians do. We are the bosses of our politicians, and as such we should be active.

And that is what I think patriotism is- having a healthy, yet critical, love for your country, but not one that amounts to fanaticism. We do not want American fanatics. Patriotism is being able to acknowledge that your country has faults, but being willing to do something about those faults.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Afghanistan Part I

I went through and read the transcript of President Obama's Afghanistan/Pakistan speech.

And my thoughts on the matter are still unchanged. But I'm going to go through the speech and detail why, just to be objective and all that.

"Many people in the United States and many in partner country that have sacrifices so much have a simple question. What is our purpose in Afghanistan?"

Really? You're just now noticing that is a question? Hmm. What was your first clue? The upswell of public opinion on the polls?

The fact of the matter is that we have no purpose, despite his professed reasons- which sound eerily like something out of the Bush administration. Say hello, once again, to the Bushama Administration.

"Al Qaida and its allies, the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks are in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Oh. I see now. And it makes so much sense to attack an entire country just to get at a few underground people who are hidden where you'll never find them. Ah, but he already knows that:

"They have used this mountainous terrain as a safe haven to hide, to train terrorists, and communicate with followers, to plot attacks, and to send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan."

Ah. So we're going to fight not one, not two, but three senseless wars on the basis of the fact that these men are...hidden? Uh-huh. I see how this makes sense. We're going to throw our entire army at an underground organization that we will probably never track down.

I say we will never track them down because we haven't yet. We've managed to get what, five of the men who actually knew a single thing beyond "Oh yeah, we were gonna' blow up a building." Yeah, our track record is impressively amazing.

Let's see- Osama bin Laden was first put on the FBI's Most Wanted List in 1998 or thereabouts. Al Qaeda was formed in 1988. That means we have had almost twenty years to catch he or his organization leaders. Twenty years. Twenty years in which we fought four years and wasted lots of time- oh, and we launched some cruise missiles at where we thought bin Laden might be.

Also, one bit of trivia that never ceases to amaze me- we helped the Afghanis get weapons. In fact, we gave them weapons. During the 80s', when the Soviets were locked in a war with the Afghanis for control of their country, we gave the Mujahideen weapons and money. Bin Laden benefited from this in a rather round-about way, by joining a man named Abdullah Azzam in Afghanistan- who was a Mujahideen.

Bin Laden and Azzam created the splinter group Maktab al-Khidamat- which, in the long run, only trained 100 mujahidin and only funneled $2 mil to the Afghan Mujahideen. Al Qaeda rose out of Maktab al-Khidamat. During the Afghan-Soviet war, the US and bin Laden were basically working together, in the common pursuit of getting rid of the Soviet threat.

The Taliban also rose out of the Mujahideen- they replaced the constant fighting of the Mujahideen, with some sort of stability and order. This gave them great popularity amongst ordinary Afghans. And the Taliban also took advantage of the weapons we channeled to Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. We created the monster we all hate now.

How ironic.

"But this is not simply an American problem, far from it."

I didn't know Afghanistan was an American problem. Or maybe it is- since we created it, we should fix it....despite the fact the Afghanis didn't want us to fix it. They're tired of us being there, tired of us destroying their way of life, and they just want us to leave.

Neither is Pakistan our problem. Bin Laden may or may not be our problem, but a full-scale invasion of a sovereign country is not the answer.

"For the Afghan people, the return to Taliban rule would condemn their country to brutal governance, international isolation, a paralyzed economy, and the denial of basic human rights to the Afghan people, especially, women and girls."

And that works for them. Just like having Saddam worked for the Iraqis. What, are we the International Meanness Police now too?

We have enough problems here at home. Like our economy. This constant warfare is killing us. It is killing our economy, it is killing our military, and it is slowly and surely killing our country. We cannot maintain this steady rate of warfare and conflict without serious consequences.

"A return in force of Al Qaida terrorists who would accompany the core Taliban leadership would cast Afghanistan under the shadow of perpetual violence."

Perhaps President Obama should study his history. Before the Taliban took control, there was constant in-fighting between the Mujahideen. After the Soviets left, the Mujahideen aimlessly turned on each other. The Taliban conquered them. Too bad for the Mujahideen.

And the Taliban brought stability to the region. They established a steady government that worked for them. True, they were a bit kooky and some weird rules (according to us) but it worked for them.

"We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future."

Oh really. So we're just there to....ruin their infrastructure...and kill their people...and destroy their government....and stay there forever...and....dictate...what they can do.

Not the same thing at all.

"We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends, and our allies and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists."

President Obama has a mistaken idea of what terrorism- and terrorists- are. Terrorism is a tactic. Terrorists are the people that use the tactic. In this case, they are Muslim extremists. We cannot 'confront' the terrorists, for the simple reason that a) we have absolutely no idea where they are, b) they won't let us know where they are, and c) did I mention we don't know where they are?

Once again- the decision about their regime is the Afghani peoples'. Yes, the Taliban had quite a hold. But the Afghani people have proven time and time again that they can conquer despite a stronger enemy. If they truly wanted out from under the Taliban, I have no doubt they would do something about it.

They do not need our help for their freedom- especially not so we can impose our idea of what freedom is.

"So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to prevent their return to either country in the future."

Ah yes. And how do you plan to do this again, Mr. President?

I guess he shares the mistaken ideas of his predecessor- if we tear up enough roads, kill enough civilians, and dismantle enough regimes, bin Laden will hand himself to us on a silver platter.

Sorry, but I don't think it works that way. Bin Laden has proven that our meddling merely makes his resolve stronger. The more innocent civilians we kill, the more territory of theirs we take over, the more Muslims come around to his way of thinking and join him. We cannot fight a radical ideology with guns and troops.

And maybe, just maybe, the man has a point. Even Hitler had some sort of logic under his depraved, mentally unstable ravings. Bin Laden's point is simple- Americans are inhabiting their countries. We need to leave.

I do not agree with his way of trying to get us to see that. But I definitely agree with his point. We are meddling way too much in the politics and dynamics of that region. We need to stop while we're ahead. And by stop, I mean cease and desist completely. Not leave a few half-hearted squads of soldiers to guard their state secrets, not leave advisors there to continue telling their new regime what to do.

"And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same. We will defeat you."

Keep saying that. If you say it often enough, it might come true!

That we will defeat the terrorists has been the mantra for the past eight years. Guess what. The terrorists are still at large, and there is no indication that our inept intelligence services and our futiley struggling army will be able to catch them any time soon.

"To achieve our goals, we need a stronger, smarter, and comprehensive strategy."

I have one for you- leave the people alone! After all, the strongest way we can make these people see that we mean them no harm is by showing that we trust them to make their own decisions.

Ah but yes...they're just like the average American- too dumb to know what's best for them.

"To enhance the military, governance, and economic capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have to marshal international support."

That might be difficult to do. Especially in light of the fact that Britain isn't all that keen on the way they got into Iraq....I doubt they'll be feeling too eager to jump head-first into yet more conflicts.

"And to defeat an enemy that heeds no border or laws of war, we must recognize the fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan..."

If they heed no borders, then we cannot fight them in the conventional sense of the word. They don't have borders. They don't recognize borders. They spread like a disease. There are terrorists everywhere- there are even terrorists here in the US!

The fact of the matter is that we cannot pinpoint where the terrorists are. They could be anywhere in the Middle East, in North Africa, East Africa...practically anywhere in the world. It is impossible to fight them with conventional means.

"Al Qaida and other violent extremists have killed several thousand Pakistanis since 9/11. They've killed many Pakistani soldiers and police. They assassinated Benazir Bhutto. They've blown up buildings, derailed foreign investment, and threatened the stability of the state."

And what are we going to do?

We're going to go in like we went into Afghanistan and Iraq, kill hundreds of thousands of their citizens, destroy their infrastructure, take over their government...and when we get down to it, the terrorists will be long gone.

Look out for Part II.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Iraq Mashup

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Terrorists and Trials

The ruckus: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (or 'KSM' as he has been nicknamed by the media) is going to be tried here in the US. In New York City, to be precise.

Well, I see nothing wrong with that.

So long as he was read his Miranda Rights before he was arrested. Which I doubt. Highly. Mostly because he was captured not by American forces, but by the Pakistani Intelligence Services!!

Otherwise, he must be tried as a prisoner of war. And he needs to be tried. In fact, the international agreement we entered into concerning POWs means we must try him somehow. (Those are the Geneva Conventions, in case you were wondering.)

The problem is, at this point, that most of the men in Guantanamo Bay and the other unsanctioned prisons all over the world have not even had a chance to access counsel. These men are totally cut off from the world. They are charged, on evidence that is either coerced out of them or largely circumstantial. It must be circumstantial, because terrorist organizations don't just let their records out into the open (kind of like government and government officials).

Add to that the fact that many of the men detained at Gitmo and CIA black sites were not even captured by US forces- they were captured by Pakistani or other Middle Eastern forces, and then turned over to us. Makes me wonder- are the men they are giving us really terrorists, or just people the governments of those countries want to get rid of? And what are those countries' incentives?

Changing the 'status' of these men does nothing. Redefining them as 'enemy combatants' does nothing. An enemy combatant is a soldier who is fighting against you. When you capture him, that makes him a prisoner. Since we're supposedly at war, that makes him a prisoner of war. He should be afforded every courtesy generally given to POWs.

During World War II, the German and Japanese POWs were treated very well. This was because we hoped if we treated them well, our men would be treated well if captured. In fact, the POWs were treated so well that some of them stayed here, having gotten a very good taste of life in America.

I'm not saying that we should feed the men in Gitmo T-bone steak and turkey every day- but I do think there should be some semblance of openness in the process of everyday life and interrogations at Gitmo. The silence about what goes on there is worrisome.

There's also the problem of the CIA 'black-sites'. They are places generally in other countries with known histories of human rights violations where the CIA imprisons people with no oversight, no legal counsel, and giving absolutely no way for anyone to know where they are or what goes on behind their walls.

And all this in the name of national security.

We have imprisoned teenage boys, forced recruits, and cooks. Yes, some of them (a very few) have actually committed crimes. But the problem is that we don't know which ones have and which ones have not. They are given no trial, there is no review of the evidence, these men don't even have the benefit of a lawyer!

The CIA abducts men from their homes, sends them to other countries (extraordinary rendition) where it is quite likely they will be tortured or killed. These men are not told what they are being charged with, they are not given the benefit of a formal arrest, the arrests are not even carried out in an acceptable fashion!

And we justify all this by saying that they're 'just terrorists'. We don't need to worry about it because they want to kill us.

I have just one thing to say to that: even an evil man deserves a chance to defend himself. We gave Hitler's cronies that much benefit. We should do it for these men.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Afghanistan and Party Crashers

Strange subjects to go together, I admit. But that's what makes them fun.

As we all know, President Obama has chosen to send more troops to Afghanistan; a predictable decision everyone saw coming- at least, I did. I didn't watch his entire speech (mostly because I'm sure it was full of the same kind of justification and rejustification that always comes after a decision like this) but I read the recap.

Firstly, I don't think more troops should go there. Especially not when we want to leave.

Secondly, I think we should be drawing out a lot quicker. This war has been dragging on long enough, just like Iraq. It's time we sit down, mind our own business, and let them work out their own problems. If the Taliban takes them over again, that's their problem. The minute they attack us, it becomes our problem- a problem that should be dealt with in the correct way, not with preemptive action that ignores the proper chain of command.

I'm a bit upset at Obama's lack of spine on this issue. Instead of sticking by his promise to bring the troops home from the Middle East, he caved. And he's going to keep caving. Instead of sticking by his guns, saying "No, I'm bringing these boys home like I said I would," he's taken action that will prolong both the money-guzzling and the life-guzzling wars we have going on.

Anyway, on to lighter subjects. Or a lighter subject.

It's been about two weeks ago now I guess- a couple walked right into a White House party.


Sorry. I don't mean to laugh.

I just find it hilarious.

They went through two checkpoints. The Secret Service let them in. Twice. They then proceeded to have their pictures taken with the whos-who of Washington.

And the most hilarious quote in this entire thing- "What would have happened if they had had Anthrax or another biological weapon hidden on their person?!" (Somebody on Fox News)

Well, I'll tell you- everybody at that party, including them, would be dead.

And then nobody'd be laughing, but we'd be able to get out of having to listen to all those celebrities' and Joe Biden's gaffes.

That's not nice.

But the Salahi's didn't have any bioweapons. And they just wanted pictures taken with Obama and the other elite. I can't blame them. I also can't blame them for trying something that I'd love to try.

I mean, who doesn't want to get into the White House? And if the Secret Service will just let you in...