Saturday, June 27, 2009
Of course, by now everybody who reads blogs knows that Barack Obama is preparing an executive order that would "reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely." At this point there is little to add to the big round-up at Memeorandum, except perhaps this: Wars only have "definite" endings in retrospect -- who knew in 1931 that the Japanese invasion of Manchuria was the opening shot in a 14-year second "world war"? As surely as
Allah God made little green apples, this one will also definitely come to an end. When that day comes there will be very little legal basis to detain jihadis at Gitmo or wherever they may be held, and we should release any who pledge not to take up arms again.
We hold prisoners, even unlawful enemy combatants, until the war is over. This one has been going on since at least 1996 when al Qaeda's antecedents first proclaimed jihad against the United States. It will end when al Qaeda and its principal allies and descendents lay down their arms and surrender or walk away, for then violent jihad against the West will have run its course. The odds of that happening within the next decade or two, well within the natural lives of most of the detainees, are fairly high.
No, al Qaeda is something different. That it echoes history is interesting, but it does not mean that this movement is not different in kind from earlier Islamic aggression. It is. And besides, the same could have been said for Japanese militarism. Perhaps it has not ended either, but has only gone into a long hibernation. Either way, the war came to an end.
The term "terrorist" has different meanings in different situations. The DHS watch list, whatever its length, is simply that, a "watch list." Quite different from jihadis or suspected jihadis captured outside the United States. Soldiers of al Qaeda should remain in our custody as long as al Qaeda and its affiliates are at war with us. Once they are not, either because they surrender or we destroy them, we should release the prisoners.
As an American, I take issue with our detaining someone potentially for life without bringing charges. You stretch "war" and "terorrist" way past the breaking point. This is Kafka territory -- we're better than that. I'm a realist enough to accept our being "cute" with a few high profile targets, but as a principle what Obama is doing is abominable. Where'e the ACLU when you need them.
Of course with Japaese militarism, it took two atom bombs and a decree from their living god to put an end to it or else they would have fought us to the last man. There is no such counterpart in Islam. Bin Laden always struck me as a Muhammad Ahmad wannabe(Think Khartoum here). The tactics changed because the tech chasm has widened and deepened but the goals are the same. Re the detaineees: In Galuga's book on counter insurgency, he noted that the ChiComs released ChiNat prisoners during their civil war. It created doubt in the ChiNat Army because they never knew who had flipped and who hadn't. I have long wondered why we didn't release the Gitmo prisoners, leaking the disinformation that some of them were now CIA agents and that they all had nano-RFID tags implanted in their scrotums in order to track them. Only way to remove the tag would be to remove the scrotum. That in itself might deter detainees from looking up their old terrorist friends.
"As an American, I take issue with our detaining someone potentially for life without bringing charges."
The detainees at Gitmo have been charged. They have had trials. They should not be set free until the war is over.
PS- A significant number of them have been set free. Many of those subsequently took to the field of battle against the good guys.