Cycle of violence


Never charged with a crime

Note: This could be a post I’ll be referencing in the future — not just a thought for the day. I could be making changes periodically. Apologies in advance for the length.  [shortcut: ]

A guest of Bill Maher recently complained of Guantanamo, “people have not been charged, or tried, and what happened to rule of law? That’s the whole principle of the Constitution.”

She apparently has been lied to, and it’s about time we clear this up. We see a lot of articles about Guantanamo detainees being “released without charge” or “never charged with a crime.” They want us to believe we’d have convicted them if they weren’t innocent.

The short answer is: The founding fathers knew charges and trials are for crimes. This is a war.

That’s not a flippant answer either. Where the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution says, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless…,” — right there you can see they are obviously talking about crimes. They were very careful about the words they used (much like the way they outlawed torture but only as punishment).

Then in the Sixth Amendment, it begins, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…” Again, they were very specific that this was about crimes.

People have gotten the mistaken idea that one can either be a civilian entitled to due process, or a prisoner of war entitled to the rights and privileges of the Geneva Conventions, but nothing else. Well, that’s not true. We have often held people without trial during wartime without POW status — and in peacetime as well.

Continue reading “Never charged with a crime”

Colin Powell never thought terrorists should get POW status

I’ve written before about Trump following the law. There’s never been any doubt in my mind. And, as we’ve seen, the U.S. military would not follow an illegal order.

Rosa Brooks thinks they would. She’s a former Pentagon official under the Obama administration with a full assortment of left-wing credentials before that.

Among other things, Brooks uses as her rationale that we didn’t give full rights to our detainees. She writes:

Think back to the first few years after the 9/11 attacks. The Pentagon initially planned to treat Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners in accordance with the rules laid out in the Geneva Conventions, but the White House considered this inconvenient. (Under those rules, prisoners can’t be detained secretly and with no review process, and they most definitely can’t be waterboarded.) So the White House found some unusually compliant Justice Department lawyers, and by January 2002, the department’s office of legal counsel was instructing the Defense Department that Geneva Convention protections did not apply to Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters.

Colin Powell, the George W. Bush administration’s secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, objected immediately, as did several top active-duty military officials. The Justice Department’s position would “reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva conventions,” Powell argued, making the United States “vulnerable to domestic and international legal challenges” and creating a risk of criminal prosecution for American officials and troops.

Well, those were Colin Powell’s words, but he wasn’t talking about giving the detainees Prisoner Of War status. Or much of anything beyond what they received at Guantanamo.

As I explained in my book, This is War! Quit Sniveling, it’s true that Powell wanted the U.S. to apply the full Geneva Conventions to the War on Terror. But he never believed that terrorists should then be entitled to POW status. He doubted that any of them would qualify for it.

On that review process she talks about, Powell only concedes that “some” Taliban soldiers “might” be entitled to that. Most weren’t even entitled to that review. None of the al Qaeda detainees were.

Powell then said, “This would not, however, affect their treatment as a practical matter.” And ultimately, it didn’t for the Taliban. Of the Taliban detainees that Powell is talking about, Bush had already determined they would get Common Article 3 status anyway. It’s the al Qaeda detainees that didn’t get it until later.

Colin Powell’s January 26, 2002 memo has been added to the latest edition of my book. It’s also in my documents page here.

Rosa Brooks is a lawyer with a history of working for left-wing activist groups, George Soros’s Open Society Institute among others. Expect more like her in the Pentagon if Hillary Clinton is elected.

Good news comes from interrogation

If you want to know if interrogation can be effective without rough stuff, without even so much as a slap in the face, some might want look no further than the capture and questioning of Umm Sayyaf (widow of senior ISIS terrorist Abu Sayyaf) and Sleiman Daoud al-Afari (ISIS engineer familiar with their chemical weapons program).

If you’re desperate for info on how rough interrogation has no place, forget it: I’ll pour some cold water on that in a moment.

The good news is that the interrogation of these two detainees has led to the bombing of two ISIS chemical weapons facilities. One should recognize that this would be important even if harsh measures had been used. Chemical weapons aren’t a good way to die, and it’s worse to think it could happen to children. The critics might feel better that harsh measures weren’t necessary, but they shouldn’t feel too satisfied.

That brings me to the cold water: It all depends on what measures you might actually think are harsh.

Appendix M of the U.S. Army interrogation manual (that we’re currently using) covers separation. Most of us might laugh that this is an issue, but America’s critics will say (you guessed it!) that’s “torture.”

While I don’t know that this method was used on any of these prisoners, another method might well have been unless they’d cooperated soon enough: “Fear up” — fostering the implicit fears prisoners get from their new predicament.

(Note that I said “implicit.” An explicit threat would have been illegal, and possibly considered torture. But letting them imagine something on their own is okay, regardless of whether it has the same effect.)

After first whining that even this remains permissible under the Obama administration, America’s critics might then feign outrage that the Bush administration needed to go further. But remember: During that time, the CIA didn’t need to go further than that on most of its prisoners either. Enhanced interrogation was only used on about a third of the CIA prisoners (about 35 or so), and even that includes those who got only the lesser methods. Those started with nothing more than tough talk while being grabbed by the collar.

As for these recent two, the wife of a terrorist leader and an engineer are definitely not what you’d expect as requiring the roughest interrogation. Their fear must have become all the more real when they heard they’d be turned over to the Kurds. It’s easy to find an implicit threat out in that.

No new rights at the proposed Guantanamo North

We knew this, of course.

But Paul Lewis, the Obama administration’s man for moving Guantanamo, was working to sell the plan to the activists at Human Rights First. He’s trying his best to say that it’s not really “Guantanamo North” because the detainees will somehow have it better at the new, colder prison.

Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg has been tweeting the event, where Lewis makes the pitch:

He needed to be corrected in the next tweet:

In other words, it will be “Guantanamo North.”


I’ve spent a lot of time defending Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean I don’t share some of the concerns about his campaign.

I was already pretty disturbed when Trump disparaged John McCain for being captured. I had to put it aside as just a stupid thing to say that most people don’t understand the wrongness of it.

Let me point out that McCain was shot down. That can happen when someone’s in combat, particularly if they’re close. No amount of skill will protect you from a well-placed shot. The elder George Bush was shot down, too. The Red Baron was shot down twice. Getting shot down doesn’t mean they erred. It means they fought hard, were willing to risk their lives, and came within an inch of losing them. What Trump said was wrong.

But a flippant comment can be excused. That’s part of this game. Speaking off the cuff risks going overboard, and so these things should be expected. And he did try to walk that back.

What Trump said in the debate before last is far worse. PJ Media’s Scott Ott, Steven Green and Bill Whittle show their anger over his B.S. notion that “Bush lied” about WMDs:

I can see the anger and disgust in everyone’s eyes in the video. I share them.

No, Bush didn’t lie about WMDs. Saddam Hussein looked like he had a working WMD program because he intended to make his enemies think that he did.

Trump’s comments weren’t merely wrong factually. They feed into the anti-American mythology that the left and the Islamists keep running.

The trouble is, I agree with Trump on the immigration issue. It really is a serious problem, more serious than most people realize. The GOP screwed up on a lot of issues, but they’re downright ignorant on how far off course they’ve gone on this one. Even now, they see it as a political problem to be overcome. It’s not.

There are many valid fears about electing Donald Trump. Some of his promises, if kept, will not work out the way that people wish. But he will do something about illegal immigration and most of his opponents have shown they will not. (I don’t even care if Mexico pays for a wall.) The GOP has been plainly dishonest about it.

If you don’t understand why people are still going to Trump, imagine that the entire world is on fire. The old political equations can’t work in such a situation. If the world was vastly different, I might have been happy with Jeb Bush. But it’s not.

But there are other issues, you might say. Like Iran? The Congressional Republicans played games with that, too. President Obama took the blame, but, as Andrew McCarthy wrote, they had their own reasons to allow it to happen. In the Senate, only Senator Tom Cotton voted against it. (Ted Cruz said he thought it was a bad bill, but voted for it after his own bill failed, saying it was better than nothing.)

Ultimately, immigration isn’t the main issue so much as it will affect every issue. It means bringing in people who will one day vote with priorities different from our own.

Can Trump win? Yes. As I said, Trump will need to bring in an “establishment” GOP VP candidate to smooth things over. It’s not a perfect solution — to some, losing is a demonstration of principle — but it will help bring back many of his critics.

That being said, Ted Cruz is an alternative. I don’t see him being quite as viable, but it is tempting to support him simply because he’s better than the next alternatives. We need Cruz to stay in the race if Trump can’t close the deal. That’s a good reason to vote for him even if you prefer Trump.