instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

If they don't float, they're not witches

Wow! Linda Chavez begs the question so hard, I think I could claim it on my taxes.
Those on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who have been complaining of U.S. policy on the detention of enemy combatants got a wake-up call this week. It appears that one of the Iraqi men who bombed three Jordanian hotels on Nov. 11, killing 57, may have been in U.S. custody in Iraq for a time but was released... When authorities could find no reason to keep the man, they let him go. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson told reporters, "A review of the circumstances of his capture by the unit determined there was no compelling evidence that he was a threat to the security of Iraq and he was therefore released."
So according to the Army, there was no compelling evidence that Safaa Mohammed Ali was an enemy combatant. And this is a wake-up call for those who have been complaining of U.S. policy on the detention of enemy combatants because why?
The presumption of innocence is important in the criminal context -- indeed, it is one of the foundations of our legal system. But in a war in which our enemy doesn't wear uniforms, doesn't fight under a foreign flag, and targets civilians as a primary military strategy, we cannot afford to confer on the enemy the same rights and protections we grant ordinary criminals or even military adversaries in a traditional conflict.
So since we don't know who our enemy is, we can't afford to presume he's innocent? But don't we have to know who our enemy is in order to know that we can't afford to presume he's innocent?

Apparently not:
Short of torture, which President Bush has made clear we will not use, we should be free to hold suspected terrorists captured overseas for as long as necessary and to use harsh techniques to elicit information.
Of course, Safaa Mohammed Ali was not a suspected terrorist, so what this has to do with lessons learned from the Jordan bombings I don't know. I suppose it could be that Chavez is arguing that, once captured by the U.S., no one should be released until harsh techniques elicit sufficient information to prove they were innocent all along.

That's gravely unjust, but at least no one would deny it would be getting serious, which seems to be a greater concern for Chavez than justice. At the very least, she seems to think anything and everything "short of torture" is justifiable and presumptively justified.

(Speaking of that "short of torture" gambit, I think it's amusing how several people who comment at Catholic and Enjoying It! will switch between asserting that of course they oppose torture and insisting that there is no satisfactory definition.)

(Link via Kevin Miller.)

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