Friday, October 09, 2009


Professor Hakimi's Solution to Gitmo

It is part of the wisdom, I think, of the religious tradition always to be skeptical of what governments are doing. ... One has to keep reminding oneself and other people that an exalted contempt for human life lies at the basis of diplomacy; and that one had better think of the unprotected and innocent, and be prepared for the bad news when the leaders meet.

-Daniel Berrigan and Thich Nhat Hanh. The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward a Buddhist/Christian Awareness. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1975) p. 69.

I want to return for a moment to the NPR segment, "Capture Or Kill? Lawyers Eye Options For Terrorists" I mentioned in my last post. On the subject of "detaining terrorists" the piece also contains the following:
University of Michigan law professor Monica Hakimi worked at the State Department in the last administration. She does not like the idea of long-term detention. But, she says, none of the alternatives seem much better.

"The benefit of capturing them is that we might be able to get from them certain intelligence that we can use to hunt down future terrorists," says Hakimi. "The cost is that once we capture them it's not really clear what we're supposed to do with them."
Hakimi is a 2001 Yale Law grad--one of America's 'best and brightest' young scholars. In "International standards for detaining terrorism suspects: moving beyond the armed conflict-criminal divide" (Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 40.3 (Fall 2009)), the solution she articulates to the problem of "what we're supposed to do with them" is, in the main, the legalization of existing illegal practices of "administrative detention."

The current dilemma facing governments, according to Hakimi, is two-fold. First, many prisoners from the "fight against transnational al jihadi groups" are seized "away from any recognizable battlefield ... in houses, on street corners, and at border crossings around the globe." Thus, the "law of armed conflict" is inapplicable for justifying their imprisonment.

Second, criminal procedure is no good because "its focus is retrospective, rather than prospective; it is maladroit for transnational operation; and it often fails to accommodate the tools used and evidence available in terrorism cases." Another way of putting this is that a criminal justice approach won't work because you are not normally allowed to prosecute "precrime;" other countries might not want to or be able to cooperate in your non-battlefield raids on their populace; most courts won't accept evidence obtained by torture or otherwise in violation of due process principles. In short, you just can't easily lock up as many people as you might want to lock up.

What's a poor government to do? According to Hakimi, "pure security-based detention" are permitted under "An alternative legal framework [that] already exists under human rights law in the form of administrative detention." She notes approvingly that "India and Israel--two states with long histories of trying to combat transnational terrorism--consistently have used such detention for that purpose." Her argument here rests in large part on her contention that "pure security-based detention is permitted under the ICCPR," i.e. the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (she also cites the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in support of her argument but I do not mention it here because the US is not a state party to that treaty).

In effect, what she has done is to take the ICCPR--a treaty putatively designed to impose obligations on each state party to respect the rights of "all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction" (Article 2)--and turn it into an instrument justifying repression of individuals by state parties under the rubric of human rights.

I would like to be able to say that Hakimi's is a completely incredible reading of the ICCPR but that wouldn't be true. For while there is no affirmative provision in the treaty for "administrative" or "security-based detention" and the only articles explicitly mentioning detention restrict it, the state parties generously gave themselves the right to ignore most of the individual rights (incl., most crucially, Article 9) during "time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation ..."(Article 4). (I should note that Hakimi does not rely on Article 4 for her argument but interprets Article 9 as making implicit provision for administrative detention).

In concluding, Hakimi says:
International practice demonstrates that, although most states have declined to detain non-battlefield terrorism suspects based on the law of armed conflict, many are looking for options for incapacitating these suspects outside the criminal process. The bipolar paradigm for thinking about non-battlefield detentions--as armed-conflict or criminal--is out of step with that practice and is mistaken as a matter of law. Human rights law permits administrative detention for reasons of national security, subject to important constraints. Those constraints are not now sufficient in the counterterrorism context. But if the law in this area is developed, administrative detention may strike the most appropriate balance between liberty and security for certain categories of terrorism detainees.
Get it? The law needs to catch up--to be "developed"--to what governments are already doing. Hakimi is a fine example of what Gramsci called "experts in legitimation" and one wonders how human societies made it this far without the benefit of her helpful take on human rights law. I couldn't help being reminded by Hakimi's arguments of her colleague Alan Dershowitz's call to legalize torture.

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Obama's Delusional Nobel

My first response this morning to the news of Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize was disbelief. My next response was to recall part of a story on I heard on NPR yesterday, entitled "Capture Or Kill? Lawyers Eye Options For Terrorists." Below is a relevant excerpt:
Given the difficulty of detaining high-value terrorists in the United States, Cuba, Afghanistan, black sites or foreign countries, another possibility exists.

"To be perfectly blunt, I don't think that they'll pick them up at all," says Ken Anderson of the Hoover Institution and American University's Washington College of Law, who has written about these issues. "I think that we've actually allowed the courts to arrange the incentives to kill rather than capture."

Many national security experts interviewed for this story agree that it has become so hard for the U.S. to detain people that in many instances, the U.S. government is killing them instead.

Last month, American forces staged a raid on a car in Somalia. The man inside the car was a suspected terrorist on the FBI's most wanted list. American troops did not seize him. Instead, helicopters fired on the car, and commandos retrieved his body.
The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama has been widely described as "aspirational." It may be, however, that delusional is a more apt description in light of Obama's campaign promises and track record as president. Consider the following partial list:
With Nobel Peace Prize laureates like Obama who needs war mongers?

See also: "Professor Hakimi's Solution to Gitmo"

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Sunday, October 04, 2009


Turning Muslim Kids into Zionists

How do you turn Muslim children into Zionists? One recipe can be derived from pages 32-33 of a 2007 UK report entitled, Teaching Emotive and Controversial History 3-19:
As with other key stages, emotional engagement is necessary to challenge mindsets. The rigour of historical methods of enquiry is essential, but not powerful enough in themselves to necessarily overcome prejudice and stereotyping. Emotional engagement forms a significant partner in the structuring of activities. The use of local history, reconstructions, a focus on child labour and making deliberate links to the present is how one history department seeks to hook pupils' personal engagement.

As part of the teaching of Arab-Israeli coursework at Abraham Moss School in Manchester, students take on the role of UN commissioners given the task of dividing Palestine in the late 1940s. They are reminded of the horrors of the Holocaust and the likely impact on world opinion. The students also consider how the survivors of the Holocaust would respond to the question Why did I survive? and how that might have impacted on the desire for a Jewish state. A timeline of events and information about who lived in the area and attitudes of different organisations, states and peoples are provided to help pupils consider the division of land. Given the predominance of Muslim pupils in the School and the existence of potential anti-Jewish sentiment or ignorance of Jewish culture, this task presents a complex challenge. The results are very interesting. The vast majority of students partition the land evenly between Arabs and Jews, even though the Jewish population was far smaller, and they establish Jerusalem as a neutral zone. The reasons pupils give for their decisions vary, but they are predominantly associated with the following: issues of fairness, acknowledgement of the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust, a recognition that Jews had lived in the region for centuries before the Arabs, and a desire to find a solution where both sides could live in peace.
Boiling it down, after establishing your authority as a 'teacher,' the first task is to set the agenda: Don't raise the question of whether it is/was right for UN commissioners to divide another people's land, just simply give your subjects students the "task of dividing Palestine." Then to make sure they divide it and divide it properly, drill them in the catechism of "the Holocaust" while studiously ignoring Zionist collaboration with the Nazis (beginning in 1933). Encourage them to emotionally identify with victims of "the Holocaust" (Zionist Jewish victims only, please; I mean, does anyone else really matter?). Don't encourage them to identify with or consider partition from the perspective of "Arabs" (not Palestinians). Don't encourage them to consider the inherent injustice of forcibly taking away one people's land to give it to another group of people allegedly on account of the crimes of a third party. Don't encourage them to consider more just alternatives. Don't let them know that Jewish designs on Palestine long predate "the Holocaust." Do teach them the Jewish narrative/Orientalist perspective as if it were uncontested historical fact, e. g. "Jews had lived in the region for centuries before the Arabs." Follow these simple do's and dont's and you, too, can brainwash the "vast majority of students" (Christian children, too, undoubtedly) into becoming Zionists.

See also: The "General Eisenhower Warned Us" Hoax

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Friday, October 02, 2009


Quotable: "We believe in America"

We're not the enemy. We're not. We're on your side. We believe in America. That's why Indians have the highest percentage of [military] service of any ethnic group in America.

Source: Swil Kanim (Lummi) in A-Y-P: Indigenous Voices Reply, a film by Anna Laura Hoover (Aleut) and part of a larger exhibit by the same name.

A few days before viewing the film I asked a friend, who is also an enrolled member of the Flathead tribe, why he thought so many Indians served in the US military his response was "Survival."

In discussing the matter with another friend, I observed that high rates of military service in the conquering armies are an apparent characteristic of many conquered peoples such as White Southerners and Filipinos in the US military and the Gurkha and Scottish regiments in the British Army. The French Foreign Legion has also attracted large numbers of soldiers from French colonies. Going back further, many Roman Legions were also populated by non-Romans. Serving in a conquering army is a way of demonstrating (and being rewarded for) military prowess, valor, and loyalty to the dominant society and, yes, it can also be a survival tactic.

See also: "Skins & Fighting for Uncle Scum"

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