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August 13, 2003
News and then a lighter note

Looks like the heat is still on in Texas. This time the AWOL Dems are in New Mexico.

And here's a defense of the Administration's Guantanamo policy. (Yes, registration required.)

It's from a conservative publication, so don't gag when you read about "Mr Bush's liberal instincts" or anything.

While well-written and well thought-out, the article didn't convince me, primarily because it accepted as a premise one of the factors that bother me the most.

The Bush Administration has been wrestling with the problem - not dissimilar to that faced by Whitehall during the early years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland - about whether to treat suspects as prisoners of war or common criminals. His dilemma was understandable. Had he called them PoWs, he would have been obliged by the Geneva Conventions to release them at the end of hostilities.

I do not accept that we need a way to hold detainees at Guantanamo for an indefinite period of time, without trial or sentencing and outside the jurisdiction (or so they claim) of this country's constitutionally guaranteed rights or even outside the influence of the Geneva Conventions. I do not accept that we have a need or a right to incarcerate people indefinitely until we can gather enough evidence against them to convict them of a crime. I do not accept that this "war on terror," no matter how necessary it might be, is an excuse to disregard the principles the country was founded on.

But if he could not call his captives PoWs, nor could he treat them quite like common criminals. Under the US Constitution, criminal suspects have to be put on trial, and judged according to the rules of evidence. Any competent defence lawyer would make short work of testimony gathered from secret sources or from prisoners held for many months, in harsh conditions, without access to lawyers.

You don't have any actual evidence, you hold people in inhumane conditions, you deny them access to legal assistance, then you whine because you can't get a conviction? Cry me a river, okay?

I don't want terrorists running loose, no, but I deny that this country's system of legal justice is not up to dealing with these kinds of trials. Instead of spending a year concocting wars and then running from the questions about their concoctions, the Administration could have chosen to sponsor and encourage public debate about how these detainees should be handled, but I guess that "of the people, by the people, for the people" thing is really just so five minutes ago.

So it was that the President hit upon the idea of treating them neither as PoWs nor as criminals, but as something in between. He decided to put them on trial by military tribunal, and instructed his Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to draft special rules of evidence and procedure that would make convictions more likely than in a civilian court.

I think the problem with this is clear. Making it easier to get a conviction means making it easier to convict the innocent. This is not acceptable. Nor, in my view, is any kind of "secret" trial ever allowable under this country's laws. A secret investigation is something I can see the need for (in certain circumstances) but never secret trials.

Mr Rumsfeld's rules, drafted on March 21, 2002, are not nearly as illiberal as his critics maintain. They include many safeguards of the rights of the defendant. But the fact is that they fall well short of the standards of justice required by civilian courts in both Britain and America.

This doesn't surprise me. (The first part of it, I mean.) I think Rumsfeld is dangerously short-sighted, but I don't think he's a monster.

Anyhow. It was very interesting to read, but I turn with relief to the lighter note of Maureen Dowd's latest column, "Blah, Blah, Blog. She thinks the internet might be over. Turgid political blogs killed it.

In England, there's a war going on over, as you might expect, homosexual marriage and ordaining homosexual bishops. At the same time, the future king and future head of the Anglican church is living in sin with his long-time paramour. I, like the National Post, remember the furor over a chaste kiss on the cheek not that long ago. I'm amused, although not surprised, to see the result of the Palace's careful, step-by-step, public acceptance of the situation.

And via a path I no longer remember, I discovered the amusing Transport Blog yesterday.

And, to round out our look at the lighter side of life, let me offer my new, "most favorite" site, the Royal Journal. It's all about what gets found.

Want Drugs (cocaine) Buy at [deleted] Union St Apt 1-B Ask for Sylvia

or

Fancy a British Passport! No perverts or time wasters please! A 22 year-old English Writer is looking for a man husband of American nationality for green card purposes only.

or

To Whom It May Concern Who ever spit toothpast on this faucit? should clean it because it is gross to the other members of this household Thanks!

When I finish reading my way through the "found" items on this site, I'll move on to Found Magazine and even Object not found.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:52 AM


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