Friday, September 29, 2006

Update on Everything

I've finally gotten around to seeing Brick, which was recommended to me long ago in a coffeehouse in NYC (The Esperanto Cafe, if I remember correctly) which served coffee in short glass mugs that offend my senses as well as furthering Dr. Zamenhof's ideals of peace through common language and fuel for sitcom jokes. And muffins. I regret that it took me so long to get around to it, particularly when it was playing in Evanston at Century Theater's "less popular movies" annex for about a month. It's a bit hard to buy the whole "No really, everyone actually talks like this" and odd to think that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is two years older than I am and is apparently still in high school, and that no one ever goes to class ever, but I'll take it. It kept me interested throughout, which is something Jenna's latest Netflix Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story didn't do so well, though they're vastly different films in every possible aspect. I'd recommend checking it out.

The Pirates have three games left in the season, all against Cincinnati, who is at this point struggling to hold on to the possibility of coming out on top of the Central, as they've been eliminated from the wild card. Depending on how the next weekend goes, either the Astros or the Cards are likely taking the division, while the wild card is up in the air between whoever doesn't win the NL West and the Phillies. Not that any of that will matter, as the Mets are the ones going to the World Series. I'm still hanging on to some hope that they'll be facing the A's.

The Senate voted today 65-34 to approve a bill which would set up rules for dealing with those deemed "enemy combatants" and would define, more or less, what is or is not allowed to occur in an attempt to comply with the Third Geneva Conventions, after the Supreme Court found that we probably couldn't just ignore bits. There has been a fair amount of controversy in that it eliminates, for those declared enemy combatants, the right to appeal with habeas corpus. This would follow not only for combatants held in, say Guantanamo, but in any U.S. prison anywhere in the world, and can be suspended during such time as it is being determined whether or not they are enemy combatants.. Habeas corpus, historically, can only be suspended in the United States in time of war, and while the current situation differs from war in most classical aspects (that is, we're not waging war on a country, but on a concept), it is the opinion of a majority of the Senate that this right to revoke should be available. I'm not positive where I stand on this. It is necessary to try those who may be a threat to the wellbeing of the people of this country. But in doing that, is it right to withdraw one of the most fundamental tools for a defendant against possible wrongful imprisonment? I simply don't trust the government enough to believe that everyone they arrest as being connected to a terrorist plot is actually the correct person. Which is why, of course, they're tried, to determine whether they're guilty or innocent. During the Nuremberg trials, the United States were one of the entites that most desperately clung to the concept that there are rules and ways of doing things so as to use a legal system to determine who is to be punished and punish them accordingly. We are faced with a similar challenge today. We must find out who is responsible for the planning of crimes against humanity in the form of terrorist attacks, and we must punish them accordingly and work to prevent those attacks. In doing so, we must not trample the rights of those that aren't planning such attacks.

There are those that would read this and conclude that I'm supporting the coddling of terrorists. Those people are attacking strawmen. Terrorists, as everyone agrees, are not to be taken softly and should be punished in the harshest manner. But before we can do that, we must determine accurately who they are to a further degree than who we have in custody. Among the three Guantanamo detainees that committed suicide this summer, two were about to be released after the military had acquired evidenced that acquited them of attempting to plan and carry out a terrorist attack. They were innocent, but had not been told, and were denied the basic human rights outlined in our Constitution. While it would be nice if our methods for rounding up those who would do us harm were infallible, it's not. So we must have a system to decide whether or not we have made the proper arrest. Would those who seek to do us harm do the same, allowing for reporters captured in sensitive areas to appeal to be released because they're not spies? Of course not, they'd kill them on the spot. But I would like to think that the unwillingness of terrorists to step away from barbarism and savagery is not a rationale for treating our own prisoners below our own standards that are enshrined in the document that makes the United States a country. We're better than they are. We can win without stooping to their level. I'm simply at odds with the concept that we might be playing into their hands.

I am not at all against aggressive interrogation, and recognize that often, it is necessary to extract information that could harm many many people. I am simply concerned whenever the government begins to restrict the basic defenses of anyone in a trial situation. Do I think this will evolve into a dystopian scenario where thoughtpolice pick up those who disagree with the government in big black vans for treatment in Room 101? Of course not. But neither do I think that every single person detained is the #3 man in Al-Qaeda. I don't like the path our high-ground is heading down if we abandon tenets like habeas corpus, the ability for the defense to review the evidence against them, and while I understand the importance of aggressive interrogation of people who are actually terrorists, I find it troubling that what we're fighting so tenaciously over is the definition of torture.


Hal said...

So, are you coddling terrorists or strawmen? I got lost.

I think both are a bad idea. You'll get rugburn from beard hair from the former and splinters and spider bites out of the latter.

-Murphy said...

I'll coddle strawmen if they're coated with some magical substance that makes my chemistry work.

Coddling terrorists is never a good idea, as I hear bomb belts tend to be a bit pokey. Also, you know. Whole "scum" thing.