Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Interesting Bits

Some of the stuff that's caught my eye today:

1. David Rivkin and Lee Casey, partners in the Washington D.C. law firm Baker and Hostetler, and who serve on a UN sub-committee on human rights, thrash Amnesty International on its recently released annual report that equates Guantanamo Bay with the Soviet gulag and calls on foreign governments to arrest US officials travelling abroad. Excerpt:

[T]he men held at Guantanamo Bay are not political dissidents. They are captured enemy combatants. Under the laws of war, they can be detained until the conflict, or at least actual hostilities, are concluded. This has been the practice of the United States, and of every other major power in Europe and elsewhere, for centuries. It is not illegal; it is not immoral. In fact, this rule is one of the first and most important humanitarian advances made in warfare. The right to detain is the necessary concomitant of the obligation to give quarter on the battlefield, to actually take prisoners alive.
What Amnesty is really saying is that, in its view, America’s fight against al Qaeda is not an armed conflict, to which the laws of war apply, but a criminal-enforcement matter where the rights to a speedy, civilian trial are applicable. This is evident in the report’s description of the Guantanamo detainees as individuals “held without charge or trial . . . on the grounds of possible links to al-Qa’ida or the former Taleban government of Afghanistan.” Despite the fact that the vast majority of detainees at Guantanamo were captured on the battlefield, in arms against the United States or its allies, this “criminal enforcement” view is widely held on the Left. It is also a historical and legally incorrect.
Like too many other NGOs, Amnesty is trapped in a 20th-century mindset where the greatest threat to individual life and liberty stemmed from the actions of sovereign governments. That is simply no longer the case. Although the world remains full of repressive regimes, the most immediate threat to the civilian population in the United States and other democracies comes from pan-national terrorist movements who deliberately target non-combatants as a means of achieving their ends. Amnesty International, like other NGOs, must accept — and start to address — this new set of circumstances.

Do read it all.

By the way, President Bush, in today's press conference called the Amnesty International report "absurd".

2. The same Rivkin & Casey take NYTimes columnist Thomas Friedman to task for recommending that the US close down Guantanamo Bay and release the prisoners back to their respective countries:

If we have a case to be made against any of the 500 or so inmates still in Guantánamo, then it is high time we put them on trial, convict as many possible (which will not be easy because of bungled interrogations) and then simply let the rest go home or to a third country. Sure, a few may come back to haunt us. But at least they won't be able to take advantage of Guantánamo as an engine of recruitment to enlist thousands more. I would rather have a few more bad guys roaming the world than a whole new generation.

Rivkin & Casey's perfect riposte:

What a charming way to describe it--a few may come back to haunt us. For al Qaeda, of course, haunting does not involve shouting boo in the night. It involves arranging matters so that scores of our fellow citizens must choose between burning to death and jumping 100 stories to the pavement.

May I add that the folks who hate us, hate us for much more basic reason than Gitmo. They understand that liberty is their enemy.

3. Reuters on new French Prime Minister Dominque de Villepin:

An eloquent speaker, sometime poet and dashing diplomat, Villepin will bring panache to the prime minister's office after the departure of the down-to-earth Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who quit after Sunday's defeat over the European Union constitution.

Who needs a hagiographer when a whole news service will shill for you?

4. John Podhoretz argues that the only way that Jeb Bush could overcome dynastic aversion and win in 2008 is if Hillary is the Democratic candidate as her pedigree (spouse of former President) will dilute the dynastic label sufficiently for Jeb to succeed. [Odd. Was free when I read it but now the article is subscriber only - but I've described the gist of it.]

5. Mark Steyn on the European Constitution:

The American constitution begins with the words "We the people". The starting point for the EU constitution is: "We know better than the people."
One of the most unattractive features of European politics is the way it insists certain subjects are out of bounds, and beyond politics. That's the most obvious flaw in Giscard's flaccid treaty: it's not a constitution, it's a perfectly fine party platform for a rather stodgy semi-obsolescent social democratic party. Its constitutional "rights" - the right to housing assistance, the right to preventive action on the environment - are not constitutional at all, but the sort of things parties ought to be arguing about at election time.

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