28 May 2010

Treason by Incomprehensible Stupidity

There is a debate in the United States about what is to be done with the people captured over the world in the course of the so called "War on Terror". Particularly those picked up in Afghanistan in 2001 and since imprisoned without charges in the Guantanamo bay camp. A part of this debate is a question of whether the persons locked up there should be given a civilian, criminal trial or a military trial under the Bush era "Military Commissions Act".

The bizarre thing about this debate is that it is the hard-liners, the hawks, the anti-Islamofascists who are speaking up against the criminal trials and for the military trials and vehemently so. It is another example of their stupidity being so enormous it could well be called treason.

According to the norms of today's world some non-defensive, non-retaliatory violence can be permissible. For example certain actions of the state, like waging war in many instance. Also according to many, such violence is permissible when carried out by an organisation, which albeit not a state is like the state, pursuing political goals and is combating a state. This naturally almost always hinges on whether the person agrees with the goals of such a rebel organisation. And of course all of this is contrary to libertarian theory as well as to the most rudimentary common sense ethics. However it is our reality. While non-defensive, non-retaliatory violence which is non-political is always, without exception seen as unjustified. Same such violence when in the function of bringing about a certain political goal, will unfortunately be seen by many as justifiable.

So in a situation when you have a state and a non-state locked in a struggle in which they both engage in the sort of violence which would be deemed criminal if carried out for private aims what they both strive to do is present their violence as justifiable violence in service of a political aim, and the violence of the other side as indefensible banditry, thuggery and bestiality. As that violence which all people agree falls into the category of unjustifiable, impermissible violence or crime.

In 1981 a protest of IRA and INLA members in Britain's Long Kesh prison which had been ongoing since 1976 culminated in a hunger strike in which before it was over ten prisoners, most famously Bobby Sands, would die. The cause of the protest was their demand they be granted "political" status distinct from that of common criminals. What made Margaret Thatcher the then British prime minister of UK a hard-liner was that she refused. Both sides treated this contest as one of grave importance. The IRA cadre were aware that letting themselves acquiesce to status of criminals helps to criminalise their struggle. And the British government was aware that granting them such status, or merely just treating them differently helps open the door for the IRA's argument that theirs is a legitimate political struggle.

So when the United States rounded up a certain number of alleged terrorists in Afghanistan did the most bellicose politicians and commentators in America naturally hurry to demand criminal trials for the captured? Of course not, that rudimentary exercise in logic is too much to ask of them. Why maintain the alleged Al-Qaeda members are no different from common criminals and deserve exactly the same treatment to in this way try to de-legitimize their struggle and their use of terrorism? When they can instead push for a trial other than a criminal and in this way help prove Al-Qaeda's point that their members are distinct from common criminals and help legitimise their use of non-defensive violence? This is the conduct of de facto Al-Qaeda's apologists and sleeper agents, not of any non-imbecilic hard-liners.

Their only claim to a "hard line" is by way of medieval cruelty. Since the imprisoned persons are overwhelmingly not terrorists and not Al-Qaeda, most of them do not belong in prison. But by keeping them in the military system the chances of their being released are lessened and the conditions in which they are kept can be harsher - the moral victory for actual terrorists this entails be damned.

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