June 29, 2004

Jacob Levy Is Very Disturbed

Jacob Levy is very disturbed:

Jacob Levy: June 29, 2004: I have a question. Has there ever, in the four months since it broke, been a refutation of, an official response to, or even a developed conservative talking point on the story that Pentagon plans to take out Zarqawi before the Iraq war were vetoed by the White House, because Zarqawi was more convenient as a living terrorist in Iraq who could help justify the war?

At the time this seemed to me a huge, terrible story. Given a possibility for real pre-emption against one of the worst terrorists out there, the administration said no, for bad reasons. And many hundreds have since died at that terrorist's hands or under his orders. It was the sort of thing that, had it been asserted by The Nation or Michael Moore or Wesley Clark, would have been trumpeted by the right as evidence of the unhinged conspiratorial thinking of the left. Reported and (apprently reliably though in part anonymously) sourced by NBC, it went, as far as I can tell, entirely unanswered, but also almost entirely unnoticed. At first I assumed that it was so extreme and appalling extreme a claim that there was almost certainly a credible counter-story or at least contrary interpretation to be offered. But I never saw it.

But before I finally file such a dreadful item as "probably true" in my mind I want to ask the Conspiracy's readers, many of whom give the administration much more benefit of the doubt than I do any more: were we ever offered any reason not to believe this story? Was it denied, refuted, or responded to? A denial doesn't disprove it, of course, but has there even been a denial?

Links appreciated. I'll update this post, if useful information comes in (but I won't update just to quote e-mails that say "Of course it can't be true!").

He's very disturbed. So am I.

Posted by DeLong at June 29, 2004 01:41 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

On This Week With George S. on Sunday, C. Rice said (paraphrasing): 'No, no -- at no point did we have good enough information to take out Zarqawi'.

So, there's at least one denial.

Posted by: V from VJ on June 29, 2004 02:01 PM

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Miss "We didn't know that Bin Ladin intended to attack inside the United States" Rice?

The report seems to be true, if no other reason than the sourcing seems to indicate that originally the Bush admin thought it was a good idea and only later, much later, came to realize that it was a lapse of judgement of the highest order since they only later decided to demonize Zarqawi as the new anti-Robin-Hood of Iraq.

Posted by: oldman on June 29, 2004 02:20 PM

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The obvious antecedent question is the key here.

The WH hasn't been denying the story because THE MEDIA HASN'T MADE IT AN ISSUE.

How many heads does this guy have to cut off before NBC, CNN, etc., start demanding denials?

Once they do, the WH will deny it (as Ms. Rice seems to have already done).

Then the original sources will get ticked off and, covertly or otherwise, refute the denials.

As it is, I guess the head count just isn't high enough for NBC to press its story?

(The alternative, of course, is that the story fell apart. The press admits error only marginally more often than the WH does.)

Posted by: Andy on June 29, 2004 02:52 PM

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There was a long thread with good comments on Tacitus and I think Yglesias. The comments did some explaining and rationalizing. For instance if you look at the timing, it was just as we were trying to get the vote thru in Turkey to allow the 4ID through, who were waiting off the coast in ships. We lost that vote. Zarqwahi was in Kurdish territory, supported by a Kurdish warlord, maybe?

And if there is no official response, well maybe Bush doesn't want to say that the Turks and Kurds asked us to leave him be, and we thought the cost/benefit was worth it.

It wouldn't have been done with cruise missles. You know how our military works. 1000 marines, with close air support and collateral damage. In Kurdistan. Just before the war.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on June 29, 2004 03:20 PM

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"He's very disturbed. So am I."

You're very disturbed that the Executive Branch didn't carry out an extrajudicial execution of a civilian? (And possibly at least some innocent people, including children.)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 03:24 PM

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And speaking of scandal overload, wasn't there something about $700 million appropriated by Congress for Afghanistan, but used for a buildup for the Iraq adventure?

Posted by: Ken C. on June 29, 2004 03:46 PM

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Does Zarqawi consider himself to be a civilian?

Posted by: Steven Rogers on June 29, 2004 03:46 PM

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Mark wrote:
"You're very disturbed that the Executive Branch didn't carry out an extrajudicial execution of a civilian? (And possibly at least some innocent people, including children.)"

You have a point. The point would be better if the (reported) reason that Bush didn't okay the plan was that he thought "an extrajudicial execution of a civilian" might be wrong.

But what the story says is that Bush would rather have a live accused terrorist for his Iraq war marketing campaign than a dead accused terrorist in his war on terror.

Posted by: vote no on (almost) all CA propositions on June 29, 2004 03:48 PM

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"Does Zarqawi consider himself to be a civilian?"

What Zarqawi considers himself is irrelevant. Timothy McVeigh considered himself a soldier in a war with America.

He wasn't. He was a mass murderer. (And we know this because he was convicted as such in a U.S. court.)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 03:52 PM

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I wrote (to Brad DeLong):"You're very disturbed that the Executive Branch didn't carry out an extrajudicial execution of a civilian? (And possibly at least some innocent people, including children.)"

Vote No...responded, "You have a point. The point would be better if the (reported) reason that Bush didn't okay the plan was that he thought "an extrajudicial execution of a civilian" might be wrong. But what the story says is that Bush would rather have a live accused terrorist for his Iraq war marketing campaign than a dead accused terrorist in his war on terror."

1) The author can look into G.W. Bush's mind and tell why G.W. Bush did what he did?

2) Even if the answer to that question is "YES!," it's still irrelevant. WHY people do the actions they do isn't important as important as the actions themselves. Extrajudicial executions of civilians is against The Law. G.W. Bush may not have broken The Law for a "bad reason"...but the more relevant fact is that he didn't violate The Law. (On this particular issue! As with all U.S. Presidents of at least the last 80 years, G.W. Bush has massively violated The Law since the day he took office...e.g., waging war on Afghanistan and Iraq without without Congressional declarations of war.)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 04:05 PM

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"What Zarqawi considers himself is irrelevant."

Why? I think it is germane and to the point. If a non-US citizen considers himself to be at war with the US, and has the ability to act on his aims, why not take him at his word? As to McVeigh, a US citizen at war with the US sounds a hell of a lot like a traitor, to me, so the standing of the two individuals is quite different.

So, you rule out an attack on Zarqawi. How do you propose he should have been handled, then?

Posted by: Steven Rogers on June 29, 2004 04:07 PM

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Oh, one more thing:

If Zarqawi had been formally indicted for any crime in a U.S. court, and if the Bush Administration wasn't energetically seeking extradition, then I would agree that's "disturbing."

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 04:13 PM

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"If a non-US citizen considers himself to be at war with the US, and has the ability to act on his aims, why not take him at his word?"

For the exact same reason that, if a U.S. citizen considers himself to be at war with the U.S., it's not relevant.

For example, despite the high opinion he has of himself, Osama bin Laden can NOT be at war with the U.S. He cannot be anything more, under U.S. law, than a criminal. And it's

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, *******WRONG*****...

...that President Bush, the Congress, the press, and the overwhelming majority of the American people, allow Osama bin Laden to be considered any higher than a criminal.

He is not "at war" with the U.S., because he isn't important enough. People are making a huge mistake--and dangerous--mistake when they think otherwise.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 04:20 PM

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A good answer, but only a partial answer. How should the US have handled Zarqawi? Police authorities do kill criminals, upon occasion.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on June 29, 2004 04:26 PM

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"So, you rule out an attack on Zarqawi. How do you propose he should have been handled, then?"

Was he indicted in a U.S. court? If so, the Bush Adminstration should have *demanded* extradition, to the point of even going to war to install a government that WOULD extradite the man. (In fact, Saddam Hussein was harboring quite a few people that the U.S. should have demanded extradition for, to the point of going to war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Such people include Abdul Rahman Yasin, who I think was formally indicted with regard to the 1993 WTC bombing.)

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-09-17-iraq-wtc_x.htm

If he was NOT indicted in a U.S. court, it would certainly be a crime to kill him.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 04:28 PM

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"How should the US have handled Zarqawi? Police authorities do kill criminals, upon occasion."

See my previous reply. Police authorities are NOT giving the power, under U.S. law, to simply shoot suspects! :-o

If the suspect violently resists arrest, such that the police legitimately think their lives are in danger, they can shoot a suspect. Likewise, if a suspect is putting one or many innocent people in IMMEDIATE danger (e.g. a hostage situation, where the suspect seems likely to shoot), the police are authorized to shoot.

But simply shooting a suspect is a complete violation of the concept of "innocent until proven guilty."

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 04:34 PM

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Interesting debate, but I just can't elevate my respect for human rights to entitle every s.o.b. in the world to due process of law.

The whole point of war is that you use force, not law.

Raison d'etat can be carried too far, and we've seen it happen, but if there's (1) a known terrorist who's (2) at a known spot, then assassinating him should not be the wrong choice. I have doubts about any practical moral or political theory that would maintain otherwise.

If a Royal Navy frigate encountered the ship of a notorious pirate on the high seas, would the frigate be entitled to attack the pirate?

Posted by: Andy on June 29, 2004 04:39 PM

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"As to McVeigh, a US citizen at war with the US sounds a hell of a lot like a traitor, to me, so the standing of the two individuals is quite different."

No, a U.S. citizen does not have the stature to be "at war" with the U.S. government unless he is fighting on behalf of some other government.

Once again, it's very wrong to elevate people like Timothy McVeigh any level beyond that of a mass murderer.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 04:39 PM

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"Interesting debate, but I just can't elevate my respect for human rights to entitle every s.o.b. in the world to due process of law."

Well, when you decide that ANYONE has the power to pick and choose who is entitled to due process of law and who is not, then you're no longer operating under the Rule of Law. The laws are there for a reason. And it's NOT to protect the criminals...it's to protect innocent people.

"The whole point of war is that you use force, not law."

No, no, no. War isn't the absence of law. Our country, and every country that I know of, recognizes that wars CAN be "legal."

For example, suppose the U.S. congress had passed a law saying, "Unless the Taliban government extradites Osama bin Laden within 2 weeks for...pick your crime, the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, 9/11, or whatever...then the U.S. government will be at war with the Taliban government."

Then if G.W. Bush had said, "Look Taliban, I'm afraid that you either have to turn Osama bin Laden over, or I'm afraid I have to go to war to remove you from power"...then all that is completely legal.

But the idea that governments should simply be allowed to kill civilians because those governments THINK the civilians committed a crime is simply wrong. You end up with the situation we had where the U.S. government blew up a pharmaceutical plant, killing a man, and crippling the production of life-saving pharmaceuticals. That is simply wrong.

"Raison d'etat can be carried too far, and we've seen it happen, but if there's (1) a known terrorist who's (2) at a known spot, then assassinating him should not be the wrong choice. I have doubts about any practical moral or political theory that would maintain otherwise."

When did G@d die, and make you the new G@d?

Look, there are some VERY unusual situations where I would agree with you. For example, the movie "The Peacemaker" contains a situation where there is a suspected terrorist with a "suitcase" nuclear bomb walking in the streets of NYC. There is a U.S. government sniper, and George Clooney (as a colonel) orders the sniper to "take the shot."

http://www.deep-focus.com/flicker/peacemak.html

In THAT situation, I agree with you. But that falls into the same category as a policeman shooting a suspect with hostages, where the policeman thinks the hostages will be killed. (In this case, it was literally millions of people that could be killed.)

Unless there is some sort of IMMEDIATE threat, or unless the suspect violently resists, it's simply wrong to shoot suspects. Our whole system is based on "innocent until proven guilty."

"If a Royal Navy frigate encountered the ship of a notorious pirate on the high seas, would the frigate be entitled to attack the pirate?"

Identifiable how? By the "notorious pirate" ship name on the stern? Or by the Jolly Roger flag?

No, they can't simply attack a ship they THINK is being piloted by a "notorious pirate."

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 05:02 PM

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I have to grab some dinner. I'll try to get back to the discussion (which I agree is very interesting) later tonight...or maybe tomorrow.

Mark

P.S. As Michael Badnarik says, "The Constitution: It's not just a good idea, it's The Law." :-)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 05:10 PM

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The Kurds, who were our wards at the time, had been repeatedly attacked by Ansar-al-Islam, and they surely were itching to do it. All they needed was our airpower, and we could have done that at any time.

Posted by: Bob H on June 29, 2004 06:36 PM

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"The Kurds, who were our wards at the time,..."

Can you point to the place in the Constitution where Congress or the President are authorized to be "wards" of foreigners?

"...had been repeatedly attacked by Ansar-al-Islam, and they surely were itching to do it. All they needed was our airpower,..."

So, basically, you're saying that the Kurds would "call in" the air strike, and we'd basically kill whoever it was that they wanted us to kill? (Probably including innocent people.) Doesn't that seem wrong to you? Or do you trust them to choose the right people to kill, and trust them to minimize collateral deaths?

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 29, 2004 07:30 PM

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"The Kurds, who were our wards at the time, had been repeatedly attacked by Ansar-al-Islam, and they surely were itching to do"

I am not so certain as you seem to be as to who is an ally of who in Iraq. Since Zarqwahi's main gig seems to be the killing of Shia and Americans, I am not positive that his presence in Kurdistan was not at least tolerated by the Sunni Kurds.

As to the ease of "taking him out" I can only make reference to Tora-Bora and the recent Pakistani offensive. Mountain fighters in dug-in and tunneled mountain fortresses are not that easy to take out.

Finally, Until I see the otherwise, I view the Peshmurga much as I view the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. The Kurds 70k "army" seems more for prestige and display of threat than actual mission sacrifice and fighting.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on June 29, 2004 07:45 PM

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Mark Bahner writes:"So, basically, you're saying that the Kurds would "call in" the air strike, and we'd basically kill whoever it was that they wanted us to kill? (Probably including innocent people.) Doesn't that seem wrong to you? Or do you trust them to choose the right people to kill, and trust them to minimize collateral deaths?"

We allow British troops to do sot. The French allowed US troops to do so in Afghanistan. All part of warfare as part of an alliance. If allies say they are under attack, and call for airstrike, usually such requests are honored.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on June 29, 2004 08:41 PM

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Now admittedly, the Forward Air Controllers would most likely be US Special Forces or CIA, but the strikes would go pretty much where the Kurds wanted them.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on June 29, 2004 08:50 PM

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IIRC, Zarqawi was a real problem for the Kurds. There were plenty of reports that his compound was engaged in bombings and the like. I also remember thinking "if this group is really so dangerous and tied to Al Queda, why aren't we just bombing them?" This is, indeed, a stain on this Administration's sincerity and motives.

Mark B: unless there is relevant treaty law, I'm not sure what the basis of your arguments are. You can make a case that assinations of declared enemies of the US are immoral, but I can't think of any controlling authority that suggests they are illegal. The constitution does not apply to non-citizens on foreign soil, and it grants the Executive reasonably broad Commander-in-Chief discretion (think Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates, for a relevant early analogy). Indeed, the only reason we can't legally assasinate foreign leaders is an executive order signed by Carter that remains in force... an executive order that does not apply to leaders of non-sovereign entities.

Moreover, the Congress did grant Bush a great deal of discretion in prosecuting the "war on terror" after 9-11. IIRC, he has plenty of legal authority to kill people like Zarqawi.

Posted by: dn on June 29, 2004 09:17 PM

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Re: "You're very disturbed that the Executive Branch didn't carry out an extrajudicial execution of a civilian? (And possibly at least some innocent people, including children.)"

Yep. This is a war. There are rules of war. But this is a war.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on June 29, 2004 09:37 PM

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Hey, don't sweat the small stuff. Sweat big stuff:

http://www.john-loftus.com/enron3.asp#congress :
However, in January 2001, Vice President Cheney allegedly reinstated the intelligence block and expanded it to effectively preclude any investigations whatsoever of Saudi-Taliban-Afghan oil connections. Former FBI counter-terrorism chief John O’Neill resigned from the FBI in disgust, stating that he was ordered not to investigate Saudi-Al Qaida connections because of the Enron pipeline deal.

Posted by: bubba on June 29, 2004 11:31 PM

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Re: "You're very disturbed that the Executive Branch didn't carry out an extrajudicial execution of a civilian? (And possibly at least some innocent people, including children.)"

Straining at a gnat & swallowing a camel. The US blithely bombed civilians in Afghanistan & Iraq. They just held off on this known terrorist.

Posted by: DAVE HEASMAN on June 30, 2004 05:39 AM

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Mark Bahner's mental gymnastics course is always entertaining to watch, especially the backflips and double-jointed kneebends.

But when one examines the record, the Zarqawi case is only one of several in which the Administration has let known terrorists go.

I quote:

"Updated: 03:07 PM EDT
Bush Administration Freed Terror Suspect
Feds Say Prosecution Would Have Revealed Secrets
By JOHN SOLOMON, AP


WASHINGTON (June 3) - Nabil al-Marabh, once imprisoned as the No. 27 man on the FBI's list of must-capture terror suspects, is free again. He's free despite telling a Jordanian informant he planned to die a martyr by driving a gasoline truck into a New York City tunnel, turning it sideways, opening its fuel valves and having an al-Qaida operative shoot a flare to ignite a massive explosion.Free despite telling the FBI he had trained on rifles and rocket propelled grenades at militant camps in Afghanistan and after admitting he sent money to a former roommate convicted of trying to blow up a hotel in Jordan. Free despite efforts by prosecutors in Detroit and Chicago to indict him on charges that could have kept him in prison for years. Those indictments were rejected by the Justice Department in the name of protecting intelligence."

________________________________

I have seen at least one other such report in the media.

The simplest explanation for all this is that the Administration is on the side of the terrorists. In this case, I don't believe the simplest explanation. But the Zarqawi case certainly gives one pause.

As the inside joke goes, "depending on whether he has one leg or two."

By the way, Zarqawi was in a part of Iraq we controlled through the Kurds and in which had nonuniformed troops. It would have been quite easy to send a squad of special forces in behind some of the journalists who visited his camp. It's unlikely anyone else would even have heard about Zarqawi's fate. And since he was running a military camp, he could hardly have been termed a civilian.

I sense a patented Bahner triple backflip coming on...!

Posted by: Charles on June 30, 2004 08:19 AM

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Does anyone think that a Zarqawi airstrike would be comparable to the assassination of Yamamoto?

If not, why not? (Okay, we had a Declaration of War against Japan. But it seems pretty evident that a DOW doesn't work with non-state terror organizations. Alternately, Congress had authorized effectively the same thing, force v. terrorists.)

If so, what's wrong with taking out either of them?

Posted by: Andy on June 30, 2004 08:41 AM

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"Mark Bahner's mental gymnastics course is always entertaining to watch, especially the backflips and double-jointed kneebends."

Bwahahahahaha!

I'm the only one here who has a rational and consistent point of view. (It comes because I won't be voting for Bush OR Kerry.)

Y'all are pathetic as you strongly advocate a that a President violate The Law. (And this is the same President that y'all criticize as being hopelessly incompetent!)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 09:46 AM

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"Does anyone think that a Zarqawi airstrike would be comparable to the assassination of Yamamoto?"

Not I. Yamamoto was in the Japanese military (i.e. a part of the government of the Empire of Japan).

Zarqawi is a civilian.

Further, there was a Declaration of War against the government of the Empire of Japan. There has been no declaration of war in the "war on terror." There never could be, under the Constitution. The Constitution only recognizes wars on governments (i.e. the Taliban government in Afghanistan, or the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq).

"If not, why not?"

See explanations above.

"But it seems pretty evident that a DOW doesn't work with non-state terror organizations."

Yes, the Constitution does not authorize the U.S. government to declare war on civilians. (In fact, as far as I know, the Geneva Convention which the U.S. signed prohibits waging war on civilians.)

"Alternately, Congress had authorized effectively the same thing, force v. terrorists."

Nothing in the Constitution gives Congress the power to VIOLATE the Constitution. If the Congress wishes to wage war on civilians, they need to get a Constitutional amendment (and withdraw from all appropriate treaties).

"If so, what's wrong with taking out either of them?"

There's nothing wrong with taking Yamamoto out. The President deliberately targeting civilians such as Zarqawi is a violation of The Law (both the Constitution and the Geneva Convention...which together form "the Supreme Law of the Land").

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 09:58 AM

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Assuming that Congress authorized Bush to use force in fighting terror, I just don't see the point in Mark Bahner's reply. He's as much a "combatant" as Yamamoto was, just in a piratical rather than a military sense. Being a "civilian" does not give you the magical power to commit crimes of terrow with the knowledge that you're beyond civil process.

That said, I would much rather have a gov't with Mr. Bahner's scruples than the one we have now. Nevertheless, if Mr. Bahner were President, I think he might find himself forced to violate his own scruples on occasion.

Does the hypothetical change if it was the post-9/11 Osama bin Laden in that camp? Would we STILL be ultra vires in sending in some cruise missiles?

Posted by: Andy on June 30, 2004 10:04 AM

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I see the American left has discovered the ability to engage in perfect air-strikes against individuals. Please inform the military.

The camp was more like a small town. Unless you wanted to just firebomb the whole place you needed to have a fair number of troops on the ground. That would require either an invasion (an invasion of Iraq in the summer of 2002 while Democrats were whining about being dragged into a war, I'm sure you would have gone for that...) or direct support for the Kurds to do the same. And if you don't know enough about diplomacy to realize why that would have been a long-lasting poor choice, you have no room whatsoever to talk about Bush's abilities at diplomacy.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on June 30, 2004 12:06 PM

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And what's wrong with firebombing the Ansar al-Islam camp?

Posted by: Brad DeLong on June 30, 2004 12:44 PM

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Really? -you think this matters, ultra vires? or is this an academic question?
No, wait--It's a rhetorical question! (silly me)...right?

Posted by: calmo on June 30, 2004 12:49 PM

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So are we to assume that Bush was thinking the same way, whether it be aversion to "extrajudicial killings" or some other reason, when he ordered this? http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/11/05/yemen.blast/

I haven't found any evidence that these guys were indicted in the US. But I do agree with Mark that we should do so in every instance possible. This shows that we are following a process that has some basis in law. Of course, I don't know if we have an extradition treaty with Yemen, whether these guys' extradition was sought or anything like that.

It seems to me that if they'd let our drones fire hellfire missiles in their country, they might agree to extradition, although from the looks of it, the attempted apprehension of these guys had proved to be messy business indeed.

Likewise with Zarqawi. Indict him, seek extradition, and if you don't get it, attempt something like this. Full military intervention's gonna kill a helluva lot more civilians anyway. And since when have we needed Saddam's permission to conduct any kind of military operation (bombing or whatever) inside Iraq?

Posted by: Phil K. on June 30, 2004 01:05 PM

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Brad DeLong asks, "And what's wrong with firebombing the Ansar al-Islam camp?"

Ummmm...because it's against The Law.

You know, murder, negligent homicide. Also High Crimes and Misdemeanors...that sort of thing.

P.S. Do you also not see what's wrong with blowing up a pharmaceutical factory?

http://www.ict.org.il/spotlight/det.cfm?id=143

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 02:12 PM

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I wrote, "You're very disturbed that the Executive Branch didn't carry out an extrajudicial execution of a civilian? (And possibly at least some innocent people, including children.)"

Brad DeLong responded, "Yep."

I see.

You think that the Bush Administration is the most incompetent administration in the history of the U.S., but you don't have any problem with them capping civilians whenever they get the urge! In fact, you're disturbed that they **don't** cap civilians. But you think they should all be impeached for allowing torture. (I've heard being burned or otherwise severely wounded hurts alot...sort of like torture.)

So, you don't mind that they kill or severely wound civilians...so long as they don't "torture" them?

Maybe I don’t see, after all. It doesn't seem very logical...

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 02:20 PM

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It is not every day that I saddle up with MB, and I don’t accept all his points, but the overall issue, that extra-judicial killings should be off limits, seems right, at least as a starting point. I am not sure, though, about the path MB’s argument takes. If the argument descends to mere legalisms, then it is pretty weak. Practical matters cannot be the only consideration, but should certainly be part of our thinking.

The question of whether an individual or group can be defined as “at war” with the US seems to me, if not irrelevant, then at least not sufficient. Groups that have the capacity and intention to attack the US cannot always be dealt with as a law enforcement problem. The founding fathers envisioned attacks by sovereign countries. The founding fathers envisioned criminality. The fact that they did not envision attacks on the US by non-sovereign groups with extensive capacity for violence ("civilians" but also combatants) should not, as constitutional scholars observe, constitute a suicide pact. We must be able to respond with tools appropriate to the situation.

The McVeigh comparison is not all that cogent. He was on US soil and was vulnerable to US law. Al-Zarqawi, bin-Laden and the rest have far greater capacity to damage the US than the McVeighs of the world, and are not readily vulnerable to US law. They must not be lumped together, if we are to make reasonable policies.

Having a situation in which opponents fall between the cracks, not sovereign and not easily subject to US law, allows the president to declare “war” without any congressional involvement in the decision as with real war, or any judicial involvement as with crime. This creates a situation in which such killings may well be sanctioned. We’ve also seen the “falling between the cracks” problem as involves individual combatants and suspected “insurgents.” The result was an ethical disaster. That is where MB’s objections really begin to bight. If we go ahead with conventional thinking about war vs sovereign states and criminal prosecution against non-sovereign entities, we’re going to end up with the executive exercising vast unregulated authority. Never good. We can afford neither to step onto the slippery slope of extra-judicial killings nor to tie the executive’s hands in defending the US.

The obvious answer is to create a clearer set of rules for dealing with non-state entities that attack the US. As others have noted, the battle against pirates has certain parallels to the battle with terrorists. Often, however, there were laws specifying what action could be taken against pirates. We have laws regarding terrorists, but do any specify conditions under which the president to have them rubbed out? Could Bush have ordered the Zarqawi’s arrest? Would such an order have done any good? Time, I think, to go back to the presidential powers drawing board.

Posted by: kharris on June 30, 2004 02:51 PM

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Andy writes, "Assuming that Congress authorized Bush to use force in fighting terror, I just don't see the point in Mark Bahner's reply."

My point (if I have one, as Dave Barry would say ;-)) is that Congress doesn't have the power to authorize Bush to break The Law. The Constitution (and as far as I know, the Geneva Convention) prohibits the waging of war on civilians. War can only be waged on governments, as the Constitution is currently written. If Congress wants Bush to wage war against civilians, Congress first needs to get a Constitutional amendment (and withdraw from all applicable treaties). The Constitution (and treaties) are the "Supreme Law of the Land." Simple Congressional votes don't "trump" or change the Constitution (or treaty commitments).

Andy continues, "He (Zarqawi) is as much a "combatant" as Yamamoto was, just in a piratical rather than a military sense."

The Constitution doesn't recognize "land pirates." "Pirates" are people who do bad things on the "high seas"...outside of the territorial waters of any country. There are no "pirates" on the land (except possibly Antarctica, and I think even that is covered by some jurisdiction).

Further, Yamamoto was a member of the military. He couldn't rationally claim he was *not* a member of the military (he was seen routinely in uniform), and he also couldn't rationally claim that the two governments were not at war.

Zarqawi CAN rationally claim complete innocence. Someone with a mask who people ALLEGE had Zarqawi's voice beheaded a man. But until Zarqawi is convicted in a court of law, he is innocent (under U.S. law) of that crime. He can also claim that he isn't a member of Al Qaeda or any other terrorist group.

So Yamamoto and Zarqawi are completely different. Being a high-ranking military officer in a country with which the U.S. was at war, it was unquestionably true that Yamamoto was the "enemy." All we know about Zarqawi is what people allege, or what evidence SEEMS to point to. It's the difference between certainty and doubt. In the U.S., the government doesn't have the power to kill people it SUSPECTS are guilty of something.

Andy continues, "Being a 'civilian' does not give you the magical power to commit crimes of terror with the knowledge that you're beyond civil process."

No, no, no! I never wrote that it did! Being a civilian DOES mean that one must be convicted in a U.S. court of law before one can be executed by the U.S. government.

Andy continues, "That said, I would much rather have a gov't with Mr. Bahner's scruples than the one we have now."

The "one we have now" is really not very different at all from the ones we've had in the past. They've ALL massively violated The Law.

"Nevertheless, if Mr. Bahner were President, I think he might find himself forced to violate his own scruples on occasion."

No, there is no need for a President to violate the Constitution in this regard. The President demands extradition for anyone accused of a crime in the U.S. If the country where that person is refuses to extradite, the President goes to Congress and says, "I can't get extradition of this person. I think it's so vital that we extradite this person that I think you should declare war if I can't get extradition within X amount of time."

Then, if the Congress refuses to declare war, the President tells The People, "Well, I think we should go to war, but the Congress doesn't. I sure hope this criminal whose extradition I can't get doesn't kill again." If the criminal does kill again, Congress has screwed up, and presumably those who voted against the war will be voted out of office.

"Does the hypothetical change if it was the post-9/11 Osama bin Laden in that camp?"

No, absolutely not. If you recall, we didn't even "know" that Osama bin Laden was "guilty" of 9/11 until we found the tape that allegedly (I'm relying on the translation) showed him laughing about how he knew the attack was going to happen.

The point is, we did NOT "know" he was "guilty" until after we'd toppled the Taliban government.

Further, the *danger* to the U.S. is not from Osama bin Laden himself, but from the Taliban government refusing to extradite Osama bin Laden. If we go in and "take out" Osama bin Laden, we: 1) are vilified around the world for killing someone who may have been innocent of any crime, and, more importantly, 2) have NOT gotten rid of the danger, which is the Taliban government refusing to extradite accused criminals.

"Would we STILL be ultra vires in sending in some cruise missiles?"

Yes, there is nothing in the Constitution that gives either the President or the Congress the authority to execute civilians without due process of law.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 03:01 PM

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"And what's wrong with firebombing the Ansar al-Islam camp?"

My God, I'm the conservative here. I feel crazy that I'm the one who has to argue this side of the debate. What is wrong with it? The camp is just like most places terrorists inhabit. It was a small town. It had lots of innocent civilians in it. It had women and children it. It wasn't a military barracks. Terrorists hide behind civilians. The reason we have to invade places isn't because we can't destroy the terrorists without invading. We could easily do that. We have nuclear weapons. The problem is that they mix themselves with lots of civilians. And despite what Euro-whiners say, we in the U.S. actually try to avoid killing civilians. And that is good thing.

Firebombing 'the camp' would have been a real war crime--not that fake crap Amnesty International complained about when we bombed the Iraqi TV station.

And even though I am a hawk who completely supported invading Iraq, and would probably support a near-term invasion of Iran if they don't shape up, I still wouldn't have O.K.'d firebombing 'the camp'. One of the huge problems in the War on Terrorism is that terrorists intentionally make it difficult to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. But at least for me that doesn't give us license to firebomb a town just because it is also it has long served as a meeting/training ground for terrorists. It wasn't a camp like Camp Pendelton where everyone is military.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on June 30, 2004 03:16 PM

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"If the argument descends to mere legalisms, then it is pretty weak. Practical matters cannot be the only consideration, but should certainly be part of our thinking."

Sigh. The practical matter is that it's NEVER a good idea for the U.S. government to break The Law. The reason is that the U.S. government MAKES the laws. So they have absolutely no excuse to *break* the laws.

If we need a Constitutional amendment that says the President has the power to kill civilians in foreign countries, then Congress (together with the State legislatures) should pass a Constitutional amendment to give the President that power. (And Congress and the President also need to withdraw from the Geneva Convention, and any other treaties that forbid the President from killing civilians in foreign countries.)

"The fact that they (the Founding Fathers) did not envision attacks on the US by non-sovereign groups with extensive capacity for violence ("civilians" but also combatants) should not, as constitutional scholars observe, constitute a suicide pact."

Sigh. The Founding Fathers thought of everything. ;-) The whole "suicide pact" argument is BS, from a judicial hack. (Who was that, Robert Jackson? Whoever it was, what a maroon!)

The Constitution HAS a mechanism for change. It's called an amendment. If it's obvious that the amendment is needed, it can conceivably literally be passed in days. There is NO EXCUSE for the federal government to violate the Constitution.

"Al-Zarqawi, bin-Laden and the rest have far greater capacity to damage the US than the McVeighs of the world, and are not readily vulnerable to US law."

Their GOVERNMENTS are "vulnerable to U.S. law." The Taliban shielded Osama bin Laden. The U.S. government took out the Taliban. The U.S. government SHOULD have demanded that Saddam Hussein extradite Zarqawi (not to mention all the OTHER terrorists Saddam Hussein was shielding):

http://www.nationalreview.com/murdock/murdock200310210934.asp

If the Taliban had shielded Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban had been removed from power, and Saddam Hussein had shielded Zarqawi (and the others) and Saddam Hussein had been removed from power, what do you think the odds would be that the NEXT government that the U.S. demanded extradition of an accused criminal from would refuse the demand?

And if they did, and the CONGRESS thought such a situation was dangerous, the President should topple that government, too. And we should continue to do it until all governments agree to our extradition demands.

Or the U.S. government should change it's laws to allow the President to kill civilians.

That's the LEGAL way to deal with terrorism. It's also, in practical terms, the best way. According to The Law.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 03:28 PM

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So, on a collateral question, did our authorization to militarily enforce the UN's order against WMD development ... not allow us to target Saddam with our preemptive airstrikes before we went in? I mean, we hadn't declared war on Iraq, and killing the head of state to enforce a no-WMD decree seems a bit off.

(Leaving aside that those were pretty miserable efforts that killed many civilians but not Saddam.)

So trying to take out Saddam was a war crime?

I actually would find that a lot MORE plausible than the idea that taking out Zarqawi would've been wrong ...

Posted by: Andy on June 30, 2004 03:28 PM

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So here i am enjoying this very stimulating discussion (even though most of the discussion avoids the point that the administration has given us no reason to think that any of these arguments by mark and sebastian were why they did nothing) and then suddenly, sebastian, of all people, doesn't want to have taken out the camp because civilians might have been killed?

But Sebastian, as Andy implies, you strongly supported the war in Iraq which has, of course, resulted in the deaths of quite a few thousand civilians. Admittedly, this number is realtively low by historic standards; admittedly, we probably did our best to minimize civilian casualties.

Still, an invasion of Iraq was bound, almost by definition, to have resulted in civilian casualties and it did.

Yet in all the debate prior to the war, i don't recall for a second the issue of civilian deaths ever coming up in your comments.

So why here?

Posted by: howard on June 30, 2004 03:39 PM

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"So, on a collateral question, did our authorization to militarily enforce the UN's order against WMD development ... not allow us to target Saddam with our preemptive airstrikes before we went in?"

I see nothing in the Constitution that even mentions the U.N. (not surprising, eh? ;-)).

"I mean, we hadn't declared war on Iraq, and killing the head of state to enforce a no-WMD decree seems a bit off."

The Constitution doesn't authorize the President to kill *anyone* without a Congressional declaration of war (or unless that person has been convicted in a federal court of a capital crime).

The whole system is really, really messed up. Primarily because The People simply aren't thinking. Rather than the 9/11 attack causing us to return to "first principles" about what makes us safe, and what makes us vulnerable, virtually the whole country has run around like a bunch of chickens with heads cut off.

These recent Supreme Court decisions (Hamdi et al.) have shown that at least a trace of sanity is returning.

But first and foremost, we all need to see the flat out irrationality and impossibility of a "war on terror." That is simply no more Constitutional than a "war on drugs." The Israelis have been targeting civilians for years...can't everyone in the U.S. see that such a practice doesn't work?

"So trying to take out Saddam was a war crime?"

Going to war against Iraq without a Congressional Declaration of War is a crime (i.e., a violation of The Law...The Law being the Constitution).

IF G.W. Bush had gotten a Congressional Declaration of War, then he could have announced to Saddam Hussein and the world:

"Look, Saddam, I don't want to kill you. You're an evil guy, but I don't like to kill even evil guys. If you step down, I won't kill you. If you don't step down, my military will be coming after you, to capture or kill you. And I want EVERYONE else in Iraq to know that, if you don't fire at U.S. troops, you won't be shot. All I want to do is to put in a government that Congress doesn't think is a danger to the U.S."

"I actually would find that a lot MORE plausible than the idea that taking out Zarqawi would've been wrong ..."

No, Andy, you're totally messed up. We (as civilians) WANT all the killing to be of members of governments. We don't want ANY civilians killed.

Wars will have reached near-perfection when ONLY heads of governments are killed.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 03:47 PM

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"...(even though most of the discussion avoids the point that the administration has given us no reason to think that any of these arguments by mark and sebastian were why they did nothing)..."

As I pointed out, WHY G.W. Bush did NOT break The Law is irrelevant. The point is that he did NOT break The Law (in this instance), and citizens of the U.S. (or the world, for that matter) should NOT be cheerleading for him to break The Law!

He does that enough already! :-(

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 03:52 PM

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Oh, I missed this. Dn wrote, "Mark B: unless there is relevant treaty law, I'm not sure what the basis of your arguments are. You can make a case that assinations of declared enemies of the US are immoral, but I can't think of any controlling authority that suggests they are illegal."

The U.S. currently has no "declared enemies" as recognized by The Law (the Constitution).

"Declared enemies" are the governments with which the U.S. government is at war. The U.S. is only at war, under the Constitution, after Congress declares war (on those specific governments). Congress has not officially declared war since 1941. So we have had no "declared enemies," under the Constitution, since the end of WWII.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 04:13 PM

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"Still, an invasion of Iraq was bound, almost by definition, to have resulted in civilian casualties and it did.

Yet in all the debate prior to the war, i don't recall for a second the issue of civilian deaths ever coming up in your comments.

So why here? "

You aren't seeing my point at all. I mention the civilian casualties in response to the concept of FIREBOMBING the camp, which would be indiscriminate killing of civilians and combatants. I mention it to show that getting rid of the camp would have required physical troops on the ground--an invasion of part of Iraq unless you are want to completely disregard the distinction between civilians and non-civilians. We could have dealt with Saddam by nuking all of Iraq. I can still be a hawk and not endorse that. I can still be a hawk and not endorse fire-bombing a town.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on June 30, 2004 04:34 PM

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Give due credit for Mr. Bahner's gymnastics. As pathetic as they seem, they do credit to a Special Olympian in the conscience-impaired category. Unfortunately there seem to be a number of people posting without bothering to research the case, which makes it easy for propagandists to get away with outrageous statements.

Zarqawi has been sentenced to death by a Jordanian court. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3483089.stm). Calling him a "civilian" is an act that would do the propagandists of the Soviet Union proud.

There is a long history of non-uniformed combatants, including those of our own Revolutionary War, the French resistance against the Germans, and the so-called Viet Cong. They are covered by the Geneva Conventions. Nothing prevents their targets from killing them in combat.

Extrajudicial killings are a whole different category. For one thing, they involve people who have not been processed by the courts. Zarqawi doesn't count.

From a practical standpoint, it would have made sense to try to arrest Zarqawi, since he could have helped to unravel the movement. But there was no obligation.
____________________

Mr. Holsclaw is apparently clueless to the fact that the camp that Zarqawi was in was in a (through the Kurds) US-controlled part of Iraq. No invasion would have been required. And anyone who cares to read an eyewitness account will dispute his characterization of the camp. (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,892112,00.html)

In how many normal villages do people go around smearing cyanide on door handles and executing farm animals?

Posted by: Charles on June 30, 2004 05:30 PM

____

Correction: I should have labeled the comments immediately above as allegations by the PUK, not those of Guardian reporter Luke Harding.

Posted by: Charles on June 30, 2004 05:33 PM

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"Give due credit for Mr. Bahner's gymnastics. As pathetic as they seem, they do credit to a Special Olympian in the conscience-impaired category."

You miserable slimy toad.

No leader of MY Party has ever blown up a pharmaceutical plant. If the leader of MY Party ever did that, I guarantee you that virtually every Party member--most definitely including me--would call not only for his impeachment and removal from office, but even for his criminal prosecution.

Can you say the same for yourself or your Party? Or did your conscience impairment prohibit you from doing so?

The rest of your post is pathetic drivel. You say that "Zarqawi has been sentenced to death by a Jordanian court." But you neglect to mention the very article you cite says he was sentenced to death in absentia--for "plotting attacks," with no mention of whether any attacks even occurred--and that he was also accused of trying to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy.

It probably doesn't even occur to you that the fact that he was suspected of trying to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy might have had something to do with his sentence for "plotting" attacks.

Then you hilariously ask, "In how many normal villages do people go around smearing cyanide on door handles and executing farm animals?"...

...as though you had personally witnessed these alleged events. Only later do you think to add that the allegations come from people with whom the alleged perpetrators were fighting.

G@d help the defendant in any jury you sit on! (Unless the defendant is a Democrat, of course.)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 30, 2004 08:39 PM

____

The lack of distinction between controlling the airspace and controlling the ground is one of the things that is making this discussion so non-sensical.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on June 30, 2004 09:45 PM

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Mr. Bahner, the leaders of your party have murdered tens of thousands of people in cold blood. Please don't be self-righteous, because hypocrisy merely makes your writing more laughable than it already is. I'm already in stitches.

I have a challenge for you. I want to know when you learned the phrase "extrajudicial killings." I suspect it was in the last few weeks. I want to know when-- if ever-- you have belonged to a human rights organization and if you have, when you joined.

The Republican Party, contrary to the misguided notions of its members, does not count.

I also deny your claim (and urge you to read Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies) regarding the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in question. While it's possible their intelligence was wrong, there's absolutely no question that Bill Clinton believed he was striking a bin Laden asset generating chemical warfare components.

This cannot be argued for Reagan and his assistance to assorted killers... including provision of chemical weapons precursors to Saddam Hussein. Yes, that’s right. The Kurds killed at Halabja were probably the recipients of materials from American chemical companies, courtesy of Donald Rumsfeld: “Alcolac International, a Maryland company, transported thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor, to Iraq. A Tennessee manufacturer contributed large amounts of a chemical used to make sarin, a nerve gas implicated in Gulf War diseases.” (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/03/02/IN123519.DTL)

You say, "Only later do you think to add that the allegations [regarding Ansar] come from people with whom the alleged perpetrators were fighting."

In other words, I was scrupulous in dealing with the facts. Thanks for acknowledging that, however much you bluff and bluster about in getting there.

In fact, I doubt you'd know why the court sentenced Zarqawi to death but for the fact I linked the article. You complain about the nature of the court and the sentence and try to veer off into issues of who he was trying to kill but are unable to answer the rather fundamental point that killing Zarqawi could hardly be an extrajudicial killing if in fact his case had been considered by a court.

In other words, you lose this argument.

And you apparently are blissfully unaware that Al Qaida had been designated a military enemy in the late 1990s. Presidents can do that, even without an official declaration of war by Congress. Even though Ansar was not affiliated with al Qaeda, it certainly fit the designation of an enemy after 911. And so you can't answer the point about unarmed combatants, which Zarqawi was.

I think your conversion to objecting to extrajudicial killings is extremely recent, ever since you understood that the man you voted for will be judged by the electorate for having failed to deal with terrorists. You think that by using human rights language as a sort of smog, you can fool people.

Maybe you can fool some.

But I tell you what-- prove that you *aren't* a hypocrite by joining a human rights organization and devoting your efforts henceforth to stopping the extrajudicial killings for which the United States is so well known around the world.

Verbal gymnastics are lots of fun to watch, but they don't substitute for believing what you say and living by your beliefs.

_______________________

Mr Holsclaw, the US-- through its Kurdish allies-- controlled territory adjacent to the camp. It could have sent soldiers directly against Zarqawi. Controlling the airspace, however, is awfully convenient should one want to drop Special Forces in to an area.

Don't you agree?

Posted by: Charles on June 30, 2004 11:32 PM

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Charles, you say:

"Mr Holsclaw, the US-- through its Kurdish allies-- controlled territory adjacent to the camp. It could have sent soldiers directly against Zarqawi. Controlling the airspace, however, is awfully convenient should one want to drop Special Forces in to an area."

If it were that easy the Kurds would have killed off Zarqawi years before--he had been a thorn in their side for quite some time. You are revealing cinematic view of this 'camp' which is causing a big problem in talking realistically about how to get rid of it. Airlifting in some special forces would have been useless. And the fact that isn't immediately obvious to you means either that you know extremely little about Special Forces, or that you are thinking about this as a 30 or 40 person camp instead of the town-sized place that it really was. You also appear to be thinking about it as wholly inhabited by terrorists instead of mixed with both terrorists and civilians. All of these factors make your scenario implausible.

It drives me completely nuts that liberals constantly accuse accuse conservatives of not understanding how difficult and dangerous war is, and then they engage in conversations like the above.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on July 1, 2004 07:46 AM

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Mr. Holsclaw's points are good ones, but I daresay firebombing the whole camp to take out Zarqawi & Co. would've been as defensible as our firebombings of Tokyo, Hamburg, and Dresden, with a lot fewer civilians killed.

So what I'd like to hear from him is whether we now have a consensus that the bombing of those cities was a war crime or otherwise wrong.

If not, then bombing a camp and killing, say, 1,000 (10,000?) civilians in order to take out Z. and 100(?) terrorists would seem to be right in line with our WW2 policy.

(FYI, I think the WW2 bombings probably were crimes, because their primary objective was indeed to kill lots of civilians, on the theory that Total War involves civilians as well. As I understand the then-existing laws of war, that was a war crime.

I don't, however, think they were necessarily wrong. The "Total War" theory is plausible, and the people of Germany and Japan had adopted their governments' evil policies of warmaking, indiscriminate slaughter, and genocide. By not rising up against their regimes, they effectively endorsed those policies, and were responsible for them.

That said, anyone who thinks that U.S. policies are similarly evil is entitled, by his own lights, to repeat 9/11 on us. Our job is not to reproach such a one; it's to change his mind or kill him.)

Posted by: Andy on July 1, 2004 08:56 AM

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Mr. Holsclaw, I've given a link to the BBC that contradicts your view of what the Ansar camp was like. I have another article that states that the Ansar camp was in fact overrun by Special Forces (Fleishman, LAT 4/27/03)assisted by the PUK, so it's not quite the fantasy you claim. The same story gives evidence from US military sources that Ansar was clearly a terrorist group involved in chemical warfare production. Including (ahem) cyanide.

If you have contradictory information, please post it. Unsupported statements such as your claims that the Ansar camp would have been difficult to assault are simply empty talking.

I think you've done enough.

Posted by: Charles on July 1, 2004 10:11 AM

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Charles do you read your own cited sources?

First of all your reporter suggests that the camp had no manufacturing capability at all which suggests that the place wasn't important enough to attack anyway--a strange thing to cite when you think that Bush should have attacked it preemptively. Second it is clear from that cite that the camp was intermixed with the town. Exactly as I claimed. Third you ridiculously use the eventual overrun of the camp by Special Forces in conjunction with other ground troops AND OTHER GROUND SUPPORT AS PART OF AN INVASION AND AFTER IT HAD BEEN LARGELY ABANDONED as proof that no invasion would have been necessary without the ground support and when the camp had not been partially abandoned.

I apparently have not done enough if you think your response makes any logistic and tactical sense whatsoever.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on July 1, 2004 11:13 AM

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I'm thrilled and flattered that you finally got around to reading Luke Harding's account, Mr. Holsclaw. It's the first sensible thing I've seen you do.

Of course I was aware of Harding's witness of what he saw. However, you might stop to think whether terrorists would just show him in to their laboratories, "This is the pantry; watch the ricin." It's absurd; they invited him in after making sure he'd see nothing incriminating.

The proof that they were manufacturing on small scale is contained in the LA Times article by Fleishman who-- if you'll read it, you'll find-- is also wonderfully skeptical of the official US line. But he confirms that Ansar aspired to terrorism and was acquiring the means to do so. I'll leave it to you to read it.

However, Harding's description does *not* support your decription of a terrorist facility "intermixed" with a town. Yes, there is a village but the terrorist facility he visited was "a dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings at the foot of a grassy sloping hill. Behind the barbed wire..."

At this point the penny should drop. Barbed wire *surrounds* the facility. It is not "intermixed with the town," as you claim.

Nor are residents of the nearby town exactly virgins to warfare. "At the corner of the valley we passed a pink mosque, with sandbagging on the roof. Washing hung from a courtyard. A group of Ansar fighters - in green military fatigues - smiled and waved us on."

To the extent residents remain after Saddam's brutal ethnic cleansing, they are *occupied*, not "intermixed." The place has been or expects to be shelled. It would have been a mercy to the few remaining residents to have cleaned out this pack of killers.

You seem to expect to reach the truth on reading an article here or there and taking what you read as gospel. In fact, one must read widely and discount it all, weighing the allegations and assembling a coherent picture.

Having actually done so, I have no doubt Ansar should have been attacked-- and could have been. You seem to be unaware of the fact that US troops were unable to enter northern Iraq in large numbers due to Turkish resistance, yet according to Fleishman, Sargat was taken in March, well before Baghdad fell. *That's* why Special Forces had to be used.

I've taken you a few steps down the analytic road you should have taken. Obviously if you'd had a source you dared present to support your claims, you'd have given it by now.

Posted by: Charles on July 1, 2004 04:52 PM

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Since the introduction of facts has evidently caused Mr. Bahner to flee and Mr. Holsclaw to lapse into silence, I thought I would close the thread with photographs of the Sargat camp before and after it was attacked. Anyone who browses the archive can reach his/her own decision as to whether this facility was in the middle of an urban area.

By the way, the articles are worth reading, too. They point out that what the Administration said about Sargat was a lie. Indeed, Colin Powell before the UN actually misidentified the location. But just because the location probably wasn't a "poison factory", as claimed by the Administration, and even though the links between Zarqawi and Al Qaida are questionable, and even though it was a mistake to blow the h--- out of the place rather than try to capture some members of Ansar, this was a legal target.

One other thing that the articles point out: journalistic gullibility. One of the articles makes it seem as if Sargat was a homey little place filled with women and children by the sole evidence that there were women's dresses in a makeshift closet and children-sized slippers hither and yon. A more likely conclusion is that this interview was carefully stage managed and some reporters fell for it.

Sargat after: http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1016/csmimg/p12a.jpg
(from http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1016/p12s01-woiq.html)

Sargat before: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/Iraq/2003/02/08/7020822AU.jpg (from http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/World/Iraq/2003/02/08/23122-ap.html)

Posted by: Charles on July 2, 2004 10:10 AM

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Don't take my need to attend to work as a sign that I'm convinced by your arguments.

I frankly don't know what to do with the fact that you are willing to embrace a journalist's pronouncements when they help your arguments and dismiss the same journalist's observations in the same article when they support my argument. You offer no help to understand why you don't believe the journalist's description of the town and camp while you do believe other parts of the story. You claim to be looking at 'the whole picture' but your sources don't make the claims that you make.

You draw completely unwarranted conclusions from the fact that the camp fell before Baghdad. Lots of things fell before the captial. But they fell DURING AN INVASION. They fell with adequate ground support. I don't think gullibility is the only journalistic problem, I think a complete lack of understanding about tactics and warfare causes huge problems in both reporting and this discussion.

You now want to focus exclusively on the chemical 'facility' which is not the same as the camp at all. The terrorists did not all live in the chemical facility. I'm not even sure anyone lived in that facility (though we can't tell from the reporting). The charge against Bush isn't that he didn't destroy a 'facility' it is that he didn't destroy the terrorist camp (and presumably the terrorists in it). The fact that you now want to reduce the whole argument to just the very small buldings behind the fence is just silly. If that was it, the camp was ridiculously small and not a big deal. If that was not it, the camp was big enough to be a big deal and mixed with the town. What the evidence does not allow for is a big camp entirely confined to that barbed wire area.

And those pictures you cite are evidence for what? You have a narrow angle on half a building. How are you contending that those pictures help.

Furthermore we are positing a level of ground-intelligence which we know for a fact was not super-precise. Without ground troops how would we have been sure that it wouldn't turn into a bombed 'wedding' fiasco by the time journalists showed up to report on the camp?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on July 2, 2004 10:54 AM

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Charles writes, "Mr. Bahner, the leaders of your party have murdered tens of thousands of people in cold blood."

My party is the Libertarian Party. (Michael Badnarik, our 2004 Presidential candidate, has a campaign slogan of, "The Constitution: It's not just a good idea, it's The Law.") Please explain how leaders of the Libertarian Party have murdered tens of thousands of people in cold blood.

He continues, "I also deny your claim (and urge you to read Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies) regarding the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in question."

But then he laughably continues, "…while it's possible their intelligence was wrong,..."

Well, then you don't really deny my claim, do you Charles? I claimed the plant was a pharmaceutical plant. If YOU claim otherwise, produce some $@#& evidence! (Have you ever heard of the phrase, "Innocent until proven guilty"?)

"...there's absolutely no question that Bill Clinton believed he was striking a bin Laden asset generating chemical warfare components."

If Bill Clinton really believed he was striking "a bin Laden asset generating chemical warfare components," and if he ***continued*** to think that, then why did he:

1) Wait until August 20, 1998 to destroy the plant, when it had been operating for several years?

2) Refuse to send an international team of experts to prove the site was indeed involved in chemical weapons production?

3) Unfreeze the assets of Salah Idris, the owner of the plant?

"In fact, I doubt you'd know why the court sentenced Zarqawi to death but for the fact I linked the article."

Yes, I would not have known why the JORDANIAN court had sentence Zarqawi to death. (In fact, I still don't precisely know, because I don't know whether anyone actually died from what Zarqawi was alleged to have done, or whether it was "plotting.")

"You complain about the nature of the court..."

I wasn't "complaining." I was pointing out a relevant fact...that Zarqawi was also suspected of plotting to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, and that such an allegation might have influenced the sentence in the JORDANIAN court.

"...but are unable to answer the rather fundamental point that killing Zarqawi could hardly be an extrajudicial killing if in fact his case had been considered by a court."

Charles, do you seriously think that--under ***U.S.*** law--the U.S. government can execute a person, simply because that person has been sentenced to death by a court in his former country of residence?

If you seriously think that, please: 1) tell me where you got your law degree, or 2) please provide the relevant document(s) that lead you to think that, or 3) provide someone who DOES have a law degree who also thinks that is true.

"In other words, you lose this argument."

Bwahahahahahaha! Yeah, right! Under U.S. law, the U.S. government can execute without trial anyone sentenced to death by a Jordanian court! Like I wrote above, please let me know where you got your law degree. I'll be sure to check whether the place is still accredited (if it ever was)! :-)

"I think your conversion to objecting to extrajudicial killings is extremely recent, ever since you understood that the man you voted for will be judged by the electorate for having failed to deal with terrorists."

I voted for Harry Browne in 2000 (and in 1996). Unlike G.W. Bush, Al Gore, and Bill Clinton, Harry Browne would have FOLLOWED the Constitution.

"But I tell you what-- prove that you *aren't* a hypocrite by joining a human rights organization..."

I have a better idea, Charles.

1) You have written that I am a "Special Olympian in the conscience-impaired category," and

2) "the leaders of your party have murdered tens of thousands of people in cold blood."

Apparently, you wrote both those things thinking that I was a member of the Republican Party.

So, to prove that *you* are not a damned liar, either provide evidence of item #1 or #2, or admit you were mistaken and apologize.

Mark Bahner (Libertarian Party...the ONLY Party committed to returning the U.S. to government according to the Constitution)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 2, 2004 01:30 PM

____

Mr. Holsclaw, your claim that the facility in question at Sargat was in a village is totally discredited. Your claim that any forces in addition to Special Forces backed up by Kurds-- forces that were in place before the invasion in the south and west-- were required to take Zarqawi are also discredited. Now you're trying to shift ground.

No more needs to be said.

_________________________

Mr. Bahner, I take it back that the leaders of *your* party have killed tens of thousands. The Libertarian party is a minority party, despised by the Republican Party even as it uses them as their useful idiots. The LP therefore only qualifies as *servants* that have helped the GOP kill tens of thousands.

The useful idiot/servant status is, by the way, is a major theme of Michael Lind's Up From Conservatism, abundantly documented; I can't claim originality for it.

You ask for evidence that the Shifa pharmaceutical plant was producing chemical weapons. Richard Clarke, a non-partisan career civil servant, states on pp. 146ff that "...CIA sent an agent to Khartoum to collect trace material that would have floated away from the plants in the air or in liquid runoff. It was a risky mission to drive up to the plant and scoop up soil samples, but it was successfully conducted. The samples were then sent to an independent, nongovernmental analysis laboratory... Their tests revealed a chemical substances known as EMPTA. [O-ethylmethylphosphonothioic acid ] EMPTA is a compound that had been used as a prime ingredient in Iraqi nerve gas. It had no other known use..."

If you take the time to read Clarke, that will answer the remainder of your questions on that score.

You point out something rather obvious, namely that a Jordanian court might be influenced by the fact that Zarqawi's target was the head of government. The same could be said of any criminal, anywhere. This is a non-argument.

The point you raise about whether the US can execute someone sentenced to death by a foreign court is an interesting one. Usually it doesn't arise because if we can capture a criminal, we can extradite him. If he's killed in the course of capture, that's his hard luck. If Zarqawi had been in the US, and were killed in the course of capture, the legal basis for killing him would have been obvious.

International law extends jurisdiction of a state for certain kinds of crimes (see, for example, http://ben.aubg.bg/Courses/fall2001/pos312/Jurisdiction%20in%20International%20Law%20(overview).htm) To quote the Congressional Research Service, "Although the responsibilities of U.S. courts and law enforcement agencies have
always included activities that occur outside U.S. territorial borders, e.g., smuggling,
piracy, etc., such activities have not usually been considered in the same category as
military threats posed by foreign countries that are the responsibilities of the State and
Defense Departments and the Intelligence Community. Changed international realities
have, however, led to a more expansive international role for law enforcement
agencies, combined with the employment of intelligence agencies—and the
operational arms of the State and Defense Departments—in efforts to counter them.
Thus, there has arisen, on one hand, the phenomenon of agencies charged with
domestic law enforcement acquiring extensive overseas missions and, on the other,
intelligence agencies focusing on illegal activities in foreign countries...As noted herein, terrorists and narcotics smugglers abroad can be the targets of
either military strikes or covert action. In doing so, military forces and intelligence
agencies operate mostly (but, arguably, not invariably) within the indeterminate
parameters of international law that permits states to act in self-defense, rather than
the different and much tighter constraints of constitutional and domestic law....In many cases, covertactions may be contrary to the laws of the country in which the action is to take place,but at the same time they can be consistent with international law." (http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RL30252.pdf) Much of the complexity behind international law is discussed there; you'd do well to spend your time reading such things rather than posting.

In the case of Zarqawi, he was in a territory not controlled by Iraq or any other recognized nation, and therefore could not be extradited by conventional means. He was engaged in terrorism, a crime that extends jurisdiction. In addition, Ansar was reported to be engaged in chemical weapons manufacture; use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity. His conviction in Jordan made it clear that the US was not acting simply in its own interest but for common defense against a dangerous criminal. Therefore, killing him would not have been extrajudicial killing, but an appropriate application of international law. If the United States would join the International Criminal Court, it could do these things with all the niceties, but it is not violating international law by going after killers and terrorists like Zarqawi.

As for human rights issues, you've as well as confessed you're a hypocrite. I'm sure you meet many like-minded people in the Libertarian Party.

Posted by: Charles on July 2, 2004 09:49 PM

____

"Mr. Bahner, I take it back that the leaders of *your* party have killed tens of thousands."

*MR.* Levy: I should have written, "and," not "or." Provide evidence that I am a "Special Olympian of the conscience-impaired category".

And while you're at it, provide evidence that the Libertarian Party are "*servants* that have helped the GOP to kill tens of thousands."

Or there's no reason I should consider you any more than a damned liar.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 3, 2004 06:29 AM

____

Your posts are hilarious, Mr. Bahner, perfect examples of how arrogant and dysfunctional the right has become. In your cockeyed view of the world, a person who corrects errors is a "liar," while you who stubbornly refuse to admit your errors are not. What a hoot!

(Just to make your post even more laughable, a Mr. Levy suddenly appears. Do you imagine I'm a priestly member of the "Jewish Banking Conspiracy"?)

Like a child playing peekaboo with reality, your willful and uncorrected errors apparently don't exist-- in your mind-- because you keep your eyes shut against seeing them. When provided with evidence that contradicts what you've said, you simply move to another topic without acknowledging your fault or changing your mind.

In so doing, you've provided all the evidence that anyone needs to characterize you as conscience-impaired. Go read Michael Lind on your own-- he's quite detailed in explaining how Libertarians have served as the intellectual whores for the GOP-- and sin no more.

Posted by: Charles on July 3, 2004 08:21 AM

____

Charles writes, "In your cockeyed view of the world, a person who corrects errors is a 'liar,'..."

You have never "corrected your errors," Charles. You have merely amended your lies with new lies, once your initial lies were shown to be false. That's classic Bill Clinton (a certified liar, by a judge's legal decision).

You never corrected your error of calling me "Special Olympian of the conscience-impaired category"...even though it was obvious that your assertion was based on your assumption that I was a Republican, and had voted for G.W. Bush in 2000.

Instead, you backed *that* false assertion with a second false assertion that "the leaders of your party have killed tens of thousands of people in cold blood." Again, this second false assertion was also based on your thought that I was a Republican.

When confronted by the fact that both your assertions were wrong, you fell back to a new lie, that the Libertarian Party are "*servants* that have helped the GOP to kill tens of thousands."

Your technique of falling back from old lies while throwing out new lies is absolutely classic Bill Clinton, by the way. I don't know if he taught you that, or you already knew how to do that. Perhaps there's some "Handbook for Liars" that you both have read? :-/

Being a liar, I realize that "evidence" isn't a terribly important thing to you, but regarding your "evidence" on Al Shifa, you wrote:

"Richard Clarke, a non-partisan career civil servant, states on pp. 146ff that "...CIA sent an agent to Khartoum to collect trace material that would have floated away from the plants in the air or in liquid runoff. It was a risky mission to drive up to the plant and scoop up soil samples, but it was successfully conducted. The samples were then sent to an independent, nongovernmental analysis laboratory... Their tests revealed a chemical substances known as EMPTA. [O-ethylmethylphosphonothioic acid ] EMPTA is a compound that had been used as a prime ingredient in Iraqi nerve gas. It had no other known use..."

That's your "evidence"? What Dick Clarke *says* the CIA did? And what Dick Clarke *says* the *alleged* laboratory found? And what Dick Clarke *says* about EMPTA?

There are a few problems with this "evidence" (which most people would call heresay, unless Mr. Clarke actually witnessed any of these alleged events).

1) There is no mention of what laboratory it was, of course. (Top Secret, doncha know!)

2) There is no mention of how many samples were collected, or from what locations. (Top Secret again, of course.)

3) There is no mention of what the concentration(s) was/were in the sample/samples. (Top Secret again, no doubt).

4) There is no mention of what other suspicious chemicals were found, if any. (Top secret, or perhaps this laboratory really didn't know what they were doing.) (Because most experts agree that it's unlikely that EMPTA would be found; that a second chemical would be more likely.)

4) There is no explanation for why this was such a "risky mission," since there are "nonpartisan" accounts that even schoolchildren visited the site (wonderful field trips to the pharmaceutical plant).

5) There is no corroboration of Dick Clarke's assertion that EMPTA has "no other known use." (Is Mr. Clarke an expert on chemical weapons precursors? If so, where did he get his technical degree?)

Finally, your "evidence" does have me a bit puzzled... isn't one of the major premises of Dick Clarke's book that there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda?

As far as purchasing the book, I was going to pass. But your "evidence" has intrigued me, in that it seems to contradict what I thought was a major premise of the book.

Also, I'm very interested to investigate your assertion that reading the book will "will answer the remainder of your questions on that score."
Given the record of accuracy of your previous assertions, you'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath that the book will indeed "answer the remainder" of my questions. (In fact, if it really does answer the questions, why can't you just summarize the answers from the book? Are you getting a cut of the sales?)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 3, 2004 03:54 PM

____

Mr. Bahner, obviously you believe I care what you think. Very simply, I don't. I understand that no matter how thoughtfully I answer you, no matter how many facts I bring to bear, you are constitutionally unable to concede an inch. If the truth were written in lightning on your eyelids, you could not see it. How sad.

But in the spirit of bonhomie, one last piece of advice: you would do well to get counseling, psychological and spiritual.

Posted by: Charles on July 4, 2004 10:22 AM

____

Charles, "Mr. Bahner, obviously you believe I care what you think."

Whatever gave you that impression?

"I understand that no matter how thoughtfully I answer you, no matter how many facts I bring to bear,..."

Bwahahahaha! You call Richard Clarke's completely unverified--and in fact unverifiable--statements in his book "facts"?!

No, Charles, this is a FACT: Dr. Bob Arnot, a medical doctor, and at the time the chief medical correspondent for MSNBC, visited the Al Shifa plant within 24-48 hours after it was destroyed. He was given a complete tour of the plant, and was allowed to look over plant production records. The production records were handwritten in English. In Dr. Arnot's opinion, they would have been virtually impossible to forge, in such short time. In his expert medical opinion, all evidence he viewed at the plant--the damaged equipment, the medical products scattered all over the floors, the handwritten production records--were completely compatible with the proposition that the Al Shifa plant was a pharmaceutical plant. Dr. Arnot (again, a medical doctor) saw no evidence that the Al Shifa plant made anything other than pharmaceuticals (by mixing ingredients, and packaging the resulting products).

More Charles, "If the truth were written in lightning on your eyelids, you could not see it. How sad."

This is hilarious, coming from a person who maintains that the Al Shifa plant was NOT a pharmaceuticals plant, but was instead a heavily guarded producer of the chemical weapons precursor, EMPTA!

"But in the spirit of bonhomie,..."

I don't think you have a spirit of bonhomie towards anyone who isn't on the political left, Charles. In fact, I'm not sure you have such a spirit for Greens, so I don't think your spirit of bonhomie extends beyond members of the Democratic party.

"...you would do well to get counseling, psychological and spiritual."

Free advice from Charles Utwater II. One more example of the truism, "you get what you pay for." :-)

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