Thursday, November 18, 2004

Joseph,
Let me preface this by saying that I do not, in any way, speak on behalf of the entire Department of Defense (it should still be called the "War Department") or its illustrious leader, Rummy. I do, however, speak using my knowledge of the laws of land warfare and the experience of being deployed to delightful combat zones the world over.

The Geneva/Hague Conventions clearly state that the regulations set forth therein regarding the treatment of Prisoners of War (POWs) apply only to "legal combatants." Legal combatants are defined as individuals who are:
  1. In uniform: Wear distinctive clothing, making them recognizable as Soldiers from a distance.
  2. Openly bearing arms: Carrying guns or small arms and not concealing them.
  3. Under officers: Obedient to a chain of command ending in a political leader or government.
  4. Fighting according to the laws of war: Not committing atrocities or crimes; not deliberately attacking civilians or engaging in terrorism.
The only one of these four stipulations that could even be argued in this case is number three. They could claim allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as a political leader, and his ramshackle chain of command. They are not wearing uniforms. They are not openly bearing arms. They are most definitely not fighting according to the laws of war.

That said, the question is, "What are they if they aren't legal combatants?" The answer: illegal combatants. According to the Geneva/Hague Conventions, "a captured person, not wearing a uniform, who is caught carrying weapons or engaging in warlike acts (such as a spy) is not a lawful combatant and is, therefore, not protected by the laws of war. Such persons should be treated according to applicable civilian laws (if any). In practice, they may be tortured or executed."

So, the bottom line is, the "scum and villainy" we are fighting in Fallujah are illegal combatants and not subject to the protections offered by the Geneva/Hague Conventions. The Marine in question was fully within his rights to do what he did. Should he have gotten guidance from higher headquarters? Probably. I wasn't there, so I can't make a black and white judgment call on it. Would I have done the same thing if I'd been through a week of non-stop combat against an opponent that doesn't fight fair, beheads innocent civilians, and booby traps their dead and wounded? Probably.

Of course, the lines all become blurry when a situation like this becomes political. Thankfully, I think most people here are siding with the Marine and happy enough with the internal inquiry being conducted. Most of the media I've seen today is hardly even mentioning the incident. Slick Willie's library opening seems to be more important than our fight for freedom and democracy overseas.

My thanks to Wikipedia for helping me to put down my thoughts in a coherent manner. BTW, I decided my In Whack moniker should be Fervently Patriotic Kill-Bot.


Rumors are circulating
that John Kerry is planning on suing John O'Neill, author of Unfit for Command, for libel. Kerry should tread lightly here. For one thing, O'Neill's a sharp and composed attorney. One of the first things he'd be likely to do would be to subpena all of Kerry's military records, including the 100 or so pages Kerry didn't release to the public. He'd have to finally reveal the details of whatever it is he doesn't want out (such as the possibility that he may have originally been less-than-honorably discharged from the Navy).

Given that the man still has presidential ambitions, I don't think that's something he's going to want to air out in public.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Bart,
you're our resident military man, so I want to ask you your take on the Marine shooting the presumably unarmed, wounded Iraqi in Fallujah. I've read that there was an incident elsewhere in Fallujah where an Iraqi feigning death killed or wounded a number of U.S. soldiers when he detonated a bomb strapped to his body. So, I can see the mindset of the soldier: This guy, feigning death in the corner, is acting like the guy who just blew himself up across town. Better shoot him before he kills the lot of us.

The question I have, though, rests on chain of command and rules of engagement issues. Should he have received direction from an officer before firing? Or, given the nature of combat, extenuating cirumstances, etc, was he justified in the shooting?
Hat tip to Little Green Footballs
for pointing out this article by Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star, "Should Canada Indict Bush?" The article says nothing new in terms of what "charges" would be brought against Bush: Iraq as illegal war (in spite of, apparently, the fact that the already existing Security Council resolutions are still in force and give us the authority to invade Iraq), the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib (hardly the Bhatan Death March, but I digress), etc.

He continues by saying that our denial of POW status to the prisoners at Gitmo are comparable to Japanese leaders trying to deny culpability in the torture of U.S. prisoners in WWII:
Then there is Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. says detainees there do not fall under the Geneva accords. That's an old argument.

In 1946, Japanese defendants explained their mistreatment of prisoners of war by noting that their country had never signed any of the Geneva Conventions. The Japanese were convicted anyway.
Walkom misses the point. The U.S. doesn't say we aren't bound by the Geneva Convention. We say that the prisoners at Gitmo don't qualify for POW status under the terms of the Convention. There's a difference.

The Convention was designed to protect soldiers from cruelty and torture. And to qualify as a soldier, the Convention is clear that you need to wear a uniform, openly carry your arms, have a discernable chain of command, etc. Terrorists are not soldiers. They deliberately blend in with the civilian population, they conceal their weapons, and they have no real chain of command. One of the intents of the Convention was to encourage states to engage in standard rules of war, to separate military and civilian targets, to make their soldiers obvious to the opposing force so as to minimize civilian deaths, etc. If terrorists get Geneva Convention protection, then the Convention becomes meaningless.

This article also demonstrates the logic behind U.S. refusal to subject ourselves to the International Criminal Court. We've seen how the U.N. operates. We know that the world's worst kleptocracies run rough shod over everyone and everything at the U.N. When the Sudan and Lybia get seats on the U.N. Commission for Human Rights, you know there's a serious problem with the organization.

Having a court that grants these people the right to file charges against other countries is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Does anyone seriously think that the rulers of the likes of Zimbabwe, the Sudan, Iran, Cuba, China, pre-invasion Iraq, and Saudi Arabia would ever be brought before the ICC? Of course not. It would be an institution who would serve to prosecute only two defendents: Israel and the United States.

Lastly, I realize this article was likely written (somewhat) in jest. I'm sure the author thinks Bush is a war-criminal, but I doubt he seriously expects an arrest to be made. However, just a thought experiment, I wonder what he thinks would happen if such an arrest was made. Does he think the U.S. would sit back and watch while a President (former or sitting) is arrested by a foreign power?

The best euphemism I can think of for the backlash would be "serious international incident."
David,
you didn't mention how the Fred Phelps Cavalcade of Dancers did at their recent Fall outing. I wonder if it was as unsuccessful as this. Seems he went to town in Oklahoma and proceeded to cause the church to circle the wagons around their openly gay member. The member is more popular and accepted now than he was before all the hoopla.

I may be a little sketchy on my Bible stories, but the Phelps tactics make me wonder: Phelps seems to want churches to oust their gay members; Jesus associated with lepers, tax-collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. So, from what particular commandment of Jesus did Phelps get the notion that he should cast out gays from the church?

And, as a friendly public service announcement, I would like to remind all that the Reverend Phelps is a registered Democrat.
News on the retail front:
Sears and Kmart to merge. Thoughts of a new store name? Yes, the company's going to be called Sears Holdings Corporation, but that won't fit on a marquee.
Kerry is contemplating
another run for the presidency. Or, at least, he hasn't ruled it out.

Two thoughts: 1) The Clintons are going to be really happy to hear that. 2) What's his campaign slogan going to be, "Kerry: One Ass-Kicking Isn't Enough?"

It's nice that Kerry still has his Senate seat. The man can go back to the environment in which he's most comfortable. I almost (almost) feel sorry for John Edwards, as his term was up this fall, and he didn't run for Senate again. The man's out of a job. What's he going to do to keep his name in the news till his next presidential run?
If anyone still wants to say that red-staters are dumber than blue-staters, read this story from Pennsylvania, a blue state.
A Pennsylvania woman who was struck by a train has sued the rail company — for failing to warn her that trains travel on railroad tracks.

Patricia M. Frankhouser filed suit on Nov. 4 seeking damages in excess of $30,000 from Norfolk Southern Corp., according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Last January, Frankhouser was hit by a train as she walked along railroad tracks in her hometown of Jeannette, Pa., a southeastern suburb of Pittsburgh.

Amazingly, she came away from the encounter with only a broken finger, some cuts and, according to the lawsuit, "pain."

Apparently, however, the incident was traumatic enough for her to hire a lawyer.

"Defendant's failure to warn plaintiff of the potential dangers negligently provided plaintiff with the belief she was safe in walking near the train tracks," Frankhouser's suit asserts.

It goes on to state that Norfolk Southern, based in Norfolk, Va., should have posted signs warning passersby "of the dangers of walking near train tracks and that the tracks were actively in use."

Nowhere in the filing does it say whether Frankhouser heard the train coming, why she failed to get out of the way or even whether she was walking alongside or in between the rails.

Her attorney did not return the Tribune-Review's call.
I want to officially welcome
our newest Whacker. No, on second thought, I should come up with a better noun. In any case, Bart, welcome to the joy. Now that you're on board, the GOP outnumbers every other party.

You also need a title. David's is something like Moderate Libertarian Extremist. I can't remember. I am the Faceless Corporate Monolith.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Relax, we're not stupid.
Well, at least David Bernstein says this article debunks the myth that Bush voters are stupid. Funny, the way I read it, it's not so much that Bush voters aren't dumb, it's just that the Kerry voters are just as dumb. It's all relative.
I have to disagree with Best of the Web
for saying this:
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union announces that it has intimidated the Pentagon into agreeing "to end direct sponsorship of hundreds of Boy Scout units, which require members to swear religious oaths, on military facilities across the United States and overseas."

The ACLU press release quotes the group's Adam Schwartz: "If our Constitution's promise of religious liberty is to be a reality, the government should not be administering religious oaths or discriminating based upon religious beliefs." But of course, the government was doing no such thing; the Boy Scouts are a private group. If you don't like what they stand for, don't join them.
It's precisely because the Boy Scouts a private group that requires its members to take such oaths that the Pentagon or any other government agency shouldn't be sponsoring them. The ACLU isn't arguing that the Boy Scouts don't have the right to exist, only that they should not receive government backing. Taranto's defense misses the point.
This makes sense to me.
HASH(0x88956bc)
From Timbuktu to Tijuana, you know all about world
culture and politics. You've seen it all, and
what you haven't seen, you watched on one of
the "smart people channels." Your
friends tell you that you should run for
governor.What people love: You've always got a great story
to tell.What people hate: You make them feel like ignorant
plebians. Sometimes you slip and CALL them
plebians.

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I mean, what else would you expect from a man that's been around the world and seen every war-torn nation between here and Southeast Asia. My thanks to you, gentlemen, for allowing me to post and join in the fun. And, yes, most of them are plebians.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Was there ever any doubt?

HASH(0x8b7b9fc)
You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.
What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.


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My wife dubbed me a music snob long ago.
So this is really unsurprising.

HASH(0x8f57228)
Your CD collection is almost as big as your ego,
and you can most likely play an instrument or
three. You're a real hit at parties, but you're
SO above karaoke.
What people love: You're instant entertainment.
Unless you play the obo.
What people hate: Your tendency to sing louder than
the radio and compare everything to a freaking
song.


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