July 18, 2003

"Unjust, unwise, un-American"

The Economist is not happy with our latest measure for dealing with people our rulers decide are terrorists:

You are taken prisoner in Afghanistan, bound and gagged, flown to the other side of the world and then imprisoned for months in solitary confinement punctuated by interrogations during which you have no legal advice. Finally, you are told what is to be your fate: a trial before a panel of military officers. Your defence lawyer will also be a military officer, and anything you say to him can be recorded. Your trial might be held in secret. You might not be told all the evidence against you. You might be sentenced to death. If you are convicted, you can appeal, but only to yet another panel of military officers. Your ultimate right of appeal is not to a judge but to politicians who have already called everyone in the prison where you are held "killers" and the "worst of the worst". Even if you are acquitted, or if your appeal against conviction succeeds, you might not go free. Instead you could be returned to your cell and held indefinitely as an "enemy combatant".

Similarly, Iain Coleman:

What words can match the deep, dark sin of this action? It is evil. It is fractally evil. It is a stain on the soul of everyone who devised this policy, everyone who implements it, everyone who supports it, and everyone who tolerates it.

While I appreciate these expressions of disgust for a deeply disgusting policy, I feel I should point out to these writers that the British Government has recently reached an agreement with the US whereby Britons can be extradited without the US government having to show probable cause, or indeed evidence of any kind. As Ken MacLeod puts it, "On the bright side, however, I have no reason for not going to America".

I am not, of course, afraid of a knock on the door in the middle of the night. We're not there yet, and I hope and expect we never will be. But the fact that such a thing is even theoretically possible in our country makes me want to scream. We shouldn't even be thinking about things like military tribunals, in the immortal words of Jim Henley,

Because we're the fucking United States of America!
Is it too much to hope that we can have a government which would understand that sentiment?

The Continuing Crisis; The Running-Dogs of Reaction

Posted by crshalizi at July 18, 2003 17:43 | permanent link

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