Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Constitution is not a suicide pact

A while ago I argued that the Geneva Convention is a good document that protects civilians by not protecting unlawful combatants--people who forgo the rights accorded to soldiers because they do not wear uniforms and they hide amongst civilians. This means that terrorists and guerillas can be legally killed on sight because they chose to fight as terrorists and guerillas, not soldiers.

But it seems that there are people who do not understand how making no distinction between lawful combattants (who do not hide behind civilians) and unlawful combatants (who do) increases the death toll amongst civilians. The author says
No one at the DOJ seems even to have pondered whether the public would credulously accept the truth of a document that—by its own admission—is a product of secret government interrogations. The lesson of Abu Ghraib was that we no longer trust what happens in dark dungeons, where the rule of law has been cast aside. To reassure us, the Justice Department responds with the assurance that no one there trusts what happens in the bright light of a constitutional democracy.
and is right on both counts. There is lots of shady business in the world, governments are involved in plenty of it, torture can produce bad information, but none of this helps us tackle the fact that there are shady people out there, hiding amongst civilians, putting toghether terrorist acts. I have no idea what, if anything, Padilla did or planned to do, but neither does the author. You can beleive the Justice Departments documents and accusation, or you can say they are all bogus. In the end it all just comes down to picking a side, and that's a pretty clear choice in my mind.

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