Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Different Kind of War

Sometimes, to understand the reasonableness of an argument, we only need to use it in a slightly different context.

President Smith Reacts to Death of Norez

In an address to the nation earlier this afternoon, President Smith congratulated those responsible for killing notorious drug lord Evan Norez in a theater in downtown Jersey City today.

According to reports, the units involved in the operation received information three days ago that allowed them to follow Norez into the Pine Street Theater. Once they received information that Norez was inside, they called in an air strike that destroyed the theater. Norez' body was identified from among the nineteen bodies removed from the building. Two key lieutenants in Norez' organization were also reported to have been in the theater.

Norez' drug cartel has been responsible for a major part of the drug crime in the region known as the Northeast Triangle -- the region from Boston to Philadelphia to Baltimore. Sources inside the White House expressed hope that this would restore support for President Smith's war on drugs, which had lost popularity in the polls in recent months.

World leaders congratulated President Smith on the death of Norez, stating that the drug lord was a major source of misery and suffering.

In his speech, President Smith went on to defend his administration's decision to use the tools develop in the war on terror to fight the war on drugs. "For eight years we fought a war on terror, and we fought it successfully," said President Smith. "Here we see the benefits of applying those same tools to the drug cartels."

President Smith also defended his decision to use the military to fight this war. "As Commander in Chief of the armed forces, I get to decide when there is a sufficient risk to the safety and well-being of the American people, and I have the authority to use the military to defend America from those threats. I have decided that these drug cartels are a threat. They are a threat. They ruin the lives of millions of Americans every year. I have the Constitutional authority to call in the military to deal with any threat to the safety of the American people, including this one. We are in a war on drugs, and we will win that war."

Attacking his critics, President Smith reiterated his belief that those who oppose him on this are fighting for the cartels. "Those who oppose my plan for bringing these cartels to justice are fighting with and for the cartels. They weaken the government and make its enemies stronger. We are involved in a war here, and I intend to win."

Attorney General John Miller, testifying before the Senate Justice Comittee today before the President's announcements, also defended the constitutionality of President Smith's actions. "The Constitution clearly gives the President the authority and the responsibility as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to keep America safe."

Miller also defended the Administration's use of the American Defense Database in this war on the cartels, saying that it has provided the government with vital information that has helped it significantly in this war.

The New York Times reporter Jane Walton revealed in a series of articles last year the extent of the Defense Database. Originally thought to be a database that held only telephone calls, Walton revealed that the database also contained tax information gathered from the Internal Revenue Service, credit reports, credit card statements, bank account statements, mail and email records, and internet browsing records.

"If the government has the right to obtain phone records, then it clearly has the right to collect all records on American citizens," Miller told the Committee. "I will not comment explicitly on what this administration is and is not doing to fight the war on drugs. I can only say that the President is merely doing what he thinks needs to be done to protect the American people from this threat. The people can sleep comfortably that the President will do everything in his power to keep them safe."

Lawyers speaking for New York Times reporter Jane Walton released a statement today saying that Walton continues to stand behind her story. Walton has now served over 120 days in jail for her refusal to reveal the names of the people who leaked the details of the Defense Database.

Miller has said that he is still trying to decide whether to charge Ms. Miller with treason.

In further testimony before the Senate Committee, Miller said that he also considers the agents to be traitors and that he is committed to finding their identity. "The Justice Department will get the information from Ms. Walton, one way or another," he said.

When Senator Bailly asked whether this might include torture, Miller answered, "The Administration does not torture prisoners. I assure you, Ms. Walten will not be permanently damaged."

President Smith also spoke about the ongoing investigation of the incident in Modesto, California last November where some have accused the military of slaughtering eleven civilians in a raid to capture or kill suspected cartel members.

A military tribunal released its findings late last week clearing the soldiers of any wrongdoing. The official report said that when soldiers approached the house they were met with small arms fire. They returned fire then called in an air strike on the house. A private home video of the scene of the scene after the battle showed the bodies of several women and children, which some say show signs that the occupants were executed.

In the last twelve months, 1,237 civilians have been reported killed in U.S. Army raids against suspected cartel hideouts. One of the dealiest incidents involved an attack on a reported Cartel safehouse in Arkansas where a wedding was being held. 62 people were killed and 117 injured in that attack. The military called the incident a simple failure of intelligence. President Smith said in his speech that he sincerely regrets the loss of innocent life, but he asked the American people to stay the course until the drug cartels are defeated and the country can declare victory in its war on drugs.

Military investigators are also looking into the death of a pregnant woman and her mother on the New Jersey Turnpike late last week. According to reports, the victims were in a car that sped past an Army checkpoint on Thursday, prompting military personnel to open fire on the vehicle. Relatives for the victims, 47 year old Natalie Farmer and her daughter 20 year old Ashley Mason, said that Farmer was driving Mason, who was in labor, to the hospital when the incident occurred. President Smith responded to the incident by saying that the soldiers have a right to protect themselves, and that citizens should not take any action that soldiers might perceive as a threat.

In related news, the military swept into the town of Needles, California last night looking for cartel members. In a door to door sweep of the town, soldiers killed 27 suspect cartel members and apprehended 147 others. Those apprehended were immediately flown out to secret Detention Centers. Though the U.S. Military refuses to release any numbers, independent organizations such as Amnesty International report that the United States is now holding 153,000 citizens in Detention Centers. Most of them have been transported to centers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This includes 22 Representatives, 3 Senators, and 38 Judges, all of whom are being detained under charges of obstructing the war on drugs and giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States.

The ACLU has filed an official protest with the Smith Administration over these detentions, calling them unlawful and unconstitutional. In a strongly worded letter to the President, they said that the Administration has a duty to respect the constitutional rights of all prisoners.

President Smith, addressing these issues in his statement, repeated the Administration's view that suspected cartel members are not prisoners in the classic sense, but enemy combatants. "You do not hold trials for enemy combatants captured in a state of war," said President Smith. Since the start President Smith's escalation on the war on drugs he has stood behind Attorney General Miller's claim that those captured in this war are neither criminals nor prisoners of war but 'enemy combatants' who are not entitled to the constitutional or legal protections of either group.

ACLU spokesman James Clark said, "President Smith has put these people in a legal twilight zone where he claims that there are no rules or limits to what he can have done to them. Flying them out of the country itself is a gross violation of the principles upon which this country was founded."

Vice President Lewis, responding to Clark's statement, said, "We are in a war against those who care nothing about life. You can't have any civil rights if you're dead."

Clark, responding to the Vice President, Clark said, “It looks like you can’t have any civil rights if you’re alive either.”


I have read some comments today from people who suggested that killing Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was a bad move because it will create sympathy and support for fundamentalist Muslims.

As a word of warning, this is fine.

As an argument for the conclusion that it was wrong to kill a person such as Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is alleged to have been, it can be rejected. The type of person who would support the murder and destruction of Al-Zarqawi are people whose opinions do not deserve moral consideration.


Anonymous said...

Care to comment explicitly on the moral acceptability of the following:

"Jordanian-born Zarqawi was said to have been in a meeting with associates at the time. At least five other people were killed in the raid, including spiritual adviser Sheikh Abd-al-Rahman and an unidentified woman and child."

Is it ever okay to assassinate an evil man if it means killing a few bystanders? (I'm guessing there are circumstances where it might be acceptable.)

Did the U.S. act well? Was dropping two 500-pound bombs the right thing to do? Did they have him surrounded? Would it have been better to try to capture him? Was it even a possibility, or could he have snuck away?

The news seems to carry a lot of back-patting on this, but I find it troubling. (Just saw a violent Korean film today called Sympathy for Lady Vengeance that raises some of these same questions.)

Alonzo Fyfe said...

If a person is striking at a truly powerful and evil person from a position of relative weakness where one simply does not have the ability to protect the innocent...

Then it may be permissible to assassinate the leader in a way that risks the life of innocent people.

A key difference between good and evil is in its regard for innocent life. Good people seek to do things in ways that protect innocent life. Evil people either actively seek to harm those who are innocent or do not care that innocent people will die.

By killing Zarqawi in a way that also killed innocent people, the Bush Administration thereby confessed to being incapable of protecting innocent life or unwilling to do so.

Or a combination of both.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

I would also like to add that exactly the same form of argument applies to the fact that Zarqawi was not brought in for trial.

This should be the default objective in all cases. The person with a true love of justice will seek to determine guilt before an impartial judge and jury before killing others.

Necessity may force us into situations where this is not possible.

If somebody is killed without being arrested, this proves either that the the killer lacked the power to use the institutions of justice, or had the power but lacked the interest in doing so.

Which is it?

(I see a future post coming on.)