29 February, 2012

This is so cool

Dolphins and whales at play.  Anyone care to argue they aren't sentient?  From there, it's a very small step to talking about rights.  We need to do some serious thinking about what it means to be human--and what that means for what we owe to one another.

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28 February, 2012

Clearing my desk

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 28:  U.S. Attorney Genera...
Eric Holder at the signing of the NDAA by Getty Images via @daylife

It's been too long since I posted here, so I'll start by clearing up a few "must reads":

(1) The NDAA Makes it Harder to Fight Terrorism | Foreign Affairs: Brian Michael Jenkins is one the world's greatest experts on international terrorism. He started the RAND Corporation research program on terrorism in 1972. (Where were you in 1972?) When he points out that the liberty-stripping provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act will do nothing to facilitate the prosecution of the war on terrorism, and will in fact harm it, all I can add is "amen". But then he adds something I hadn't thought of. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force Resolution is the post-9/11 act authorizes the use of force to kill or capture those responsible for 9/11 and to prevent future international terrorist attacks. The NDAA allows the detention of terrorist suspects "until the end of hostilities," as authorized by the AUMF. Assuming there is no official statement that the war is "forever" there will come a time when

the United States will consider its military mission against terrorism to be over. Declaring an end to the military campaign, however, would remove the country's legal basis to hold enemy combatants. Pressure would increase to release detainees. While lawyers and legislators try to work out the ambiguous post-hostilities status of detainees, those convicted of crimes in civilian courts will remain locked away in jail, serving out fair sentences.
I might add that as time passes the question of whether the military mission is "over" will itself become a political question. Already combat pay is being cut for soldiers in Afghanistan. There will be a political bonus for the politician who can claim the "victory" of transforming terrorism from a war back to a normal security problem. (Of course, there will also be those whose jobs and identity are so wrapped up in the current definition of the situation that they'll resist that declaration.) I shudder to think of the question of when a military action "ends" being fought through the federal courts. And even before the issue is settled, there will be lawyers using the ambiguity to call for the release of real mass murderers.

Meanwhile, the people locked up who have nothing to do with terrorism--the majority, I expect, if the history of the (s0-called) PATRIOT Act is any indication--will probably be the last to get out.

Legal rules exist for a reason. Tampering with them on the spur of the moment--by legislators or by courts--rarely serves the interests of the people. It might help some prosecutors in the short run. It might help some politicians win reelection. But that's their problem. Mine is to keep them from screwing with the rights of the rest of us.

(2) The Pentagon Discloses Military Intelligence Budget Request | Secrecy News: It's 19.2 billion dollars, and that's a drop from the high. It looks like winding down the wars is the primary reason for the decline. And for once, the DoDers (DoDoes?) weren't forced to release the secret. It was just there, in the request, because the relevant Defense Department authorities changed their minds on the need for classification.

There actually is some intelligent life in D.C.

I hope it doesn't harm their careers.

(3) A New Perspective on Cost of War from the folks at Demon*cracy.

The original graphic is huge. You really need to see the original to get the full impact.

Now, if we could just estimate the cost of not going to war we could do a cost-benefit analysis. My suspicion is it wasn't worth it--not this long, not this much, and not at all for Iraq. Whether or not you think the price was worth it, it's clear the price--the immediate price, not counting what it has done to our society and law and politics and economy in the long run--has been huge.