No, no, no.

A quick hit on the case of Ahmed Ghailani, the accused terrorist who was tried in civilian court for the bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.  Charged with 281 counts of murder and conspiracy, Ghailani was convicted on only a single count of conspiracy, because the judge ruled that certain testimony was inadmissible on the grounds that it was obtained through the use of torture.

The conservatives are making hay of this. Ed Morrissey at HotAir:

The failure of Holder’s DoJ to win anything more than a single conspiracy count against Ghailani as a result of using a process designed for domestic criminals than wartime enemies shows that the critics had it right all along.  It also shows that both Obama and Holder have been proven spectacularly wrong, since a man who confessed to the murder of over two hundred people will now face as little as 20 years, with a big chunk of whatever sentence Foopie receives being reduced by time already served.

And on the Left, Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

But the most important point here is that one either believes in the American system of justice or one does not.  When a reviled defendant is acquitted in court, and torture-obtained evidence is excluded, that isn’t proof that the justice system is broken; it’s proof that it works.  A “justice system” which guarantees convictions — or which allows the Government to rely on evidence extracted from torture — isn’t a justice system at all, by definition.

They’re both right.

A justice system, if it makes any pretense at all at justice, is predicated on protecting individual rights–including the rights of the accused.  If the evidence was inadmissible (and it likely would have been inadmissible in a military tribunal as well), then it was inadmissible.


Civil justice is simply not the right forum in which to deal with international terrorism. The administration has already admitted that regardless of the outcome of the trial it has the right and the will to hold Ghailani indefinitely anyway.

A justice system, if it makes any pretense at all at justice, is predicated on the idea that the results of trials matter.

The one point on which both Morrissey and Greenwald agree is that this whole exercise was nothing more than a show trial. It was a farce masquerading as principle. Money, time, energy wasted on a mock trial whose outcome simply doesn’t matter.

But we knew all this already. When the Obama administration announced that they would seek civilian trials for some of the Guantanamo detainees, but not all, it made the tacit admission that the trials were being conducted for political purposes only.  When it further announced that it would continue to hold the defendants, even if acquitted, as enemy-combatants, it ceded the entirety of the argument to the opposition.  The administration has admitted that these men are enemy combatants, but will, in an attempt to mollify a particularly vocal group of political partisans, hold show trials and make a pretense of justice.


Islam and Sharia

In Saudi Arabia, a woman who was gang-raped was sentenced to 90 lashes. The reason? Before the rape, the woman, who was then 19, had been in a car with a man who was not a family member — a crime under the kingdom’s legal code, which is based on a strict Wahabi reading of Islamic law. Punishing the victim of a brutal rape is reprehensible. Then a Saudi appeals court more than doubled her lashings to 200 and added six months’ jail time, apparently because she had the audacity to publicly challenge the court’s ruling. Her lawyer had his license to practice suspended. — “Lashing Justice”, Dec 3, New York Times more here

If the Klan ran a court in Alabama, this is the kind of justice they would serve.

And yet still, still I see calls for tolerance and understanding.

The Washington Post has this gem:

At a time when Islam is under siege from Muslim extremists and extremists from the Far Right in Europe and America, the judiciaries of Sudan and Saudi Arabia have managed to reinforce the vilification of Islam and used Islamic law as a weapon rather than a yardstick for justice. All our futures depend upon an ability to agree upon a global ethic, based upon mutual understanding and respect, that transcends our religious and cultural differences. Whatever our differences, there can never be an acceptable excuse for injustice and intolerance in the name of our religions.

What kind of global ethic would it be if the Saudis and the Sudanese have a voice in crafting it? How is mutual respect possible in the face of the kind disgusting bigotry and ignorance on display in Saudi Arabia?

Islam is under siege? Islam is under siege? Islam is laying siege! Why are we expected to tolerate the beating and imprisonment of women for petty and ridiculous offenses? Why are we expected to tolerate a society that punishes adultery and homosexuality with death? Why are we expected to tolerate a culture that denies women the right to vote, own property, or testify in court? What kind of “yardstick” would such injunctions yield? How might we measure justice against such plain villainy?

This culture must be condemned. It is a cancer, a disease, and it must be treated as such.

It is pointless to claim that Islam “properly understood” is blameless in this. These are not fringe elements of a minor cult, these are national governments using the holy text of Islam to establish law. This is barbarity built upon ignorance and it must be denounced.

This is not a debate about which religious idiocy is more absurd, it’s a debate about oppression and evil. Believe in whatever religion you will. Your soul is yours to treat as you will. But the moment you mix religion with law is the moment you cast the sanctity of belief aside and become just another slavering bully. And that’s true whether you’re thumping the Quran, the Torah, the Bible, or Dianetics.

The difference is that the Pope doesn’t burn heretics anymore, the Temple was razed a long time ago, and Tom Cruise isn’t stumping for president…. yet. But Sharia is mainstream Islam. And that must be recognized, and that connection must be renounced.

Gillian Gibbons… Freed

The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons…. They massed in central Martyrs Square, outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed, although they did not attempt to stop the rally.

“Shame, shame on the U.K.,” protesters chanted.

They called for Gibbons’ execution, saying, “No tolerance: Execution,” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.”

Thankfully, Gillian Gibbons, a British expatriate on trial in the Sudan, wasn’t sentenced to death. Instead, she received 15 days prison time and deportation.

Why is she being imprisoned and deported? Why were thousands of screaming lunatics calling for her execution?

Because she named a teddy bear Muhammad.

She’s an elementary school teacher. She gave her class a teddy bear and asked them to name it. The children named it. They brought it home and wrote stories about it. The stories were compiled into a book for the students to share. Evil bitch.

“No tolerance: Execution,” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.” That’s what the crowd chanted.

She named a teddy bear. She’s a teacher. They’re imprisoning and deporting a teacher.

Because they don’t need the kind of moral education Ms. Gibbons brought to their children.

Kill her, kill her by firing squad. That’s what the crowd was chanting.

This is so appalling, so disturbing, so foul. A culture that allows this, let alone encourages it, is a waste. It is a cancer, a disease.

Full story here.

12/03/07 Update:
Gillian Gibbons has received a pardon and has been released from custody. She is returning to the UK. (Story here)

However… the story includes the following absurdities.

“Common sense has prevailed,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. He added that Gibbons will be taken to the British embassy in Khartoum after “what must have been a difficult ordeal”.

Common sense has prevailed? Prevailed? In no sense has any kind of sense prevailed. The Sudan is a cultural cesspit, a wasteland of tyranny, genocide, bigotry, and hopelessness. A woman who was trying to teach children has been forced out of her classroom, subjected to the prospect of a whipping, and bounced out of the country she called home by a group of ill-intentioned thugs and despots. There is no common sense in that, just barbarity of the most common and base sort.

But Brown wasn’t the only one.

“I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone and I am sorry if I caused any distress,” Gibbons said.”

Great Respect for the Islamic religion? Appalling. Disheartening. Unfathomable. The words, “sanction of the victim” leap to mind. Would she hold “great respect” for the Klan? For fascist thugs? Or is she just scared out of her mind? And what would that say about the “Islam as peace” nonsense?

I know, we’re supposed to treat all religions with respect and toleration. But why does pasting a veneer of complete absurdity across the face of tyranny and bigotry render the atrocity of an ideology somehow palatable? I don’t excuse the inquisition just because Torquemada was sincere in his beliefs.

Imagine the following conversation.

IslamoFascistWhackJob: “I believe that women are second class citizens. I believe that Jews are evil. I believe that women should not vote, that an adulteress should be murdered. I believe that Salman Rushdie should die for writing a book. So should a teacher who named a teddy bear after a seventh century illiterate.”

WesternBoob: “You are a moral monster.”

IslamoFascistWhackJob: “But wait! I believe that because the same 7th century illiterate peasant claimed that God spoke to him.”

WesternBoob: “Oh! That’s all right then. Wait, didn’t he have sex with a nine-year old girl?”

IslamoFascistWhackJob: “Yes, but he married her when she was six.”

WesternBoob: “Oh, well… each to his own I suppose.”

The Causes of Terrorism

There’s an interesting article up at The American debunking the myth that affluence reduces terrorism, or that terrorism is a response to poverty.

“The evidence suggests that terrorists care about influencing political outcomes. They are often motivated by geopolitical grievances. To under­stand who joins terrorist organizations, instead of asking who has a low salary and few opportunities, we should ask: Who holds strong political views and is confident enough to try to impose an extrem­ist vision by violent means? Most terrorists are not so desperately poor that they have nothing to live for. Instead, they are people who care so fervently about a cause that they are willing to die for it.”

Krueger, the author of the article, suggests that rather than likening terrorism to crime (where there is a strong correlation with poverty), it is more instructive to liken terrorism to voting and political protest. Krueger’s research suggests that, as with voting and political protest, terrorism is more likely to attract the affluent: those people who can better afford to spend their time committing themselves to abstract political ideals. The author therefore suggests a stronger correlation between political oppression and terrorism than between poverty and terrorism. He argues that relatively wealthy, but heavily oppressive societies–like Saudi Arabia–would tend to generate more terrorists.

That certainly seems plausible to me. I have long wondered if the whole exercise in trying to determine the “root cause” or “root grievance” of terrorism isn’t a little misguided. As Krueger points out, terrorists have diverse motivations. Assuming that terrorism is simply a response to poverty is a project that smacks of simple materialism and has a tendency to obscure issues of moral responsibility and moral agency.

The choice to embrace terrorism is a political choice. It’s the result of accepting a particular ideology, committing wholeheartedly to political and philosophical abstractions and then reifying those abstractions. Terrorism is result of a commitment to dogma, and dogma, as I’ve mentioned before, only thrives where political expression is curtailed.

I know this all sounds a little academic, but this debate matters because it directly affects how we choose to combat terrorism.

If we take the simple materialist stance and imagine terrorism as another version of class struggle, then we’ll be inclined to pursue policies appeasement and wealth transfer. Appeasement because materialism only allows the wealthy the luxury of moral agency, and wealth transfer because redistribution is the only response to the inequities of class. In practical terms, that means offering terrorists gross concessions, like making them part of the government (as in Sierra Leone and Palestine), deliberately ignoring their moral atrocities (as in Rwanda), or conceding to their demands (as in pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan).

But if we take the opposite view, that terrorism is the result of a dogmatic ideology and that the war against terrorism is ultimately ideological–science and reason pitted against fundamentalism and ignorance–then the final battlefield is free public discourse. Dogma withers and dies in light of free inquiry, and free inquiry is only possible in a free society. If we want to win the fight against terrorist dogma, then we must ultimately liberate the people who would be most affected by it.

This is not necessarily to say that America should invade and liberate every oppressive regime in the world, but it is to say that military intervention must remain a valid option in foreign affairs, and it is to say that it should be the avowed policy of US foreign policy to work–through many means–towards the dissolution of oppressive and tyrannical regimes.