Shame

In December 2014, NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan. Pretty much everyone knows that the mission was a failure and the ending premature. Military experts, both in service and retired can’t help frowning when they are answering simple press questions about the situation in that unhappy country Hardly anyone in public life wants to say it aloud because we are all more or less tired of war, of that war in particular.

The bulk of US forces is slated to leave we don’t really know when. There are conversations going on to decide how much of a residual force is to be left behind and in what roles. It could be any number from 10,000 down to four or five. The US and NATO are acting in this respect as if they had won the war and the residual force issue was mainly a formality. Strange! Between the successful invasion and today, about 3,000 (1,800 military KIA and 1200 contractors) Americans lost their lives in Afghanistan, all volunteers thinking they were doing something positive. In the same period about 500,000 people died on American roads, most of them not volunteers.

The war fatigue  about Afghanistan tells us much about ourselves that is deplorable because there hardly ever was a war more justified than this Afghan war. Americans have lost the memory of the still fairly recent events that led to our military engagement there, and of NATO’s. Or else, they are pretending not to remember because it’s convenient not to. Let me be a little inconvenient for a short while. Below is a brief reminder.

On September 11 2001 in a well-planned, superbly executed and inexpensive terrorist attack, unknown assailants assassinated almost 3,000 Americans and foreign residents of the US in three different places. US intelligence agencies quickly identified Al Qaeda as the perpetrator. The leader of this terrorist jihadist organization, the late Osama Bin Laden obliged a short time later by bragging about the attack on video. Bin Laden was then known to be operating in Afghanistan with several hundred, or several thousand Arab and other non-Afghan jihadists.

Afghanistan was then largely ruled by one of several military organizations, the retrograde, reactionary Taliban (“students of theology” many of whom could barely read though they could recite the Koran in a foreign language – Arabic.) The US requested that the Taliban government – with which we had yet no quarrel in spite of its inhumane treatment of women- turn over Bin Laden to the US for trial. I mean by “inhumane,” such things as forbidding little girls from going to school and forbidding male doctors from examining female patients, in a country where there were only a handful of female doctors. (Note that it you put the two prohibitions together, you have a recipe for the extinction of women over time.) There was also the occasional shooting of female adulterers at the half-time of soccer games.

The Taliban government refused to turn over Bin Laden for trial. On October 7th, the US and the UK invaded Afghanistan with the express purpose of overthrowing the Taliban. The war was conducted with an alliance of anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with a more or less secular ideology. It involved US and UK aerial forces and handful of special forces from both countries. It only lasted a couple of weeks. The Taliban fled Kabul and other big Afghan cities.

Other NATO countries quickly joined the US and the UK as was their legal obligation. They contributed to varying degrees, some of them to a shamefully weak extent. Flagging resolve was visible from the start. Belgium had 33 personnel there, NATO member Greece had 8 (eight). Other NATO countries contribute significant contingents but they were often hemmed in by severe restrictions. The Germans, for example, brought in as many as 5,300 personnel but they operated under a long list of “don’t” that could be fairly summarized as : “Don’t fight unless you have to.” Reading the stories of military participation by other countries is like discovering a narrative of allegedly military forces elbowing one another out of the way to serve in non-military roles, including offering dental services, airport guard and, of course, the ever-popular training of others….The Turks, whose presence in a Muslim country could have been invaluable let it be known that they did not really wish to be involved. (Reminder: Turkey is a founding member of NATO. For forty years, it was protected from Soviet invasion by American bombers.)

After this initial military triumph, the American/ NATO effort went awry. What began as a punitive expedition morphed into a mission to win hearts and minds, just like in Vietnam where it did so much good! The president we installed in Afghanistan turned against us. As I write, Afghanistan has experienced a more or les democratic transition with the two top winners of the last elections sharing power, an unstable arrangement in most cases. Little girls still go to school in the cities but teachers, even in Kabul, the capital, express fear for the future of girl schooling. It appears from press pictures that there are no Afghan women in public places not wearing the all-covering shador. The country is still called the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” (Imagine the “Christian United States of America.”)

The US, NATO, the whole Western Democratic world, democratic nations elsewhere are leaving behind a fiasco. The country was not secured militarily against a return of the Taliban, who now have even better reasons to shelter terrorists bent on spilling American and Western blood. The hearts and minds of Afghans were not won.. It’s not even clear what separates the Taliban from those supposed friends we leave behind except for a thin Westernized elite, the product of student exchange programs joined by returnees from emigration. There have just been too many assassinations of NATO personnel and other terrorists acts by men in “Afghan government uniforms” to allow any confidence that there will be a stable Afghan government not hostile to our world.

I even wonder if the execution of adulterous women is not still on the book there. I am pretty sure blasphemy is. (I don’t know with what penalty. It may be less than capital punishment.) Apostasy – changing one’s religion – is at least illegal, if not worse. I doubt the leopard changed its spot. Perhaps, there are two leopards in Afghanistan as a result of 14 years of our intervention, and one is allowing us to feed it, at least for a while. I think no lesson was learned by us or by other democracies. The US is even providing a permanent war chest for any future dictatorship, secular or religious in the form of artificially high opium prices: Let the US legalize drugs and the price of opium in Afghanistan (where most opium in the world is grown) will plummet to the level of the price of broccoli immediately. It’s not going to happen. That one is entirely our fault, not the Afghans’.

Not only did we fail in extirpating terrorism in Afghanistan, the world is much more propitious to it than it was on the eve of 9/11. In the west, there are unending insurgencies in Mali and in Niger. There, they burn books and destroy tombs whenever they get a chance. It seems that the small French armed forces, with several African allies, are holding the line. Take note: Military interventions sometimes work, even with small forces. In Nigeria, next door, an insurrection that calls itself ” Non-Islamic Education is Forbidden” burns alive whole villages (in addition to books and schools). North of Niger, a violent civil war is tearing Libya into a non-state where Islamists seem to be winning or, at least holding their own. They feel safe enough there to produce a short movie of the ritual assassination of 21 men chosen for being Christians. The assassins said it was specifically because they were Christians. They also bragged that they were now almost at the gates of Rome. (In their sick, ignorant seventh century minds, Rome is the center of Western civilization.) Egypt, itself, next door, has returned to the familiar safety of military rule. There is not much protest there from local democrats about this development. I think it’s because they now realize that they are only a handful, in two cities, in danger of being engulfed by a sea of religious fanatics. The Egyptian government is asking the US for technical help in running the military hardware we sold the country over a period of years. The American president is thinking on it, saying neither yes or no. Perhaps, his administration is considering the implications for global warming.

The monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula seem stable but it’s not completely clear what the deep pillars of their stability might be, or if they even exist, or, if they do, how deep they are now that the oil manna is drying up. The US and other Western countries have now fled the Republic of Yemen where two different kinds of jihadists are fighting it out. Both hate America. Utter barbarism has returned to eastern Syria and northern Iraq, complete with religiously sanctioned slavery and child rape. Jordan is barely hanging on. Its government is begging for gasoline and bullets. We are thinking on it because the cost could be as high as one tenth of New Hampshire’s budget. Lebanon is holding its breath and Israel wisely keeps its counsel. Perhaps, the Israeli political class figures that religious fanatics are not worse as neighbors than the secular Arab terrorists of the sixties and seventies, or only by a matter of degree. I am confident that Israelis have their several contingency plans, should things turn even uglier. Everyone one knows that Israel has nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

Moving NNE, beyond Afghanistan itself, we have the perennially failing state of Pakistan, perennially propped up by US aid. This does not prevent it from having nuclear weapons. No cause for worry, right? Pakistan is where religious fanatics frequently firebomb mosques during Friday services. Brave warriors of their religion machine gunned more than one hundred school children there recently.

Largely ignored by the mass media: the tremendous economic dislocation violent jihadists impose on others at little cost to themselves. In Nigeria alone, there are 1.5 million refugees created by Bokom Haram atrocities (WSJ02/16/15). Pakistan was split from India in 1949 to provide a specifc home for Muslims. The experiment failed. The average Muslim in India is much freer in every way, including religious, than the average Muslim in Pakistan. When Pakistan falls apart further, perhaps its military leadership will make the wrong move, the area will be re-absorbed by India. (Dream on!)

Fortunately, there is an island of stability in that horrible region. It’s the theocratic, authoritarian and corrupt Islamic Republic of Iran. Perhaps, as a result of Mr Obama’s efforts, the mullahs will turn nice. Perhaps, they will abstain from sponsoring further conventional terrorism; perhaps, they will abstain from nuking Israel; and if they do nuke Israel, perhaps they will refrain from setting one of our cities on fire with one of their new long range, missiles capable of carrying nuclear heads.

Yes, I am a little alarmed. Shoot me!

Now, for the cause of these horrors: If you follow my mental journey on a map, from Mali NNE, you will soon notice that all the countries I mention have camels.Camels generate, or at least, they encourage terrorist practices, the killing, maiming, and enslaving of non-combatants. I am being careful enough here, I hope. I assume that camels are not on the list of “word alerts” of political correctness. I don’t want a visit from the FBI, or from the campus police either.

In a little corner of this burning region, the out-manned, out-gunned Kurds do what they have always done: They defend themselves against all aggressors, at any cost, with or without external help. Note that the Kurds also have camels but they don’t burn prisoners alive

“We can’t be the policeman of the world,” they say. Watch what happens when there is no policeman because the US quit. I hate to admit the obvious as much as anyone but it’s the obvious.

Sure enough, we are not responsible for the whole world but we are certainly responsible for our own safety. Everything else is shameful, that simple.

A generation ago, we defeated decisively the 10,000 tanks, the thousands of bombers, the countless intercontinental missiles of the communist Soviet Empire. Now, we have become frightened of amateurs in flip-flops equipped with looted military supplies.

Afterword: The following Muslim-majority countries are reasonably peaceful, each under it own brand of more or less secular despotism:
Burkina Fasso, Mauritania, Chad, Algeria, Turkey, Azerbaidjan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, and Bangladesh. The Maldives, Indonesia, and Malaysia are neither aflame nor despotic. In the later country, a ten-year legal process ended up recently in the confirmation of a former Prime Minister’s conviction on sodomy charges. A little earlier, the highest court in the land confirmed that the word “Allah” – which simply means “God” in Arabic – can only be used by Muslims. Arabic is no one’s language in Malaysia. (Would I make this up?)

And then, there are the small miracles of Senegal and Morocco. The first is a poor but real democracy on the west coast of Africa. The second is an old-style theoretically absolute monarchy that runs a limited but quite real democracy. The sultan or Morocco is also its formal religious leader, “Commander of the Faithful.” Food for thought

And the greatest miracle of all is little Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started and its only real survivor. What happened?

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This a test.

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Governor the Dropout!

We just discovered that Governor Scott  Walker, in company with Abe Lincoln, Harry Truman, Steve Job, and Bill Gates does not have a college degree. The horror! (In case you wonder if I have a dog in this fight: Yes, I completed college, Cum Laude!)

The real problem is that Gov. Walker looks like a Republican candidate that could eat Hillary’s lunch with his eyes closed. He has tangible accomplishments; she does not. She lies; he does not. She often sounds absurd; he does not (so far). Her diction changes with her audience; she even talks black in a black church, N. S.! The governor is always dignified in public.

I wish he would offer a deal: I will make my college grades public if the president will do the same, at last.

Incidentally, I spend thirty years in academia. I came out convinced that a university education may be important for average young people. For the brilliant, it’s mostly a waste of time, I think.

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Veteran Suicides: Question (with Several Updates)

This week, I heard a member of the Obama Administration assert that “22 veterans” commit suicide in America every day. That’s more than 8,000 each year.

 

For 2013, the total number of deaths by suicide recorded  was 41,159. Thus, putting the two numbers together, about one suicidee in five would be a veteran.

 

I find this very hard to believe, knowing that suicide affects particularly older people  and that most current veterans today are not old.

 

Am I the only one who is skeptical? More alarmism? More underhanded  propaganda against our collective resolve to  defend ourselves ?

Update from the Los Angeles Times consulted 2/13/15

 

Respectable source:

[published in the] “February issue of the Annals of Epidemiology, included all 1,282,074 veterans who served in active-duty units between 2001 and 2007 and left the military during that period.”

“One statistic has become a rallying cry: 22 veterans take their own lives each day.

That figure is a national estimate based on a Department of Veterans Affairs analysis of death records from 21 states. Though it is usually cited in the context of the recent wars, most of those suicides involved older veterans, who account for the vast majority of the nation’s 22 million former service members.

Among veterans in the current study, there was one suicide a day.”

(All boldings mine.)

“The rate was slightly higher among veterans who never deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, suggesting that the causes extend beyond the trauma of war.”

Here is the link so you may judge for yourselves. (It was provided by Martin Anding; I thank him.):

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-veteran-suicide-20150115-story.html

My question has still not been answered but I am making progress  and I have learned interesting things  in terms of the underlying narrative.

First things first:  The fact that there is a little more suicide among members of the military never deployed does not rule out the line pushed by pacifists right  and left. The reason is that it’s possible that military authorities are watchful and careful to not deploy those who are in fragile mental health. (This is also noted by a critic of the article on veteran suicides in Wikepedia.) Thus those not deployed may commit suicide for their own reasons while those  who are deployed commit suicide for a different set of reasons related to their deployment in a war zone.

Again, this could be true. I suspect it’s not because most of those deployed do not ever see actual combat. So, we are not dealing here with two discrete categories such as: combat/non-combat, but with a sort of near-continuum, like this: zero exposure to combat to much exposure to combat, with everything in between. If this description is correct, it does nothing to sustain the speculation I advanced above about different causes of suicide for non-deployed and deployed military. Most military personnel never hear a gun  shot in anger. Only a few are in a position to have been broken by combat. Military personnel commit suicide – at whatever rate – for other reasons. This is not a final judgment. I can imagine additional data that would make me turn on a dime.

The finding that non-deployed military personnel commit suicide at a  somewhat higher rate than those deployed does not kill the hypothesis that war is a cause of suicide but it sure as hell does not support it.

Now on to the actual rates. The study  that provides the astonishing figure of 22 per day is based on data from only 21 states.  So, there could be a big sampling issue with it. Nevertheless, I cannot wrap my mind around this idea: If data  for the 29 missing states were included the number of 22 per day would shrink to the point where I, JD, would not pay attention. Frankly, I think that any number close to ten per day would seem too high.

I can think of only one study design that would give this kind of high number (22/day). That would be if the study designers had deliberately cherry-picked the states with the highest rate of veteran suicides and deliberately excluded the states with low numbers. I do not believe that anyone did this (not). Yet, the number 21, as in 21 states out of fifty, leaves me uneasy. There may well be  a legitimate explanation in  the fine  print of the study. So, let’s not jump to conclusions

(Continued the next day.)

I have now spent more time on this issue than any ordinary s citizen should be required to do in order to decide whether a startling figure from his own government is to be trusted. Nevertheless, I am left  with two incompatible estimates of the frequency of veteran suicides.

The two figures, 22 per day and 1 (one per day) are too far apart to be reconciled, according to my experience. One study of the two studies is flawed, or both are. I smelled a rat the first time  I heard the figure of 22 per day, that rat has only become stinkier.

The two figures could not be that far apart if both studies were honest and competent. That’s because suicide is  a a fairly well defined act. I am aware that there is a tendency, especially among Catholics, to camouflage suicide as natural death. I think it’s waning and  plays a small role nowadays. If I am wrong, the most likely effect is an underestimate in both figures, 12 and one. This would not affect the gap that bothers me. I mean that suicide is “well defined,” as opposed to say. job discrimination based on race, sexual harassment, or date rape.

If I had to chose a rate, I would consider the sources. The first figure comes from a government agency, the Veterans Administration which is a natural lobby and has experienced a lot of political trouble recently. In addition (in addition), it’s part of an administration that has repeatedly offered us fanciful and grotesque  figures. I repeat: a recent Pentagon study claims that 40% of victims of sexual abuse in the military are males. The lower figure, on the other hand, comes from a study published in a scholarly journal. Because of this publication, I trust that it has been subjected to a fair degree of  critical appraisal through peer review. Peer review is not a panacea as scandals associated with climate change pseudo-studies have shown, also the fake medical study at the root of the widespread belief that autism is tied to vaccination. Yet, peer review as practiced in most American and British scholarly journal is a lot better than nothing. (See my essay on peer review, on this blog: https://factsmatter.wordpress.com/?s=peer+review ). To pose the question this way is pretty much the same as to answer it. The figure of one suicide of veterans per day is more likely to be correct than the figure of 22.

It seems to be that I should now allow my ideological preference for the latter figure deter me from using common sense and everything I know about quantitative research. It should  only make be careful and open to criticism from those of a a different mind set.

Those who wish to push an avoidance of war agenda  should not do it on the basis of dubious figures proffered by an administration now known for its light relationship with facts. It seems to me also that the undebatable draw on treasury of every war, the obvious fact that some soldiers die in battle, and the inevitable occurrence of “collateral damage,” the killing and maiming of innocent civilians in theaters of war should suffice. Pacifists who are also libertarians might also consider shouldering the task of explaining to the great unwashed masses of their imagination how every war inevitably enlarges the scope of government.

 

 

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Deadly Radiations and Wolves

RADIOACTIVE WOLVES OF CHERNOBYL – SCARY MUTATIONS

[Full Documentary]

AMAZINGWORLDHD
Here is the title of a documentary I spent about an hour watching on-line. It’s very good, beautifully filmed AND accompanied by an intelligent commentary. It was time well spent.

The overall conclusion: All the fauna – with one exception – in the deserted, evacuated area around Chernobyl, Ukraine, is thriving, especially the wolves. They, the pinnacle species there, are reproducing at a fast clip. They show no evidence of genetic abnormality. They look good; they act normal and better.

Other species that did not even exist in the region before the nuclear meltdown of 1986 like it there. They are also multiplying beyond all expectations. There are, for example, bisons and wild horses.

The exception is one species of tiny field mice which are showing a rate of abnormality twice the normal; it’s about 5%. I agree with the commentary that such a high rate would be unacceptable in humans. But the mice are tiny, as I said, and they live mostly right in the ground which is known to be heavily contaminated.

The real conclusion that was pronounced with only half-spoken words: The evacuation of nearly all people from the area around Chernobyl allowed the spontaneous formation of one of the best – or of the best – nature preserves in Europe. That’s radiations notwithstanding.

My conclusion (but I am a nasty old man): The nuclear worst happened in Chernobyl, a disaster, and there were no awful long-term consequences for any creatures health.

Then why is it not the case that those who are terrified of global warming try to slow down the process decisively by advocating the construction of many nuclear power plants? Just asking.

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Lying and Liberalism

Lies are not all equal. There are lies and and then, there are lies. When President Clinton affirms on television before the whole nation: “I did not have sex with that woman…,” everyone, whoever had a childhood understands, condemns as immoral but understands: Mr Clinton was simply trying to cover his ass after doing what he should not have done. “I did not put my finger in the ice cream, Mom; I just don’t know what happened.”

That’s a rational kind of lie even when it borders on the absurd. Once when he was a kid, my son was confronted, through factual elimination of other possible culprits, with good evidence that it was he who had taken something out of the fridge without permission. At the end, I said sarcastically, “If it’s not you, son, was it the dog who opened the fridge, it must have been the dog who opened the door, right?” He assented and blamed the dog. Even that was a rational lie because its purpose was straightforward self-protection, even if it failed miserably.

Rational, instrumental lies are rarely interesting because they are so familiar to almost all of us, as I said, at least from childhood. They are like a superficial band-aid on a wound that has not yet been inflicted.

There is another kind of lie that is endlessly interesting. It’s the self-aggrandizing lie. It’s interesting because it’s usually multi-layered

Brian Williams, the, NBC anchorman, a celebrity in his own right, admitted recently that, contrary to a story he had told several times, he had not been in a helicopter in Iraq that received enemy fire. He was forced out by others who were circling around him like hyenas.

In his apology, Mr Williams, lied again.

“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.” (From Politico)
No, Mr Williams, it was not a “mistake” and everyone knows it. I often forget things that happened to me a long time ago. That’s a mistake. If it’s something unimportant, I often mis-remember what happened to me, that is, my recollection may diverge from what actually happened. Memory cleans house every so often. Memory makes the incoherent coherent because it’s easier then to put it away in some shelf of the mind. That’s normal; it’s ordinary mental hygiene. This process of sorting out and cleaning out what happened allows for honest mistakes.

Remembering what did not happen is not normal. Except for childhood memories which may have their source in stories told by parents, the mind does not invent what did not happen and then, pass if off as a real memory. When it does, it’s called an a hallucination. An hallucination is no a mistake; it’s a pathological event. The word hallucination is most often used in connection with current events but there can easily be hallucinations regarding past pseudo-events. Of course, I and millions of others think that people in responsible positions who experience hallucinations should be removed from those positions. This goes for television and other media people such as Brian Williams and Dan Rather; it goes as well for politicians such as Hillary Clinton who was a US Senator and wants to be president. We expect ordinary mental health from people in such positions. It’s not too much to ask, I would think.

Naturally, I am aware of the possibility that false memories about events that never happened may not be memories at all, that they may simply be fabrications, lies. This raises another mental health issue, or rather, three issues. The first issue is this: why would any adult do this? What is lacking in their sense of self that pushes them to act in such a dishonest fashion. I wonder if it’s simple immaturity or a mild form of sociopathy. Why would individuals such as Brian Williams, Dan Rather, Senator Clinton, with high accomplishments to their credit, in conventional terms, try to obtain more credit than they have earned? Perhaps, this is not really a question because many children are little sociopaths and until they are straightened out.

The sociopathic explanation, in turn, raises a second question, a separate sociological question: Why aren’t they found out early by those who know them and censored or expelled. What is the basis of the conspiracy of silence that protects them?

The third issue is why the fabricators do not experience the fear of getting caught? Why would individuals with big achievements and a promising future risk all for a little invention? Whatever NBC decides to do with Brian Williams he is burnt, he is a dead duck in terms of credibility. (Personally, I think he will announce that he is retiring voluntarily to spend more time with his family and to write a book. It will be a confessional kind of book. It will suggest some manner of PTST.) It seems to me that this kind of irrational gamble, this gratuitous separation from simple reality is also a form of mental illness. That’s another psychological comment. There is worse.

After each such incident of self aggrandizing lie by a famous person, it turns out that several people, sometimes many, in their entourage and beyond were aware of the lie and chose to keep their mouth shut. So, the self-aggrandizing lies of famous people, instead of being extinguished and discouraged by the possible censure of those who know are allowed to flourish with impunity. This is not a psychological illness but a social disease, like syphilis.

Now, going out on a limb, I don’t seem to remember any Republican or conservative of stature getting caught in this kind of lie, the second kind. (Ron Paul, the libertarian, a former bona fide member of the Republican Party was often iffy but it was not in the service of self aggrandizing.) If my memory is faulty, if I am a victim of selective memory, of the dreaded confirmation bias I think someone will swiftly correct me.

If my recollection is correct, it points to a liberal culture where reality is discounted, where truth is habitually violated by a conspiracy of silence, a conscious collective cover-up. I refer here to a cultural phenomenon rather than to individual failings, rather than to personal insanity. Now, I don’t think that all liberals like lies. Many are liberals for solid bread-and-butter reasons (unions members), others are merely on automatic (black voters). Yet, the current intellectual fraction of the Democratic Party is infested with a tolerance of lying that encourages more lying. I see no likelihood of change in the near future. Take the gang rape at Duke reported by Rolling Stone in 2014. It did not happen but it was used by liberals just as if it had.

Brian Williams dodged deadly fire that was not, like Senator and former Secretary of State Clinton before him. Dan Rather almost cut off a presidential candidate at the ankles all by himself, with forged documents. Before that, he had been photographed in Afghanistan wearing a turban and discharging a firearm at the Taliban (who were thirty miles away). And Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut, also a former Attorney General, fought valiantly in Vietnam except that he never set foot there because he was studying in England at the time. The current upsurge of grotesque battlefield envy among liberals is not the only infringement on simple truth telling. Al Gore invented the Internet(but that was some time ago). It took the New York Times months to catch Jason Blair who did wonderful, colorful, authentic reporting on American misery entirely from his small office and even from the comfort of his apartment. And Senator Elizabeth Warren will be the first female and Native American President of the United States. Take that, old white conservative man!

And, speaking of presidents, I still don’t think President Obama is much of a liar. When his narrative diverges from reality, as it does more and more frequently these days, it’s because of genuine limitations on his knowledge. Like other intelligent affirmative action wonders I have known, he has memorized all the chapter heads but he has not read the book, or any book, I would think.

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Guantanamo: A Conservative Moral Blind Spot

A current Guantanamo detainee, M. Slahi, just published a book about his ordeal. The book is redacted of course but it still tells an arresting story.

M. Slahi was captured in 2000. He has been held in detention, mostly at Guantanamo prison since 2002 but in other places too . The motive was that he supposedly helped recruit three of the 9/11 hijackers and that he was involved in other terror plots in the US and Canada (unidentified plots.).

According to CNN: “Slahi admits to traveling to Afghanistan to fight in the early 1990s, when the US. was supporting the mujahedin in their fight against the Soviet Union. He pledged allegiance to al Qaeda in 1991 but claims he broke ties with the group shortly after. ”

He was in fact never convicted. He was not even formally charged with anything. Slahi has spent 13 years in custody, most of his young adulthood. If he is indeed a terrorist, I say, Bravo and let’s keep him there until the current conflict between violent jihadists and the US comes to an end. Terror jihadists can’t plant bombs in hotels while they are in Guantanamo. And, by the way, I am not squeamish about what those who protect us must do to people we suspect of having information important to our safety. I sometimes even deplore that we do to them is not imaginative enough. And, I think that the recent allegations to the effect that torture produces nothing of interest are absurd on their face.

But what if the guy is an innocent shepherd, or fisherman, or traveling salesman found in the wrong place? What if he is a victim of a vendetta by the corrupt police of his own country who delivered him over? What if he was simply sold to our intelligence services?What if, in short, he is has no more been involved in terrorism than I have? The question arises in Slahi’s case because the authorities had thirteen years to produce enough information, from him and from others, to charge him. They can’t even give good reasons why they think he is a terrorist in some way, shape or form. It shouldn’t be that hard. If he so much as lend his cellphone to a terrorist I am for giving him the longest sentence available. or simply to keep him until the end of hostilities (perhaps one century).

And if having fought in Afghanistan and having pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda at some point are his crimes, charge him, try him promptly even by a military commission, or declare formally, publicly that he is a prisoner not protected by the Geneva Conventions, because he was caught engaged in hostile action against the US while out of uniform and fighting for no constituted government. How difficult can this be?

I am concerned, because, as a libertarian conservative, I am quite certain that any government bureaucracy will usually cover its ass in preference to doing the morally right thing. (The American Revolution was largely fought against precisely this kind of abuse.) Is it possible that the Pentagon or some other government agency wants to keep this man imprisoned in order to hide their mistakes of thirteen years ago? I believe that to ask the question is to answer it.

This kind of issue is becoming more pressing instead of vanishing little by little because it looks like 9/11 what just the opening course. It looks like we are in this struggle against violent jihadism for the long run. Again, I am not proposing we go soft on terrorism. I worry that we are becoming used to government arbitrariness and mindless cruelty. I suspect that conservatives are often conflating their dislike of the president’s soft touch and indecision about terrorism with neglect of fairness and humanity. I fear we are becoming less American.

Let me ask again: What if this man, and some others in Guantanamo, have done absolutely nothing against us?

Of course, I hope the US will keep Guantanamo prison open as long as necessary. In fact, I expect fresh planeloads of real terrorist from Syria and Iraq to come in soon. I really hope that Congress will have the intestinal fortitude to call President Obama’s bluff on closing the prison. Congress has the means to stop it if it wants to.

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