Police Action versus Military Action

This quote from Eric Holder regarding the Bin Laden raid drives me up the wall:

Seeking to quell any legal questions about the raid, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, “It was justified as an act of national self-defense,” citing Bin Laden’s role as the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

No, no, no.  Whether or not that statement is true, it is not the proper legal defense for the raid in Pakistan.  What people constantly fail to grasp is that police action conducted in your home country on your own citizens, and military action conducted in the context of war, have completely different legal underpinnings.  Now likely Mr. Holder knows this (or I sure hope so), and is simply playing to the public ignorance, but his insistence of doing so simply reinforces this misunderstanding.

When the police bust into your home — hopefully with a valid arrest warrant — they are supposed to give you an opportunity to surrender.  In fact, they are only allowed to use force in the event they feel their lives or the lives of other are actively in danger or threatened with GBH – great bodily harm. War, however, is different.  In war, one of the stated purposes is to kill as many of the other guy as possible.  Thus, any member in the warmed service of an opposing beligerant party is a valid target so long as s/he is not actively in the process of surrendering.  You can drop a bomb on an enemy barracks without first sending out nice little leaflets asking politely for their surrender.  An American solder somehow stumbling across an unarmed Nazi S.S. officer sipping coffee in a Paris cafe could shoot the man in the head without warning.  And yes, we can roll into Bin Laden’s compound and take the bastard out.

Some People

From and NYT article discussing a Libyan no-fly zone:

Even so, the opening mission of imposing a no-fly zone would almost certainly include missile attacks on air defense sites of a sovereign nation, which some would indeed regard as an act of war.

Some?  Some would regard this as an act of war?  I’m pretty sure that if another nation launched missile attacks on American air defense sites more than just “some” of us would consider it an act of war.  That’s not to say a no fly zone isn’t the answer, but let’s agree to call a spade a spade.

On WikiLeaks

The Taliban has announced that they will be scouring the documents released by wikileaks so that they can identify Afghans who have aided or provided information to the United States.  Obviously, the ramifications for these brave individuals is quite severe.

Their plight has attracted the attention of Amnesty International:

A group of human-rights organizations is pressing WikiLeaks to do a better job of redacting names from thousands of war documents it is publishing, joining the list of critics that claim the Web site’s actions could jeopardize the safety of Afghans who aided the U.S. military.

“We have seen the negative, sometimes deadly ramifications for those Afghans identified as working for or sympathizing with international forces,” the human-rights groups wrote in their letter, according to a person familiar with it. “We strongly urge your volunteers and staff to analyze all documents to ensure that those containing identifying information are taken down or redacted.”

In his response to the letter signed by the human-rights organizations, Mr. Assange asked what the groups were doing to analyze the documents already published, and asked whether Amnesty in particular would provide staff to help redact the names of Afghan civilians, according to people familiar with the letter.

An Amnesty official replied to say that while the group has limited resources, it wouldn’t rule out the idea of helping, according to people familiar with the reply. The official suggested that Mr. Assange and the human-rights groups hold a conference call to discuss the matter.

Mr. Assange then replied: “I’m very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses. If Amnesty does nothing I shall issue a press release highlighting its refusal,” according to people familiar with the exchange.

The prospect that these people might be tortured or killed has apparently attracted little sympathy from the good Mr. Assange:

He expressed some ambivalence about the need to protect Afghans who have helped the U.S. military. “We are not obligated to protect other people’s sources,” including sources of “spy organizations or militaries,” unless it is from “unjust retribution,” he said, adding that the Afghan public “should know about” people who have engaged in “genuinely traitorous” acts.

Blackwater Acquitted

Remember that horrible Blackwater shooting in Iraq where guards mowed down 17 unarmed Iraqis in a crowded square?  Well a judge has thrown the case out because the State Department personnel who first interviewed the guards promised them immunity in exchange for their testimony, despite the fact that they had no authority to do so.  Bottom line:  this is why you don’t fight wars with mercenaries.

If you knew the kind of people who go to work for Blackwater it would horrify you that we send we give them guns and send them into foreign countries with no legal mechanism in place for punishing misconduct.

What do Fox News and Communist China Have in Common?

According to James Fallows, an Atlantic correspondent who’s been in China for the past three or four news, Fox News has a striking resemblance to the Chinese media propaganda machine:

I didn’t see anything on Fox from mid-2006 through mid-2009; for better or worse, it’s not carried in China. (The English TV news channels you can get there are BBC, CNN International, CNBC, sometimes Bloomberg.) I have seen it since coming back this summer. And in a way, I realize that I had been seeing it all along: except for more modern production values, it’s the closest thing America offers to what it’s like to be exposed to the Chinese government’s 24/7 internal propaganda machine. When I saw the clip below from Media Matters, as highlighted by Andrew Sullivan, I thought: make it a little more boring, put it in Mandarin, and substitute “splittists” etc for the people Fox is talking about (maybe the Dalai Lama in place of Van Jones), and I could be right back in Beijing.

Are Maddow and Olbermann on MSNBC comparably relentless and “biased”? Of course they are. But no one pretends their shows are “real” news operations or are “fair and balanced.” And certainly they have become what they are as a market and political response to Fox’s success. Indeed, the general polarization and spectacle-mindedness of the news ecology in part is homage to what Fox has figured out as a business and political model.

Polanski Defender a Pedophile

Frederic Mitterrand, the French culture minister who created a row by vociferously protesting the arrest of Roman Polanski, apparently has a penchant for young boys. The source? A book he wrote:

In his 2005 book The Bad Life, he wrote: “I got into the habit of paying for boys,” saying his attraction to young male prostitutes was not dimmed despite knowing “the sordid details of this traffic”.

“All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excited me enormously… the abundance of very attractive and immediately available young boys put me in a state of desire.”

On Civilization

Until a few days ago, I was under the delusion that the civilized world unanimously recognized the rape of a 13 year old child as a crime worthy of punishment.  Then along came the overdue arrest of Roman Polanski.  Financial penalties, when avoided, compound with interest over time; apparently many seem to believe that the opposite should be true for criminal penalties, that fleeing from justice should be rewarded, at least as long as you’re rich enough and perhaps enough of a “genius.”

For those unfamiliar with the case, let’s recap:  Polanski brought a 13 year old girl in on the false pretense of a modeling shoot, he fed her champagne and Quaaludes (a barbiturate that acts as an aphrodisiac and a sedative), and then had anal intercourse with her.  And here’s what he had to say several years later:

If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!”

Was there judicial misconduct?  Maybe.  Has the victim said she forgives him?  Yes.  Does any of this matter?  No.  There is no doubt as to his guilt and he has already pled guilty.  Furthermore, victims don’t prosecute criminals:  criminals are prosecuted by the state on behalf of the people of the state, in accordance with public policy designed to advance the public good.  In this case, the law exists to protect children.

For those who are still tempted to forgive Polanski, I’d close by asking you to have a conversation with a 13 year old.  Set aside the images of sassy young teenagers you see on TV (played by actors many years older) – these are children in 7th or 8th grade, and they are not capable of intelligently making a choice in cases like this (especially when they have been drugged).

Protecting the Few at the Expense of the Many

President Obama, at the behest of the United Steelworkers union, will be adding a 35 percent tariff on tires imported from China.

The basic idea behind trade is that certain countries are better at certain things; international trade allows each country to specialize in what it’s best at.  Alternately — and this is what we’re choosing here — you can prop up industries where your nation is non-competitive instead of trying to spread into industries where you have a competitive advantage.

Here’s a great quote from the article:

Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who had pressed for the tariffs, also praised the decision.

He said in a statement, “If American workers and manufacturers are going to compete in the global market, they need to have a government that uses trade enforcement tools.”

Allow me to translate:  “Because American companies and workers are inherently inferior to foreign companies and foreign workers, they require a crutch from their government.”

Thanks guys!  Now not only will my tires cost more, but China will likely impose retaliatory tariffs that target an industry where we do have a competitive advantage.  Those guys, of course, don’t deserve protection because they didn’t pay their congressman enough money.