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Law, War & Security – Why libertarians are wrong about ‘Indefinate Detention’

We hear complaints on this subject from time to time – in the past it was Bush’s opening Gitmo, the 2006 Military Commissions Act, and now it’s the NDAA & Obama not closing Gitmo…

Supposedly, this is a ‘grave violation’ of people’s rights, and we should all be very, very afraid because ‘It might be us next’…

Predictably enough, it’s usually lefties, extremists, libertarians, and Paul supporters (but I repeat myself on the last one, it seems – as that group encompasses all of the ones preceding) making these claims…

And rather than using the correct terms – such as EPW (Enemy Prisoner of War) or POW, and ‘detention for the duration of hostilities’, they use ‘indefinite detention’ and ‘violation of habeas corpus’ – as if the situation is one of holding every-day civilian criminals indefinitely without trial, rather than holding enemy combatants (some lawful, some very much unlawful) captured while engaging in hostilities against the United States…

So, with that said, here’s the case FOR proper handling of EPWs – or as the L’s call it ‘indefinite detention’:

1) The traditional treatment of captured persons, and specifically the concept of taking prisoners & holding them for the duration of hostilities or until an exchange can be negotiated, is older than the United States – and something we practiced ourselves in every war we have fought.

If it was Constitutional and right to hold British, Mexican, Spanish, German, and Japanese prisoners for the duration of the war-in-question – and to hold captured rebels for the duration of hostilities during the Civil War (despite their holding US Citizenship (the Union never recognized the CSA as a foreign nation) it being legal under the Constitution to try and execute them for treason instead – a decision likely influenced by the mutual possession of prisoners by both sides & the Union’s desire for reconciliation after eventual victory), what has changed to make it suddenly unconstitutional to hold Al Queda and Taliban prisoners in the same manner?

2) There are international agreements on the treatment of captured and retained persons – a subset of what is referred to in the military as ‘Law of Armed Combat’ or ‘Law of Land Warfare’ – that require certain things & prohibit others. Shooting surrendered enemy forces is prohibited, as is torture and various other offenses. <b>So is subjecting captured enemy troops to the capturing nation’s CIVILIAN JUSTICE SYSTEM.</b> Prisoners found to have engaged in unlawful combat/war crimes (through a hearing process spelled out in the aforementioned agreements) are to be tried by <b>military court</b>, NOT civilian court.

3) Of the alternatives, indefinite detention is the only legal way to keep captured enemy forces from returning to the battlefield (that’s why we’ve done it in every other war).

History – including OUR OWN history – shows that when combatants escape or evade capture, they routinely rejoin friendly forces and return to the fight. This isn’t unique to bad-guys – the US military has a good list of medals awarded to troops who escaped from or evaded capture, then returned to friendly lines & re-entered combat. In this war, we have a Marine of Muslim descent, who after being captured in Iraq tricked his captors into releasing him to a neutral Muslim country with promises that he would desert – of course when he got there he immediately went to the US Embassy & returned to the Marines. In addition, there are documented cases of released EPWs returning to the fight against us in this war.

- We can’t shoot them – that’s kind of illegal and immoral (Yes, they’d do it to us, but the price of being good guys is, well, being good)…
- We can’t try them as civilians – they’re not civilians, and it’s illegal.
- Releasing them to a foreign country means they’ll be back in the fight against us as soon as they can find a way home (as a Soldier myself, that’s what I’d do to them if I managed to get captured & released alive (fat chance – which is why anything is preferable to capture in this war, but let’s allow the example))…
- (For Taliban captured in Afghanistan) Turning them over to the Afghans results in them being treated as civilian criminals by the Afghan government, and that results in their being released due to the Afghan rules of evidence being ridiculously too limited.

So that leaves the one thing every single nation has done during a war – lock them up in a POW camp, in military custody (a place like, um, Gitmo) until the war is over…

3) The notion that we are in danger of EPW measures being used against US citizens, on US soil & not engaged in hostilities against the United States, for political or other nefarious purpose is unjustified paranoia. We have been at war for over 10 years now, and it hasn’t happened.  Now it’s understandable to hear various revolutionary movements complaining, because at their core you usually find extremists who are willing to levy war against the US to achieve political ends – and who want to make winning that war as hard as possible for the US. But for everyone else, it’s paranoia… Plain and simple…

Personally, I’d say the violent-revolutionary types should be more worried about what we’ll do to them if they actually try to have their revolution – getting captured & held for the duration is the least of worries (compared to being killed by vastly superior pro-US forces, or captured & executed for treason)….

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