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September 15, 2014 / 20 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘trial’

Are Drone Strikes Analogous to the Civil War?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Pundits have for weeks been erroneously comparing the issue of “killing Americans” with drone strikes abroad to the brother-against-brother character of the U.S. Civil War of 1861-1865.  It’s time to point out that the Civil War is a false analogy to the drone-execution issue.  This false analogy muddies the waters, and the public debate over executive privilege and the people’s rights needs to proceed without it.

There are two basic aspects of the Civil War that make it different from the War on Terror, in the ways that matter to the drone issue.  One is an obvious feature of the Civil War:  the South formally seceded from the Union and called itself a separate nation, the Confederate States of America.  The Confederacy thus severed its citizens’ compact with the U.S. Constitution.  Plotting acts of terrorism doesn’t sever a U.S. citizen’s constitutional rights; it makes him prosecutable under U.S. law, in accordance with the protections afforded him by the Constitution.

An American citizen’s constitutional rights do not, in my view, apply to foreigners who plot or commit terrorist acts against America.  My point is not that all terrorists “deserve” constitutional protection in our justice system, if American citizens do.  But in terms of where executive privilege stops, in the matter of executing terrorists or in other ways denying them due process under the U.S. justice system, the bright line is American citizenship.  Even if the citizen is Anwar al-Awlaki.

The other relevant aspect of the Civil War is less discussed, however.  That aspect is its military character.  The Civil War was, for the South, about holding territory by force of arms, and administering it as a separate nation.  For the North, it was about retaking territory by force of arms.  The mode of the conflict was therefore the form in which pitched battle was met in the mid-19th century.  The Civil War was about moving armies over territory and fighting for ground.

It was thus inherently about orchestrated opportunities for killing soldiers in pitched-battle combat.  Given the objectives on each side, it could not have been about anything else.  Lincoln had no intention of merely bottling up the South, absorbing long-term costs – political and military – and letting time be his main ally.  The South had no intention of merely accepting “occupation” and fighting a debilitating guerrilla campaign over decades to wear the Union down.  Both sides sought to establish sovereignty over the Southern states’ territory as soon as possible, envisioning a future of pacification and peace, according to their separate political concepts.

Given these factors, the necessity for killing Confederate soldiers had asignificance to the objective that it does not have in the War on Terror.  The only way to win pitched battles on land is to kill the enemy soldiers.  That makes them eventually stop fighting, in a given battle.  Over time, it reduces their ranks and their scope of action, until their leaders either accept defeat or set themselves up for annihilation.  The end-state of this process is the winning side controlling the territory in question and dictating terms to the survivors.

The War on Terror does not have this character.  Although it is, ultimately, about whose view of political morality will prevail on territory, the mode of the conflict is not pitched land battle.  Therefore, the mere killing of enemy combatants is not inherently significant to America’s objective.  It is important to have that clear.  We are not advancing our own security, merely by killing terrorists.  Read that again, please, and understand it.  In the Civil War, it was inherently significant to the military and political objectives to kill combatants.  In the War on Terror, it is not.

In Afghanistan, where the American objective has been to put territory under the control of a friendly, moderate local government, it is significant to the objective to kill the terrorists who attack friendly troops and civilians.  Those terrorists are acting as guerrillas, seeking to deny us the territory that will fulfill our objective.  Their relation to our objective in space and time is what makes it essential to kill them.

But that’s not what Anwar al-Awlaki – a U.S. citizen – was doing when he was executed by a drone strike in Yemen.  He wasn’t involved in a tactical campaign to deny us territory (as the Taliban are, for example).  He wasn’t facing American troops, armed and recalcitrant and posing an immediate threat to their lives.  At the time of his execution, there was no tactical, operational, or strategic necessity to kill him to advance the U.S. objective in the War on Terror.

Making Kafka Proud in Dubai Court

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

The “Trial,” the nightmarish novel of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, was written in 1914 and is one of Franz Kafka’s best-known works. A contemporary variant of that nightmare is unfolding in Dubai.

When the Australian airline Qantas recently announced a commercial deal with the Gulf-based airline Emirates, we started researching what this might mean to ordinary travelers to and from Australia. Then we began understanding its possible impact on Jews and Israelis. Then we came across the ongoing, scandalous and worrying story of a gentle, frail and very distinguished South African doctor caught up in the kind of nightmare that can only happen in places where the rule of law and transparency in the imposition of power are a form of inside joke.

While it’s an affair that directly affects just one man, the implications (as we noted in a previous post) of what is being done to Prof. Cyril Karabus are horrific. We feel air travelers planning to fly Qantas at some future time need to know them. The background is in these three earlier posts:

* 26-Sep-12: Dubai, Dubai, Dubai

* 15-Oct-12: Back to Dubai: Australian travelers might want to factor this report into their plans

* 21-Oct-12: Update on Prof. Cyril Karabus and his ongoing nightmare in United Arab Emirates

In brief: Prof. Karabus is a notable and honored professor of medicine with a lifetime of service to the community in his native South Africa. He is now 78. He passed through Dubai airport in the UAE on August 18, 2012 en route to his home after taking part in his son’s wedding in Canada.

In Dubai, he found himself under arrest; he was notified that he had been convicted a decade earlier on charges arising from the death of a three year old child he had treated for terminal cancer. No notification had ever been given to him at the time of the child’s death or since then. He knew nothing about it until he was arrested in transit at Dubai airport.

In court, having been obliged to hire lawyers, he denied any involvement in the charge of killing a young leukaemia patient. The prosecution was unable FOUR times to bring the files on the basis of which the elderly doctor was brought to court. So four times his application for bail could not proceed and he remained incarcerated in an appalling prison. Then finally he was granted bail, but was and still is unable to leave Dubai.

Now this week’s update, via a limited-circulation South African newspaper:

South African paediatric oncologist Prof Cyril Karabus (78), of Claremont, Cape Town, held on bail inAbu Dhabi since August 18 on a 10-year-old charge for which he was tried and found guilty in absentia, relating to the death of a child patient from leukaemia, is again in the ignominious situation of having his trial postponed for a further week, until December 13, due to a “missing folder” with details of the case history. Said his daughter, Sarah: “There is still no sign of the missing folder, and we are certain that it will never be found. If they find it, it will show the world that they convicted him erroneously, so we suspect it will remain ‘missing’. “I am not sure how long this farce will continue – even our lawyers are not sure of that,” she added… At the time of going to press on Wednesday, Michael Bagraim, the attorney representing Karabus, explained: “The trial is destined to reconvene tomorrow, Thursday December 13. At the last hearing, the prosecution, once again requested a postponement of a further month due to the fact that they were still unable to find the paperwork and the necessary hospital file. “Prof Karabus did address the judge by stating that he thought the request was an insult to the court and a waste of the country’s money. The judge tended to agree with this statement, and addressed the prosecution harshly about the continual postponements. “The judge then said that he would only agree to a seven-day postponement and he wanted a full explanation from the prosecution as to why they wanted to continue prosecuting without any paperwork. We are feeling quite hopeful about the appearance tomorrow, but obviously we are in the court’s hands. “There was a medical scare at the last hearing as Prof Karabus did indicate chest pains in the middle of the trial. He now appears to be alright, but certainly is very frail. We have hope in that even the newspapers in the UAE are indicating that Prof Karabus might not be guilty,” said Bagraim.

Visit This Ongoing War.

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