I’m going to get in trouble for this

I’m going to get in trouble for this
: I’m sorry. I can’t help myself. After hearing the news that youths are being held with other Afghan terrorists and combatants in Cuba, I can’t get Alan King’s Hello, Muddah, Hello, Faddah tune out of my head but with new lyrics:

Hello, Mullah

Hello, Fatwa,

Here I am at

Camp Guantanamo!

They’ve got Korans,

With lots of pages,

They’ve got really big Marines

who guard us in our cages.

But seriously, folks
: OK, I’m sorry. That was wrong. Hold your comments…

When I first heard that juveniles were being held at Guantanamo, I was disturbed.

But yesterday, I listened to the Pentagon briefing reminding us that these youth were alleged to have killed people. And I looked back at some news stories about youth — youth! — being sent in as human bombs by Palestinian nuts. And I reminded myself that these people do not respect their own youth; they send them into battle. I also watched the news, on which a Pennsylvania youth shot up his school; we’ve put these youth in jail.

So holding youth may not be unjustified.

But at the same time, we should not be stupid as we try to win not just wars but also hearts and minds. Is it worth holding a terrorist teen when it’s going to make us look bad?

  • Are we talking about ‘youth’ in that “sliding-scale” system that says it’s up to 16 in criminal cases, up to 23 when trying to compile bogus deathrates, up to 15 when talking about drugs, up to 21 when talking about alcohol??
    That said, those youth have been so indoctrinated by age 12 they’ve been turned into killing machines. They can’t be left loose to keep on killing.

  • I remember being bothered by that when I was a teenager: in the newspaper, people my age were “children” in discussions of education, but when someone robbed a liquor store it was “Area Man, 16.” I didn’t think that sent a good message.

  • Old Grouch

    (Pedantic correction from the peanut gallery.) Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah was by Allan Sherman, not Alan King.
    (Anyone else remember his chronicle of pre-revolutionary France You Went The Wrong Way Old King Louis?)

  • “But yesterday, I listened to the Pentagon briefing reminding us that these youth were alleged to have killed people”
    Whatever helps you deal with it on a personal level I guess… the operative word here _should_ be alleged though. Given that they have no legal rights according to the government that holds them the Pentagon can more than likely proclaim them guilty without trial based on some of that credible evidence they have so much of ‘eh? That would make it even easier for the American public to deal with.

  • What bothers me is not so much that they’re children but that they have no way of proving their innocence–we haven’t provided any means for them to do so.

  • As usual, I’m with what Bruce Rolston said at the time. The real problem with Guantanamo is that the US government should have been very clear and explicit about sorting them into POWs under the Geneva Conventions and suspected war criminals, with formal hearings of some sort carried out long before now– rather than simply declaring them all “unlawful combatants” on Rumsfeld’s say-so, and implying that Geneva just didn’t matter.
    Unfortunately, in the world press the real issue got buried under bogus accusations of mistreatment. Most of these guys probably really are both criminal and extremely dangerous, and considering that, they’re treated quite well (no chicken-wire cages any more). There should have been some semblance of a process to point this out, though, and in 2001, not 2003.
    Maybe I’m a dreamer, but we might have been spared a few of those nasty articles about how we had no right to complain about POWs being shot and shocked with car batteries in Iraq.

  • Guantanamo Bay is a travesty. It is illegal by any convention. The fact that it goes on just goes to highlight what sort of school bully the US really is. When your foreign policy is so harsh that people feel they have no alternative than to become human bombs in order to make a difference, is it surprising that their is no shortage of martyrs?
    The USA had better start behaving soon and respect the fact that some people just dont want to buy into American style democracy, with corrupt Enron style leadership, lest more and more people will join the fight and start attacking the soft underbelly of the USA worldwide.

  • By all means let’s conduct ourselves in all cases to gain the approval of others. That’s what really counts.

  • “the soft underbelly of the US” LOL Ahmed. Guess they still teach you to use old Marxist clich

  • Balbulican

    The point isn’t winning international “approval”, Howard. It’s abiding by the same international law that the US expects others to uphold.

  • So holding youth may not be unjustified.
    i was wondering how you would turn the detention of kids (without any rights and any chance to prove their innocence) into something good. as always, you did a great job.
    remember your comment on the youths that were freed from prison in iraq? then you didn’t see any justification. quod licet iovi non licet bovi, isn’t it? oh wait – of course they weren’t criminals, but political prisoners. according to their own saying, that is. but who would dare to think about it?

  • jb

    Let’s see…
    On one hand, we have three 16-year old teens captured in a war zone. They were allegedly armed terrorists engaging in non-conventional warfare against our troops.
    On the other hand, we have ~150 children imprisoned by their own country, many of whom were under 10 years old and some of whom have been in jail for as long as 5 years. Allegedly, their only crime is refusing to join the Ba’ath Party youth branch. (There isn’t much plausability to the earlier suggestion that 150 kids this young were locked away for years for legitimate reasons.)
    Yeah, those are roughly equivalent.
    No. Wait. They aren’t.

  • jb

    I am concerned that there might be some people amongst those swept up by the military in Afghanistan who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But our troops (by natural inclination) are going to tend to NOT take youths as prisoners, so the case against the 3 teens is probably pretty strong.
    They do need to have some sort of military hearings for the prisoners at Guantanamo if they are going to persist in classifying them as other than prisoners of war. Since they did release some already, perhaps they have been quietly doing that.

  • I think we have taken a very dangerous line in how we have treated the Gitmo prisoners. Dropping due process and all semblance of international law in how we treat them is going to bite us in the ass in so many ways. It will be a constant issue with our allies and enemies, it is a hypocrisy that will underlie any demand we make on a foreign government’s treatment of our nationals, and it is just *wrong*. And what has the benefit to us been in defining ‘enemy combatants’ vs. ‘prisoners of war’? I don’t see it.

  • Jack Tanner

    ‘It’s abiding by the same international law that the US expects others to uphold.’
    If we were abiding by the ways we know both the Taliban and the Iraqis would abide all the captured at Gitmo would be shark bait by now.

  • Balbulican

    Jack, congratulating yourself because you’re not as bad as the worst in the world is not the strongest of ethical stances.

  • Richard Aubrey

    Actually, Balbulican, we’re congratulating ourselves because we’re the best in the world.
    We can do better, but I don’t think we want to bother listening to the complaints of what Daniel Moynihan referred to as “the cannibal republics”.
    It may have escaped the attention of some folks that US POWs have been subject to horrible treatment for decades by whichever force captured them, notwithstanding whatever we did, which was always better than what anybody else did, anyway. Or, if that chaps you, we were always a hell of a lot better than the opponent of the moment who was torturing our guys.
    So saying our people will be at greater risk is kind of a dumb thing to say.

  • Jack Tanner

    I’m not congratulating anybody I’m just pointing out how ludicrous your position is. The US is the most magnanimous victor in the history of mankind but you just keep your delusion about how US POWs would be treated.

  • Branco Veissblanc

    The “most magnanimous victor in the history of mankind”, eh?
    Ummm…Jack…do you find yourself watching a lot of the Fox Network these days? Just curious….

  • Jack Tanner

    Branco – How long did the Soviets hold German POW’s for? What was the Marshall plan? Where are the US bases in the Phillipines? What are the provinces of the American empire?