Patterico's Pontifications


Harry Shearer Responds to Patterico

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Media Bias,Terrorism — Patterico @ 8:46 pm

In my post about the “Isikoffed” NEWSWEEK story this morning, I cited Harry Shearer as one of the many folks who linked the story as evidence that Alberto Gonzales had called the Geneva Conventions “quaint.” Harry has updated his post to reflect my criticisms, and to make an observation of his own:

FACT-CHECKING UPDATE: A commenter directed me to a website (better known in LA for its LA Times-bashing, which I admire) which fact-checks the Gonzale[s] quote referenced above. I used that version because, having half-remembered the quote, I Googled it, and this version popped up high in the results. But, in his zeal to absolve Gonzale[s] of calling the Geneva Conventions “quaint”–which he achieves–blogger Patterico ignores, as most of us have, the more damning part of the quoted text:

In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments.”

Forget “quaint”; “strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners” being rendered “obsolete” is what this debate is all about.

I agree: that is indeed what the debate is all about. It’s true that I did not focus on Gonzales’s use of the word “obsolete” to refer to Geneva limitations on questioning. But that’s because my post was primarily a piece of media criticism, rather than a substantive defense of Gonzales and his memo.

I think Harry has a valid point in noting Gonzales’s description of the limits on questioning as “obsolete.” However, in my view, this does not render harmless Isikoff’s distortion of the Gonzales quote. Calling these limits “obsolete” is not quite as dismissive as calling them “quaint” would have been — which is, presumably, why lefties have harped on the word “quaint.” Isikoff & Co. should have made it clear that the provisions deemed “quaint” by Gonzales were, in fact, quaint — and entirely unrelated to interrogation of detainees.

On the substance of the matter, I may still be persuaded that Geneva should be applied to nonsignatory terrorists, though I don’t find particularly compelling the arguments I’ve seen to date. But it’s a debate worth having, and one that I’ve explored recently on this blog.

It’s nice to show up in Harry’s post — if for no other reason than the fact that Harry, while a lefty, is (like me) a rabid critic of the L.A. Times. He is, after all, the guy who invented the term “Dog Trainer.” All I did was steal it.

13 Responses to “Harry Shearer Responds to Patterico”

  1. Shorter Patterico:

    Actually, I got nothin’. This one’s pretty reasonable. Aloha!

    Kimmitt (80218d)

  2. His response was very fair and intelligent. I agree that what Gonzales said was worthy of note, fortunately.

    These are serious times and its good to see he understands that. This is an important discussion to have and its best if we’re going to quote the U.S. Attorney General, that we quote him accurately. I however believe that the Geneva convention should apply to uniformed enemy personnel only. To the extend that they are, yes, aford them protections.

    One of the reasons for the Geneva Convention was to incent warring parties to fight in a formal legal way. I don’t see why we want to remove that incentive. If terrorists insist on attacking women and children in civilian clothes, well, I don’t believe they deserve the same degree of treatment. Humane treatment, yes, Geneva Convention, no.

    Very broadly on topic in the sense that it relates to an understand of the war from a liberal viewpoint, but not related to Gonzales’ words, this is very blogable.

    Rush posted it as “must read” on his site and I concur.

    Christoph (9824e6)

  3. *understanding

    Christoph (9824e6)

  4. Wow, it’s more on topic than I thought. I just realized the above link comes from the Dog Trainer. Have a look, Patterico.

    Christoph (9824e6)

  5. Dude, you had Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap give you a shout out. You are big time now.

    JVW (d667c9)

  6. Forget “quaint”; “strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners” being rendered “obsolete” is what this debate is all about.

    They are obsolete in that they were not designed to deal with and they are not effective in dealking with the type of enemy or the type of warfare being conducted these days.

    Shorter Kimmitt: Duh, me so funny!

    Pablo (08e1e8)

  7. Are we equating “questioning” with “torture” now?

    Mick Wright (22b119)

  8. The shorter Kimmitt:

    Charles Bird (0035fc)

  9. It would so much simpler–and right–for us to just abide by the Geneva Conventions. Put the detainees before a competent military tribunal to determine if they are indeed combatants and to judge whether or not they should be accorded prisoner-of-war status. Even if not POWs, they must still be treated humanely under the GC, for the duration of this War Against Militant Islamism. Since they are most likely not POWs, they can be questioned for hours on end, even aggressively, as long as they are treated humanely in the process. Quite frankly, I see nothing “obsolete” about that.

    Charles Bird (0035fc)

  10. Cristoph,

    You’re exactly right. We go against the basic purpose of the Geneva conventions if we apply them to terrorists.

    The terrorists have redefined warfare to have no rules. The one advantage that we have in fighting this type of enemy is that their leaders and planners are disbursed among the population, rather than in highly defended military bases. If we can get the right information, we can capture leaders and planners. Since the enemy has chosen to fight this way, it seems imperative to get the information and capture leaders and planners. If we capture leaders and planners, then we protect the civilian targets of terrorist attacks, and also prevent the needless deaths of the low-level terrorists who carry out the suicide bombings. We will also bring about a quicker end to the war, which is most beneficial to the civilian population that the terrorists hide among.

    Mike S (d3f5fd)

  11. Two words: Jazz. Oddessy.

    /Spinal Tap forever

    Good Lt (cf8676)

  12. “They are obsolete in that they were not designed to deal with and they are not effective in dealking with the type of enemy or the type of warfare being conducted these days”

    If that’s true, and it’s hardly a foregone conclusion that it is, the GC’s have provisions that allow a nation to formally withdraw from the obligations instead of violating them. The latter course as chosen by the Bush administration is dishonest and confirms the growing impression that America cannot be trusted.

    rick (ea2ac3)

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