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Re: More Questions than Answers

>At 04:21 PM 12/15/2001 -0600, John S. Quarterman wrote:
>>Can tell me any fact or proposition that is accepted and believed by
>>everyone on this planet?
>No, of course not.  My whole point in this most recent go-around was to 
>determine what kind of trial would be accepted by Sinclair (and Tim when he 
>later joined the fray).  I believe that both of them have made it quite 
>clear that to obtain a conviction in my hypothetical terrorist trial, the 
>source of the evidence must be compromised even if it means the death of 
>that source.

Richard, no one but you has said that last part.

You seem to be confusing a stand on principle with the implementation
of that principle.  Here we have two principles: public trials and
don't get sources killed.  Implementation needs to take both into account.

You're also indulging in a reductio ad absurdum argument.  Of course we
can sit around and think about a scenario in which the only evidence
sufficient for conviction might come from a covert source whom we
couldn't afford to compromise.  Given that we have an entire country to
search for evidence and that the alleged perpetrators seem hell-bent on
recording incriminating evidence on videotape, it seems to me that such
a hypothetical scenario is very far-fetched.

>>But to your main point, look at trials of organized crime figures, for
>>example.  Another prominent example has already been cited on this list:
>>the Nuremberg trials.
>I don't think that the Nuremberg trials are an example of a trial in which 
>there was a need to protect the source of the evidence.

Because that war had been won in a rather complete manner.  Which is an
argument for finishing the military job in Afghanistan before holding
trials.  This was one of Safire's points: don't let just some of them
surrender; keep at it until they all surrender.

>  Inside witnesses 
>in the organized crime trials were placed in the witness protection program 
>so the source of the evidence was compromised and could not be used to 
>prevent further crimes.

If there were only one source capable of convicting the ringleader of
these terrorists, don't you think it would be worthwhile to pull that
source and all of that source's assets out of the field in order both
to protect them and to convict that ringleader?

>Earlier JSQ wrote: You seem to equate "open public trail" with "negotiate 
>or appease such evil people."
>I responded:  I did not intend to equate these two different aspects of the 
>>Indeed, they are two different issues.  I was simply puzzled by how they
>>so often seem to be mentioned in the same posting with little distinction
>>between them...As to negotiation or appeasement, I certainly haven't heard 
>>many people calling for either of those; I certainly wouldn't, and 
>>Sinclair didn't.

[ Excess quotations omitted. ]

What do you think will work?

>>It may be useful to further divide the second issue:
>>  a. what to do about actual terrorists
>>  b. how to deal with the conditions that mae it easy for terrorists to 
>> recruit
>>It's in the context of b. that I keep mentioning the Marshall Plan as an
>>example of something that worked in the past.
>A Marshall Plan approach to a country such as Afghanistan would probably be 
>helpful.  However, a number of the WTC terrorists came from Saudi 
>Arabia.  I don't think that a Marshall Plan solution is needed or would be 
>helpful in the case of the Saudis.

Good point.

>  In any case, we will be accused by the 
>successors to bin Laden of attempting to force our unwanted culture and 
>presence on people who do not want it.  The people of Germany and Japan 
>were ready for peace and needed the help to maintain the peace.

Indeed.  I didn't say it would be easy, and I didn't say something
identical to the Marshall Plan would work.  I use the Marshall Plan
as an example of something that, even though at the time it was
considered by many to be far-fetched and a waste of U.S. resources
on nasty foreigners, nonetheless it was a solution that worked for that
problem.  What solution would work for this problem?

Soon we will be offered solutions by our governments.
They will send out trial balloons; they will take polls;
they will read letters.  They will incorporate input into
what they decide to do and how they end up doing it.
Might as well think about the problem now, so as to be
able to think about it better when the time soon comes.

>  The terrorists do not want peace, they want chaos.

Actually, these particular terrorists want the downfall of the West
and the ascendancy of their brand of Islam, but nevermind that.  If you
believe Samuel P. Huntington, you have mentioned one of the key points:
one of the main things average people want is stability and order.
Terrorists know that if they can cause chaos and promise order, they
can win converts.  Yet order alone isn't enough; remember the
Taliban were welcomed into Afghanistan because they promised and
to a large extent delivered order.

Most Saudis are not terrorists.  Most people in the Middle East are
not terrorists.  Most people in the world are not terrorists.
What would help prevent them from becoming terrorists?

>>Also in the context of b., I think a public trial according to
>>internationally recognized standards would probably do a great deal to
>>discourage further terrorist recruits, because the terrorists would very
>>likely say and do things that would discredit themselves.
>Remember that the supporters of bin Laden have said that his latest video 
>tape, which certainly discredited him in my eyes, is a fake concocted by 
>the CIA.

Yes, they're trying to say that, but an accumulation of evidence will
wear that line thin.  And what about people who are not yet supporters
of bin Laden?  Won't that tape give them pause?

> Might not a budding terrorist consider the words of the defendant 
>(which might discredit him in the eyes of rational people) to be the words 
>of a martyr and incite him to follow in the footsteps of such a hero?

If you want a martyr, just shoot him.  Then his supporters will have control
of his hagiography, without prosecution or rebuttal.

>>Even more importantly, it would demonstrate that these particular terrorists
>>failed to frighten the democracies into abrogating their principles.
>I am not sure that a "public trial according to internationally recognized 
>would accomplish this more than our actions in Afghanistan have.

They wouldn't be able to say they frightened the democracies into
using kangaroo courts.  These people are trying to incite a war of
civilizations, of Islam against the West, because they believe that in
such a war their brand of Islam would win; they have said so explicitly,
many times, in terms that make clear that they know what they are saying
and they mean what they say.  It would be a major victory for them if
the West abandoned one of the core principles of its civilization because
of them.

>The terrorists would probably sit around the table and laugh about it and then 
>conduct a quick "trial" of my hypothetical source.

Not if your source were no longer there.  See above about your hypothesis.

>But I am somewhat flexible in this matter.  Work out the details of the 
>trial with Sinclair and Tim who are more principled than I.

Those of us on this list don't get to decide what happens.  However, we
all do get to form opinions.  Many of us will convey those opinions to
our friends, relatives, students, and peers, possibly influencing their
opinions.  The Republic does still stand.  Legislatures and governments
in the democracies do still listen to public opinion.  What we say here
does matter.

>Take care,
>Richard Huseth

John S. Quarterman <jsq@quarterman.org>
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