Sunday, April 12, 2009

Comments on The Belmont Club,

There is no reason to assume that the Navy was under orders not to open fire if the hostage got clear. Obama is running everything through Attorney General Holder but engagement would be the protocol in that event even in a civilian law enforcement hostage situation. The pirate's life should be forfeit but that could be achieved in a legal process. There is precedent for executing pirates after a trial, for example William Kidd.

My preference now?
We're going to give you a fair trial, followed by a first-class hanging.
- Sheriff Cobb (Brian Dennehy) in Silverado

The surviving pirate probably can not be turned over to a local authority for punishment because if they do anything to him then anyone purporting to be his relative could sue the United States for violating his civil rights. Lawyers have made it impossible to deliver any prisoner to any country that might provide a lower level of humanitarian protection than the jurisdiction holding them. In fact it is now impossible to extradite someone charged with murder from Europe to the United States. The reductio ad absurdum of this is to move an unlimited number of violent criminals to enlightened Western countries where they can not be punished and then allow them to petition to bring their relatives in to enjoy welfare and gain citizenship. That is why the Royal Navy is ordered to neither kill the enemy nor take them prisoner. Wounding is presumably also discouraged and making really loud noises could cause stress.

blert (who asked if we should hang him off Puntland),
In better days (harrumph harrumph) lawyers were never stationed onboard a US Navy ship. JAG Corps were strictly a shore based outfit. Captains held NJP (non-judicial punishment) Mast without a lawyer looking over their shoulder. If a sailor got cute and insisted on bringing outside counsel, as the Regulations permit, the Captain would nod, indicate where the lawyer could stand and observe, and order them to keep their mouth shut. Now it probably would be possible to conduct a trial at sea but I doubt it would be a good idea. We might as well bring him to Washington or Naval Station Norfolk and make the circus look good. The English would be better at that, full bottom wigs and Queen's Counsel Silk, but they no longer apply the death penalty. If we really wanted to make a heuristic point of it we would set up our gallows in the courtyard of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

In Mycenaean Hellas the traditional greeting when a ship full of young men arrived at your village was "Are you Pirates?" The answer depended on your appearance. If the visitors were met by a dozen adolescent girls and a few old men, because your young men were busy elsewhere, then the reply was "Yes we are" and there would be an exchange of movable property for genetic information. If on the other hand the strangers were met by a couple of dozen healthy lads brandishing sharp objects and your old man behind was waving his hands and calling on the Gods in a troubling way then the answer became "Us? Of course not! We're here to trade. Your olive oil is famous and we have wine from another island cheap, it fell off a cart."

fred (who felt that lawyers tolerate evil),
Lawyers do not have to want to make things worse. They just think that they are serving the abstract deity of process, who like Allah is whatever you make of him. What is needed is a new Geneva Convention that makes clear the status of "Unlawful Combatants" and Piracy and re-enables the distinction between civilized fully sovereign states and territories subject to protection and supervision.

Derek (who said it was "half retarded" to talk of denying the pirate a trial),
No, you are the one conflating cases and I will thank you not to resort to preemptive ad hominem attacks. As I stated it is possible to deal with pirates through the legal process and there is historical precedent but there is also historical precedent to dispatch pirates caught en flagrante with summary execution. Their position is analogous to that of spies caught out of uniform on the battlefield or saboteurs. Once the basic facts are established, which here are not in doubt, they simply do not have an absolute right to the protections that the national law gives to a citizen accused of a crime or that international law gives to a prisoner of war or for that matter that treaty grants to a citizen of a foreign nation accused of a crime.

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