Losing the Moral Highground- Reprise 2

According to:


John Walker Lindh is only guilty of joining a foreign army and using explosives (apparently a gun):

‘Lindh must serve 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to providing services to Afghanistan former rulers, the Taliban, and a related explosives charge. In return, the government dropped nine other counts — including more serious charges of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals — that would have carried life in prison.’

Wheras Ascroft stated


that he did the following:

'One, conspiracy to kill nationals of the United States of America overseas; namely, U.S. nationals engaged in the conflict in Afghanistan.

Two, providing material support and resources to designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, including al Qaeda.

And three, engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban.’

Additional charges of even more tenuous nature were added later.

So, the first major court case to be concluded on the Guantanamo axis of the ‘War on Terror’ results in an almost total failure of the hysterical accusations lodged:

No Treason

No Conspiracy

No Material Support

No Al Qaida links

just fighting with the forces of a government that was opposed by the US and eventually was at war with the US.

What would happen if justice were offered to Gunatanamo Kidnappees- is it just possible that with due process, most of the kidnappees would be found guilty of just what John Walker Lindh was- fighting for the enemy- and under International Law, that in itself is not illegal.

To reinforce, so far the only crime proved against any Taliban/Al Qaida detainee is fighting with a foreign army! And that was only a crime because Lindh was an American Citizen.

Moral Highground slipping away.


I’ve got time for your arguments and points Pjen but I can’t help but think of Artie Fufkin when I read your threads.

“Kick this Ass”


A typical plea bargain involves a plea and a bargain. In this case, for instance, the government accepted the offer to plead to the charges he did and declined to press the other charges. This does not mean he didn’t do these things. It means that, based on his plea, he won’t be prosecuted for any of them.

Of course, there mere fact he was charged, or accused by the Attorney General in press conferences, does not mean he was actually guilty of them, either.

In other words, the inference you’re trying to draw is unsupported.

  • Rick

Hey you Taliban guys down in Guantanamo Bay, you hearing this ? I think he’s saying Ashcroft - the chief advisor on Executive Orders - is full of shit…but I await clarification to be sure.

Slow Tuesdays, gotta love 'em :smiley:

I do understand your point.

However, in times of Moral Panic, it is necessary for someone to repeat the facts over and over again.

My prediction: I will be saying these things when each of the Guantanamo kidnappees is disposed of in a way that ensures the the US is not embarrassed; but I do not expect to be eating humble pie over the valid conviction of more than a handful of these people.

And I also predict that people will continue to defend the undefendable as Bricker does above.


Declining to press charges equals legally Not Guilty (Innocent until PROVEN guilty.)

A plea bargain also indicates that the prosecution would like to prove a person guilty, but believes that such an outcome is unlikely or undesirable. The person is still innocent.

A plea bargain also can indicate that the defendant is in possession of information which would be beneficial to the prosecution in other. more serious cases, and the lesser sentence is offered in exchange for that information.

And still means that the State has not found them guilty, and therefore legally the State has to accept that they are Innocent of those charges as the have not been proven guilty.

Allowing the State support of this sort of quasi-innocence/assumed guilt is moving towards trial by executive fiat. Not challenging the Media and others when they engage in such muck-raking is an insult to the concept of a free-press. (Vide Fox News this morning).

What part of ‘Innocent until proven Guilty’ is troubling people.

Moral Panic? I’m not panicking, Pjen. Are you?

It semes hardly worth the effort to point out that the English have plea bargaining (though they call it “copping a plea”) and muckraking (walked down Fleet street lately?)

“Not challenging the media” ? Media-bashing is a spectator sport in the U.S., and has been for centuries. What kind of challenge did you have in mind? Pistols at dawn? What is your concept of a free-press, anyway? News organizations can only produce nice stories? What part of “free” is troubling you?

Besides, you can’t seem to pick a target. Are you angry at the American justice system or the American press?

Sound and fury, signifying nothing. A typical Pjen thread.

What I’m wondering, Pjen, is how you can think the US has lost the moral highground you never believed it had in the first place?

It sounds to me as though Pjen’s main point is that the moral highground has been lost. I don’t hear him as irrationally angry, Bryan; and there hasn’t been a great deal of media attention with respect to the prisoners in Guantanamo.

BTW: The thing that is filled with “sound and fury” and signifies nothing in Macbeth is nothing less than the experience of “life” itself–the poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage.

So unless you think that Pjen’s threads deserve bard status for their tragic complexity, I suggest you find a better way of dissing them :wink:

This isn’t the way that plea bargains work in the US. In a plea bargain, the prosecution does prove a person is guilty, but the defendant provides the proof. In the criminal system that I am familiar with, a plea bargain is a trial. The State’s first exhibit (and frequently the only evidence admitted as to guilt) is the Defendant’s signed, written, voluntary judicial confession and stipulation of evidence. The defendant’s confession is sufficient to prove his guilt, and it takes place in a fifteen minute trial rather than the days it usually takes to put on a trial where the defendant pleads not guilty.

I think part of the problem, Mandelstam, is that the Pjen’s of the world can’t decide what they’re angry at the U.S. for. When we first went into Afghanistan and captured Lindh and the Guantanamo detainees, there were implications that they were being tortured and treated like animals or worse. Then it turned out that they weren’t, so much like what happened with the “Jenin massacre,” the left sort of scurried away and never said, “Well, guess we were wrong.” (Of course, the Pjens still refer to them as “kidnappees,” as if they were grabbed by some pervert on their way to school or something.)

Then we were told that the U.S. was going to be holding kangaroo court, secret political trials that were certain to result in permanent disappearance or execution of the detainees. Now, not only is Lindh not subjected to some secret military tribunal, he’s allowed to plead down to a 20-year sentence in exchange for pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with the government in investigating al Qaeda. Is that good enough for Pjen and his ilk? No–now they’re mad that we charged him with things we didn’t end up trying him for, forever smearing poor Lindh’s name forever.

Nothing sort of the U.S. offering the rest of the world an apology for the Sept. 11 talks – since they were clearly our fault – and offering to convert wholesale to Islam will satisfy the Pjens.

“…in times of Moral Panic, it is necessary for someone to repeat the facts over and over again.”

It is even more desirable to get the facts straight to begin with (as pldennison noted) and to acknowledge error when contradictory evidence is presented. But then it wouldn’t be a genuine Pjen thread.

In addition to obtaining information from Lindh in exchange for the plea bargain, the government avoids the necessity for a long, expensive show trial. That sort of practical bargaining goes on all the time in U.S. criminal trials, and it is incorrect to make blanket statements that this indicates charges were false to begin with.

The Moral Highground would make a great band name. And in honor of Pjen, its first release could be a remake of “Slip Slidin’ Away” :smiley:

pld, thanks for the response.

I don’t know Pjen’s posting history at all, so I only have your characterization of “the Pjen’s of the world,” and the current thread, to go by. There are people on the left spectrum, as of all political persuasions, who are neither well-informed nor logically consistent. I gather you feel Pjen is one of them.

But by the end of the first paragraph of your post, the notion of Pjen as one of an egregious band of “Pjen’s of the world” slips into “the left” as a whole. And while I can’t speak to the veracity of your Pjen characterization, I can show that you mischaracterize the left that I know.

Here is a May 30 Human Rights Watch alert on the matter. You will notice that the term “Guantanomo detainees” is used here, just as it is used in your post, and in contrast to Pjen’s term. You will notice that the concern as to torture, is that the detainees not be sent to countries where, unlike in the US, they are certain to be tortured. I gather that remains a concern. You will notice that there is a lot of detail about precisely what does and what does not violate the Geneva Convention.

Some excerpts: “Despite President Bush’s claim to be applying the “principles” of the Third Geneva Convention regulating prisoner-of-war (POW) status, the United States continues to violate the Geneva Conventions, particularly with respect to Taliban detainees. This shortsighted transgression sets a dangerous precedent that could come back to haunt U.S. and allied servicemembers who are captured by enemy forces in this or future wars. Washington’s refusal to treat the detainees as POWs is perplexing because it would in no way inhibit legitimate U.S. efforts to interrogate or prosecute people who have participated in terrorist acts.”


“It could be appropriate to prosecute the Guantanamo detainees for the crime of conspiracy if a suspect can be shown to have joined a criminal enterprise knowing of its criminal purpose and with the intent of furthering its criminal objectives. But it would be dangerous to apply conspiracy theories too loosely. Given the variety of reasons that Afghans and foreigners joined the Taliban, membership in a criminal conspiracy should not be presumed from mere armed presence in Afghanistan.”

Although I don’t know enough about the situation to vouch for the merits of these claims, they seem like reasonable claims to me. There has definitely been criticism of American policy on this matter in Britain and the rest of Europe. Do these critics also belong to the Pjens of the World?

Criticism of US kangaroo courts is, in my view warranted, and one of the strongest statements against it came from conservative columnist William Saffire. Is Saffire but another Pjen with a job at the New York Times?

Surely you must realize that when figures such as Saffire, and their leftist counterparts, call attention to these matters, they make it less likely that kangaroo courts will materialize. So it makes no sense, then, to ridicule critics for their unnecessary criticism, as though the criticism wasn’t itself instrumental in shaping public opinion.

It may be true that Pjen overstates his case, but we can’t simply conclude, on that basis alone, that there is no legitimate case to be made. As one who knows little about the issue, I’d like very much to sit on the stands and read a debate. If Pjen’s way of casting it won’t do, I’m ready to hear that–and much more.

But painting “the left” in broad and inaccurate strokes strikes me as falling into the very same pitfalls attributed to the Pjens of this World. And from what I know of pldennison, a poster whose past history I know and have had occasion to admire, I’d not expect to see him there.

I assume the fact that some of those charged at the end of World War II got convicted of some charge other than genocide means that the US has lost the moral high ground there as well.

I am still interested in why people who admit their guilt under oath should still be considered innocent.


OK, I misspoke when I lumped Pjen in with “the left,” in general, and should have confined it to the “reactionary left.” There is, unfortunately, a not-insignificant portion of the left that is so knee-jerk anti-American that nothing we could do would be seen as correct – even when it is what they wanted us to do in the first place. The most egregious examples of what I mean can be seen at http://www.whatreallyhappened.com .

As far as Bill Safire goes, he’s a great writer and I love to read his stuff. But I would not for a minute assume that his or other leftist pundits’ observations have helped shape policy with this particular administration. It could be that they were simply wrong about the direction and goals of policy in the first place. After all, if the Bush administration has shown itself to be good at anything, it’s being extremely unconcerned with what the punditry has to say.

pld, no time right now to look at your cite but I’ll return later to do so.

Are you saying Safire is a leftist pundit or was that a syntactical error?

My point wasn’t that the administration’s policy is shaped by pundits–not directly anyway. My point is that public opinion is.

Public opinion still counts for something, even if only in the impoverished “focus group” and Gallup poll sense. If public awareness is raised about civil liberties, or constitutional issues–if that awareness starts to hit the mainstream via Safire (I defer to you on the spelling since you call him Bill :wink: )-- then it has an impact on what is politically possible.

And good thing too, since the role of public opinion is necessary to having any kind of functioning democracy.

—As far as Bill Safire goes, he’s a great writer and I love to read his stuff. But I would not for a minute assume that his or other leftist pundits’ observations—

guffaw… :slight_smile: I think Safire is too busy fantasizing elaborate conspiracy theories about everyone in the world covering up the truth of the Iraqi connection rumor he originally trumpeted as a solid fact to worry about renewing his creditials as a “leftist.”

—I assume the fact that some of those charged at the end of World War II got convicted of some charge other than genocide means that the US has lost the moral high ground there as well. —

No, what lost us the moral high ground was failing to charge some officers of many of the same war crime offenses simply because they happened to be on our side. Or rejecting the “I was ordered to do it” defense in direct contradiction to our own policies on contientious objectors in our own military courts. (I personally agree with both war crimes charges and rejecting the “just following orders” defense: I just think our failure to apply the same logic to ourselves made a mockery of both)

During WWII, there were some people whose guilt in perpetrating genocide was questionable. Not many, but certainly some.

—After all, if the Bush administration has shown itself to be good at anything, it’s being extremely unconcerned with what the punditry has to say.—

But extremely concerned with what lobbists and PACs and in general their constituency have to say: and punditry most certainly impacts lobbist dollars and constituent votes. Of course, it’s mostly conservative lobbing that is listened to, but that’s exactly the point: some high profile conservative pundits came out against show trials, and that certainly had an impact on the potential range policy.

For the life of me, I don’t know why I typed “other leftist pundits” after “Bill Safire.” I meant to say “Bill Safire and the leftist pundits.” Still, until some sort of action is taken with regards to the Gitmo detainees, I think it’s premature to think that the pundits have had any affect at all on policy. The Bush folks just don’t seem like the type to float trial balloons, no pun intended.