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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

Weekly Muse
My humble opinion on current events

January 28, 2002

Prisoners of War?

A big hullabaloo has been made over the U.S. treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The furor began when the Pentagon released a photo of a radical Muslim prisoner on bended knees, blindfolded and shackled. British tabloids called it torture, and other European countries, and yes, the ACLU too, joined in the yapping, condemning this supposedly gross violation of human rights. Even our ally Tony Blair expressed concern, though he pointed out that the few British detainees voiced no complaint. All over one lousy stinkin' photo.

It later turned out that these prisoners had just arrived at the base. They wear ear muffs because it gets cold on the flight, blacked-out goggles to prevent eye signals or other communication between prisoners, and shackles to limit their movement so they can't cause any trouble. These restraints are removed once they arrive and are placed in their cells. 

"They are getting excellent medical care, they're receiving culturally appropriate meals, they're being allowed to practice their religion, which is not something they encouraged on the part of others," said Secretary of State Donald Rumsfield. "They are clothed cleanly and dry and safe." He reiterated that the restraints are used only in transit. Some wore masks but only because they were suspected of having tuberculosis. 

"No detainee has been harmed," Rumsfield proclaimed a few days later. "No detainee has been mistreated in any way. And the numerous articles, statements, questions, allegations and breathless reports on television are undoubtedly by people who are either uninformed, misinformed or poorly informed." 

Additionally, each prisoner has access to a Koran, and a Muslim cleric has been sent to serve them.

(A brief aside: Jonah Goldberg raised an interesting point in his syndicated column last week. Remember, right after 9/11, all the so-called moderate Muslims who said these terrorists were not true Muslims, real Muslims are peaceful and hate violence? If that's true, then why are many of these same people claiming that we aren't allowing them to practice their Muslim faith? Are they Muslims or aren't they? Which is it?)

In short, Christian America is treating these radical Muslim terrorists better than virtually all Muslim governments treat their peaceful, law-abiding Christians.

So why the bother? Why the shrill complaints and rush to judgment?

Much of it, I think, is blatant anti-Americanism. A lot of people still don't like us, and will latch onto any reason, no matter how unjustified, to criticize. But that's okay. We're big boys. We can take it.

Another issue was raised. Are these terrorists prisoners of war, and thus entitled to protections accorded to them under the Geneva Convention? The same folks who yelled and wailed over the photo say they are.

But I don't think so. As Rich Lowry explained in National Review Online, the Geneva Convention applies to uniformed soldiers following the accepted standards of warfare. These terrorists wore no uniforms, fought for no government, and violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and hiding among civilian populations. Rather than prisoners of war, they are war criminals, an important distinction.

For example, let's say you're a Japanese soldier in World War II. You get captured by the Americans. You are a prisoner of war and entitled to the full protection of the Geneva Convention. Now let's say you're a Japanese soldier or private citizen who infiltrates our country, dressed as a civilian and armed with explosives to blow up the National Mall. Now you're a war criminal, and Geneva does not apply. If arrested, America could do whatever it likes to you.

But America would not do that, just as American is not abusing the captured terrorists. Though Geneva does not apply, these prisoners are still receiving Geneva-like treatment and protection. 

Let me pose this question: During the war in Afghanistan, would you rather have been an al Queda or Taliban fighter captured by the Marines, or a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban?

I think the answer is obvious.

How's South Africa Doing?

Apartheid died a deserved death in South Africa nearly ten years ago. Decades of white rule over a country three-quarters black left a mixed legacy of economic success (though enjoyed largely by whites; in 1993, blacks made up 76 percent of the country but earned only 29 percent of South Africa's total income; whites were 13 percent of the population but received 58 percent of total income) and bitter race relations. Blacks were totally disenfranchised during apartheid, and such brutal treatment is not easily forgotten. 

South Africa is now a nonracial democracy. Majority rules, and the majority party in Parliament elects the president. The majority party is currently the African National Congress (ANC), and President Mbeki is its and the country's leader. The country has an independent judiciary and a free press.

That's the good news. Unfortunately, South Africa seems to be teetering on the brink of disaster.

Andrew Kenny documented South Africa's problems in a recent column for the London Spectator. Some grim statistics:

  • Crime is rampant. Each day brings an average of 59 murders and 145 rapes, plus 752 assaults.
  • South Africa's currency, the rand, has plummeted in value since 1994, when apartheid ended and the ANC claimed power.
  • Twelve percent of the population is HIV-positive, and President Mbeki deals with the crisis by claiming that HIV does not cause AIDS.
  • Mbeki has given support to the Thug of Zimbabwe, President Mugabe.
  • And worst and most horrid of all, there has been a recent outbreak of baby rapes. Kenny cites a five-month child raped by two men. Apparently, many believe AIDS can be cured by making love with a virgin, so babies and small children are now targets.

According to Kenny, many South Africans are aware of their country's spiraling descent but are afraid to voice their concerns in public, because Mbeki calls any and all critics racists. The newspapers are free but toe the government line for fear of reprisals. A race-based spoils system dominates the economy, causing many educated and qualified blacks to feel guilty and inferior and forcing many employers to retain ineffective and incompetent black workers. Unemployment is rampant because no one wants to hire anyone, because the race laws make it nearly impossible to fire anyone. Poverty is rampant, especially with blacks. That has not improved, and in fact has worsened, since apartheid's downfall. But mention this in public, or criticize the government, and you're called a racist.

Apartheid gets blamed for these problems, but Kenny dismisses that. It's time, he says, that those blacks who blame apartheid stop blaming white people and take responsibility for their own plight. South Africa is blessed with natural resources and industrious people. The government must accept and learn from criticism, and South Africans must not be afraid to speak the truth. Concludes Kenny: "We must appoint, criticize, praise, pity and punish black men in exactly the same way we appoint, criticize, praise, pity and punish white men."

Kenny raises another interesting point. When white governments commit atrocities, they are condemned. When black governments commit atrocities, whites get blamed, or colonialism, or racism - never those responsible.  It's time to start holding African leaders accountable, just like we hold all leaders accountable. 

Hockey Dad Goes to Jail

Thomas Junta, the now infamous hockey dad convicted of involuntary manslaughter for beating Michael Costin to death in an ice rink while children played hockey, received six to ten years in jail.  

This case received a lot of attention. Many thought Junta acted in self-defense. Others thought he was a bully and should have gotten even more jail time.

I don't think Junta meant to kill Costin, but he did lose control of his temper and his fists, and intentionally or not, he killed a man, and should pay for it. The sentence seems just.

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