Friday, October 06, 2006

"Clarity" II: A Compare/Contrast Paper assignment

Recently in my Comp classes we discussed principles of and how to arrange compare/contrast papers. This is a useful way to organize and think about information so as to begin to make value judgments regarding that information.

In that spirit, then, below the fold I'd like to present news accounts of two recent events, along with a frame within which we are asked to place and understand these events.

Apologies in advance for the lengths of the excerpts . . . but these are complicated times. Some of you may recall that I've recently become interested in the matter of "clarity," and you can consider the present post to be another exploration of that theme.

From the Rocky Mountain News (Hat-tip: Steve Clemons)
Attorney David Lane said that on June 16, Steve Howards was walking his 7-year-old son to a piano practice, when he saw Cheney surrounded by a group of people in an outdoor mall area, shaking hands and posing for pictures with several people.

According to the lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in Denver, Howards and his son walked to about two-to-three feet from where Cheney was standing, and said to the vice president, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible," or words to that effect, then walked on.

Ten minutes later, according to Howards' lawsuit, he and his son were walking back through the same area, when they were approached by Secret Service agent Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr., who asked Howards if he had "assaulted" the vice president. Howards denied doing so, but was nonetheless placed in handcuffs and taken to the Eagle County Jail.

(the article goes on to say that the charges were subsequently dismissed)

Compare and contrast that story with that of Luís Posada Carriles, as excerpted from
The Bush Administration prefers to paint the War on Terror in stark terms of good and evil, but the reality is not all terror suspects are considered equal. That much was clear on the same day that the nation solemnly recalled the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when a federal magistrate recommended freeing a man being held on immigration charges who is also awaiting retrial in Venezuela for the bombing of a Cuban airliner 30 years ago that resulted in the death of all aboard, including the Cuban national fencing team.

Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles has been fighting for his release since May 17, 2005, when Department of Homeland Security officials arrested him in Miami for entering the country without having a visa or passing through passport control at the border. But in a move that may come back to haunt the U.S. government Posada, despite his suspected terrorist past, was held on immigration violations, not terror-related charges.


Posada has consistently denied involvement with the airline bombing. After his escape from the Venezuelan prison in 1985, he went to El Salvador, where he reunited with the CIA. He went to work assisting Oliver North in providing the Nicaraguan Contras with weapons and supplies. After his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair, Posada worked as a spy for then Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte. The court documents indicate Posada traveled around the Americas on false passports and that his line of work could be life-threatening. During a brief stint in Guatemala in 1990, he became the target of an assassination attempt and was shot several times in the face and torso.

Despite his globetrotting past, Posada is now, much to the U.S. Government's dismay, a man without a country. Since his arrest last year, officials in seven countries — Canada, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala — all have told him to forget about moving to their homeland. The notable exceptions were Cuba and its ally Venezuela, which both said they would welcome him. But the court previously found those countries likely would torture him. So the U.S. has found itself in the uncomfortable position of not having a place to deport Posada, but no longer being constitutionally able to extend — or willing to justify — his continued incarceration.


"The U.S. hasn't done anything in court, really, to make sure this man stays detained as a terrorist suspect, as a terrorist danger to society," Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's Ambassador to the U.S., tells TIME. "The Administration must either extradite Posada Carriles to Venezuela under the terms of our 1922 extradition treaty, or try him here in the U.S. as a known terrorist suspect in this hemisphere. Otherwise, the U.S. is just demonstrating further that it has a double moral standard when it comes to fighting terrorism." Cuban leaders hosting this week's summit of the Non Aligned Movement echoed those sentiments, describing Washington's handling of the Posada case as a just the latest example of its hypocrisy.


"Although stranger things have happened in the past, I have full confidence the federal judge will adopt without any recommendation or comment," says Eduardo Soto, Posada's Miami-based attorney. Soto maintains the government lost its chance to go after his client as a terrorist when they initially detained him. "You have to choose whether you are going to charge someone as an immigration law violator or a terrorist," Soto says. "The individuals in Guantanamo are dealt with as terrorists. That is not what the American government decided to do with Luis Posada Carriles. They placed him in normal removal proceedings. They cannot go back and call him a terrorist."

That's not necessarily so, says Miami attorney and immigration law expert Ira Kurzban, who wrote Kurzban's Immigration Law Sourcebook, a textbook that even the government attorneys routinely refer to when presenting their cases. If the government wants to go back and reclassify Posada as a terrorist to keep him in detention if no nation wants to take him in, it may be able to. "The real question here is will the Administration apply its views on terrorism in an evenhanded way?" Kurzban asks. "If Mr. Posada was a member of al-Qaeda, would the Bush Administration do everything in its power to make sure he is detained beyond the six-month period?"

UPDATE: Today NPR reports that the Justice Department yesterday argued that Posada Carriles continue to be held but did not classify him as a terrorist.

And finally, the frame provided us for making sense of the above stories:

An excerpt from War by Other Means, by John Yoo (posted here):
While our soldiers are fighting under the rules of war, our enemy thumbs its nose at those rules by attacking in disguise and targeting civilians. As Osama bin Laden declared in 1998 on American television, "We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets." Yet the critics would have us give al Qaeda criminal justice protection precisely because it assumed civilian guise on U.S. soil and attacked civilian targets, effectively rewarding al Qaeda for violating every law of war ever devised.

September 11 put America on notice. Once, only nation-states had the resources to wage war. Al Qaeda is able to finance its jihad outside the traditional structure of the nation-state, and this may well extend to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Mere networks of individuals—affinity groups—can now tap military power. Terrorist networks should not, through this loophole, be allowed to evade the laws of armed conflict among nation-states. While we are at war, we must also recognize that it is a different kind of war, with a slippery enemy that has no territory, population, or uniformed, traditionally organized armed forces, and that can move nimbly through the West's open channels of commerce. We must take aggressive action to defeat al Qaeda, while also adapting the rules of war to provide a new framework to address the new enemies of the twenty-first century.

Your papers, in which you've examined the fact patterns of these two accounts and assessed the actions taken by the government in each case within the frame established by the arguments of Mr. Yoo, are due at your earliest convenience.

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