Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What would you have done instead?

Christopher Hitchens, who is normally a rational and reasoned man, somehow manages to consistently lose his rudder when it comes to the war on terror. Not exactly his words, but the headline of his most recent piece in Slate is: Those who protest the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki have to say what they would have done instead.

Very well, I will tell you Mr. Hitchens.

I would have filed formal charges against Mr. al-Awlaki. I would have sought an indictment from a grand jury. I wold have given Mr. al-Alawki the opportunity to return home to answer the charges against him. If he failed to take advantage of the opportunity to defend himself (which he almost certainly would have) I would have tried him in absentia. I would have waited until a jury returned a guilty verdict. Then -- and only then -- I would have ordered him blown to kingdom come.

I would have done these things to show to the world that we are a nation of laws, not of the whims of men. I would have done these things to plant our flag firmly on the moral high ground. I would have done these things because they are the right thing to do.

Glen Greenwald said it best as he usually does:

[A]s the Bush years proved, the American population is well-trained to screech Kill Him!! the minute the Government points to someone and utters the word “Terrorist“ (especially when that someone is brown with a Muslim-ish name, Muslim-ish clothes, and located in one of those Bad Muslim countries). If Our Government Leaders say that someone named “Anwar al-Awlaki” — who looks like this, went to a Bad Muslim-ish place like Yemen, and speaks ill of America — is a Bad Terrorist, then that settles that. It’s time to kill him. Given those “facts,” only a “civil libertarian absolutist” would think that things like “evidence” and “trials” are needed before accepting his guilt and justifying his state-sanctioned murder.


The most ignorant claim justifying the Awlaki killing is that he committed “treason” and thus gave up citizenship; there’s this document called the “Constitution” that lays out the steps the Government is required to take before punishing a citizen for “treason” (“No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court“); suffice to say, it’s not met by the President secretly declaring someone guilty backed up by leaked, anonymous accusations to the press.

Worth reading the whole thing.

A final -- and telling -- quote from Hitchens:

Is a synagogue in town the next development you truly welcome in the spirit of “inclusiveness” and “diversity”?

Except he didn't use the word "synagogue" of course, he used the word "mosque." I suppose Mr. Hitchens thinks it's OK to make this invidious query about a mosque because terrorists are muslims or some such thing. Hitchens of all people should recognize this logical fallacy. Even if all terrorists are muslims (which they aren't but let's suspend disbelief for the sake of argument), it does not follow that all, or even most, muslims are terrorists, despite the fact that vast numbers of Americans are more than willing to draw that inference. Most of Hitchens's writings are dedicated to debunking such logical errors, which makes it all the more tragic that he of all people is promulgating it in this case.


Don Geddis said...

Absolutely. It seems so obvious. Try him and convict him for treason. The Constitution has a "due process" clause. You're actually allowed to execute your own citizens ... but only if you have a trial first.

I was annoyed enough that Bush did warrantless wiretapping of citizens. But Obama's ordered assassination is even less legal. There are only fewer objections, because Obama "seems like a nicer guy" than Bush did.

But in terms of breaking the law? This is far worse.

Oh, and also: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Deliberate Klaus said...

"Christopher Hitchens, who is normally a rational and reasoned man, somehow manages to consistently lose his rudder when it comes to the war on terror." Uncommonly well said. Hitchens has a debate on the Iraq War somewhere on Youtube wherein his justification boils down to, "Saddam was very bad man."

First time visitor. I ended up here because I want to write a program and find myself once again dismayed by my choice of languages. I looked at Python yet again, but immediately found myself wondering whether something was an expression or statement, and decided I don't give enough of a shit. Arc is perhaps orphaned. I don't want to learn Common Lisp very much. It's depressing. I'd be so happy with a streamlined, standardized Scheme. Oh well.

Ron said...

> streamlined, standardized Scheme

Have you looked at PLT? Or Haskell?

Don Geddis said...

Klaus wrote: I don't want to learn Common Lisp very much.

Care to provide any more details? Why not?

Deliberate Klaus said...


Indeed, I have used PLT more than any other language excepting C. I can't fathom Haskell. For whatever reason, type restrictions always, always end up an impediment for me. I want to extend a DSL and therefore losing macros would be a major setback. I've given up on PLT for a number of reasons, none of which seem worth going into. For me this effectively means giving up on Scheme as I had problems with other implementations too.


I didn't really have an answer for you. I started Practical Common Lisp. I'll report back here if anything comes of it.

I suppose I had come to regard Lisp as outdated, and plus I have to, you know, learn it. Now that I think about it though maybe the fact that it has been stable for so long is in its favor as far as I'm concerned. I have Scheme code that I wrote years ago that I wish I could run now. Also I understand that in Lisp, as opposed to Scheme's (if (not (null? x)) ...), you can simply say something like (if x ...). That reminds me of the confidence and efficiency I felt when writing C and miss somewhat with Scheme, which can be fiddly.

I've only used define-syntax, so learning unhygienic macros will take time. I've also heard cryptic rumors to the effect that there are multiple namespaces in Lisp and that there are also lexical differences regarding closures or something. Crazy, man.

At that moment Klaus was enlightened, or he hopes so anyway.


Ron said...

CL is a bit dated, but it still sucks less than anything else out there. The only language that even comes close in terms of low suckage factor is Python.

The CL community is quite active nowadays, and the library situation is vastly better now than it was even just a few years ago. And the language is malleable enough that you can pretty much mold it to your own liking no matter what that is. (See http://rondam.blogspot.com/2010/02/new-and-improved-lexicons-now-50-lexier.html for a rather extreme example.) The only thing that is truly difficult to add is strong typing, but that's a moot point for you.

I'd recommend snarfing a copy of Clozure CL and Quicklisp. If you run into any snags drop me an email. I'm happy to help people learn CL.

(If there are any CL programmers out there reading this and interested in joining a startup please contact me. I'm looking for a technical co-founder. The company is still early enough that it could be a CL company if I can find the right person.)

Deliberate Klaus said...

A kind offer indeed, thank you.

I installed Clisp already, but I'll check out Clozure and Quicklisp too.

Anonymous said...

We've had a Revolution and a Civil war wear we have killed plenty of our own country men (and i highly doubt the nonexsistence of German and Japanease citizens that showed a greater loyolty to blood than soil and were killedas a result). I consider the country extremly lucky to have had those wars carried out with little involement of the courts leaving us without legal precedents giving soldiers the restrictions of cops and COPS THE LICENSE OF SOLDIERS. What i do find troubling is the lack of demarcation a declaration of war provides and what groups we let into this country to receive citizenship.