December 12, 2013

"Why should we continue to care about Guantánamo?"

A student asked Linda Greenhouse on the last day of the law school course she taught on the sole topic of Guantánamo. She doesn't mention that the law school is Yale, which is the most difficult law school to gain admission to and therefore the one with the most elite set of students. Odd to think that someone who got into Yale and elected to take a course dealing solely with Guantánamo — it can't possibly be a required course — endured the experience to the last day and still asked why should I care?

I wasn't there, so I don't know the tone of the question. Greenhouse gives the context the student presented — "the Guantánamo population has shrunk even as urgent human rights crises that place many more people at risk have erupted in other parts of the world" —  and characterizes the question as "deliberately provocative and not entirely rhetorical." Greenhouse informs us that the class was provoked to "lively" "conversation" that "quickly" produced "consensus."

Of course, the intense activity of devoting a law school semester to one legal problem needs to make sense in the end. Simple human defensiveness could explain the quick trip to consensus. Why did we take this course instead of Information Privacy Law or Law and Regulation of Banks and Other Financial Intermediaries or whatever else might have captured our hearts on Yale Law School's rich menu of course offerings?

Here's how Greenhouse, in her NYT column, phrases the consensus:
We care because the Guantánamo saga isn’t only about the 162 men still held there, or the hundreds who have come and gone. It’s about the health of our own institutions, our own commitments. We look in the mirror of Guantánamo and see ourselves.
From "isn’t only about the 162 men" I gather that the students got weary of caring about those 162 men. If they are the 162 who are left, they are there for a reason. Bush put them there, but Obama has kept them there. Must we really go over and over the question of whether it all was done precisely right? And then you see it: the place of refuge from this nagging doubt about whether these 162 men deserved all this elite law study.

And that place is: ME! This is about ME! This is US! This is WHO. WE. ARE. Ah, relief. So I haven't been staring for months into the dismal stories of 162 shady-but-perhaps-procedurally-abused characters. I've been staring into a mirror at myself. Ah! The relief! It was about me!

That was where the elite students quickly found relief from provocation. I suspect that practically any particular legal problem can support the claim that it's really about the legitimacy and principle of the entire legal system, so the quick consensus position — to me, seen from a distance — feels more like evidence of the students' desire to free themselves from the anxiety of having paid a semester's worth of attention to something they believed they would care about, because they liked the idea of being the sort of people who do care when others do not care, but then they saw that they did not really care at least not quite that much.

And then the relief comes, and it has sufficient resonance with the original choice of what to study: I am studying myself caring about the people I wanted to believe I cared about. I've been looking into the mirror to see if I care, and I must now see that I care, or it doesn't make sense to have chosen to stare for months into a mirror to see if I care. I do care. I care about me caring.

45 comments:

tim in vermont said...

Obama's solution: Quick bullet to the head on the battlefield, or drone strike, or whatever, and problem solved. Why didn't Bush think of that?

Quayle said...

Let me add the Woody Allen/Annie Hall subtitles:

"I do care."

[Ah, that restless, empty and flat feeling in my heart, the one always tending toward depression, seems to have subsided a bit.]

"I care about me caring."

[Oop, there it is back again.]

rhhardin said...

The problem is that mirrors don't reverse left and right.

They'd reverse top and bottom too, if they did.

They actually reverse front and back.

gerry said...

Tuition is how much per credit hour for this drivel?

Matthew Sablan said...

Was the thrust of the question really: "Why should I care, now that Obama is the president?"

Matthew Sablan said...

[Obviously not, by the way, since she would have signed up this year for the course, or at latest, last year. That was badly employed sarcasm.]

virgil xenophon said...

Yet EVEN MORE evidence that an Ivy League degree of ANY KIND isn't worth the paper it's written on. A certificate of completion from a welding school has more intellectual heft and rigor.

JRoberts said...

I've read W's book "Decision Points" and I felt he made a pretty good case for "Why GITMO?" - not that his critics would ever give him credit.

paminwi said...

I'm just glad we are not going to hear about the GITMO huunger strikes anymore. Showing my callousness for those folks: I don't give a shit whether they are or are not eating. We have coddled them with all kinds of things they don't deserve and wish we could still play Brittany Spears all day, every day in the their "cells".



Freder Frederson said...

If they are the 162 who are left, they are there for a reason. Bush put them there, but Obama has kept them there. Must we really go over and over the question of whether it all was done precisely right?

For someone who doesn't hesitate to point out Obama's incompetence and won't rest until you get satisfactory answers to "Benghazi!", you are remarkably unconcerned about this subject.

Must we really go over the question of whether Benghazi! was done precisely right?

John said...

I can see the question as legitimate even though I have no idea of the details of what was taught in the class. Here is one hypothesis:

Student needs an elective course.

She has been hearing about Guantanamo for more than half her life, all of her teen and adult life. Probably negatively and she does worry about it. Perhaps she even cares(tm) about it.

The class may be interesting and may give her ammunition to fight the injustice she cares about.

At the end of the class, she decides that the prof has not made a good case for injustice.

Hence the question "Why should we care?"

Perhaps now the student realizes that the folks in Gitmo are bad people and there is no better alternative than keeping them there.

I see this as a positive outcome.

John Henry

SGT Ted said...

She's a leftist lawyer. She hates America because it isn't a Communist nation, run by people like her.

Guantanamo was about demonizing the USA and the leftists own effort to delegitimize the war effort as mere "criminality", all to benefit Islamic terrorists who share a common cause with the leftist lawyers who flocked down to Cuba to defend actual war criminals held there; they too are at war with their America.

That's why Guantanamo, which is run according to ordinary, everyday doctrine written to be in accord with the Geneva Convention and the US Law of Land Warfare, was conflated with the Civilian Criminal Justice system as "cruel and unusual punishment".

Lefty lawyers are politically corrupt liars who violate their oaths for their own agenda of replacing the US Government with a Communist style one. The only reason they care about Guantanamo is that it's an opportunity to indict America.

chrisnavin.com said...

You'd think law students at Yale would have developed the analytical skills necessary to measure the levels of Greenhouse gas.

They're capable of deciding to join the Borg, or just go forth with a little collective light in their hearts.

raf said...

"I care about me caring"

The most succinct description of the left-wing American philosophy I have ever heard.

Michael said...

Freder: Why do you put quotation marks around the name of the town Benghazi? Would you be satisfied if the Secretary of State came forward to tell us that Gitmo was closed when it was not closed? Would you be in the slightest bit offended by such a lie? Perhaps not. But there are people who believe that Benghazi was not just mishandled but that a gigantic lie surrounded it for political reasons.

Freeman Hunt said...

"For now we see into a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know myself even as also I am known by myself."

Scripture for a new age.

jacksonjay said...


Gitmo remains open so Saint Barry the Self-Righteous can use it as a cudgel against Congress and Bush! Teaching this bullshit at Yale keeps the Bush hate alive!

I agree with Tim in Vermont! If Barry really wanted to close the place he would implant GPS devices and then drone they ass, after their release!

YoungHegelian said...

I suspect that the class "quickly reached consensus" because the offending student figured out sooner rather than later that unless "consensus" was reached Frau Professor Greenhouse was going to fuck him/her over royally on the grade.

Robert Cook said...

Actually, many of the 162 left in Guantanamo languish there for no reason at all, or, more frankly, to save the US embarrassment. Many of them have been cleared for release, but continue to be held there year after year.

Why should we care?

Because we continue to impose unwarranted and unlawful punishment on men who have not only not been proved guilty of any crimes, but who have actually been given clearance for release yet who remain imprisoned.

The hunger strike in Guananamo that was much publicized earlier this year was committed by these prisoners cleared for release but still languishing in prison.

Isn't this exactly the kind of travesty of justice and inhumane treatment for which we have always castigated our enemies? If America citizens had been kidnapped by North Korea and held there under these circumstances, we would long ago have threatened--and perhaps initiated--war against them.

The Drill SGT said...

SGT Ted said...
She's a leftist lawyer.


Actually she's not. She's a reporter who covers the SCOTUS. She is "In Residence at YLS" teaching quishie course on GITMO

No Law degree or Bar passage. Just a 1 year survey course at Yale 25 years ag.

Curious George said...

It's been close for...what...four plus years now? What difference,at this point, does it make?

Big Mike said...

Is incarceration of Taliban and Al Qaeda combatants on a remote corner of a Caribbean island less preferable as far as Greenhouse is concerned than the present administration's preference for killing alleged Taliban and Al Qaeda combatants -- and everyone around them -- with Hellfire* missiles?
__________
* Turns out to be a very appropriate name for the weapon. Raining Hellfire from the skies on enemies, alleged enemies, their wives and children, neighbors, children come over to play with the alleged enemy's children, dogs, goats, etc., etc.

tim in vermont said...

Robert Cook,
Why don't they just try them with the same tribunals that sentence drone targets to death, then drag them out of their cell to Che's garden wall, and put a bullet in their head? Problem solved in a couple of weeks and we won't hear hardly a peep out of the liberals, I am guessing, based on their response to the drone war going on now.

William said...

I don't think that one hundred years from now the incarceration of these prisoners will be considered the defining civil rights violation of our era.........The Napoleonic Code was considered a great step forward in equality before the law. Instead of some women, chiefly aristocrats, having some property rights and other women none, the law was reformed so that all women equally had no property rights.

MnMark said...

Turns out to be a very appropriate name for the weapon. Raining Hellfire from the skies on enemies, alleged enemies, their wives and children, neighbors, children come over to play with the alleged enemy's children, dogs, goats, etc., etc.

If you are fighting a war, and you aren't fighting it on a battlefield in a uniform and in accordance with the Geneva Convention, then it behooves you not to spend time around your family or other innocent people, because they are quite likely to be casualties when your enemy - your remarkably restrained enemy - tries to kill you.

mccullough said...

I don't care what Greenhouse has to say about Gitmo.

Joe said...

For me, Guantánamo is a symbol of the hubris and folly of foreign military involvement. It has echoes of the "War on Drugs" and other moral imperatives where the solution of "Lock em up" has no resolution.

tim in vermont said...

It has become obvious over time that Bush's choice of remanding battlefield prisoners to Gitmo was the honorable choice, given the bad choices available. I am just saying this out loud, because I am not sure our resident lefties understand that point.

elkh1 said...

We care about Guantanamo because Greenhouse needs a pay check.

'the class was provoked to "lively" "conversation" that "quickly" produced "consensus."'

Mafiosos produce consensus even quicker.

Discussion with an agenda-driven instructor is pointless if one needs credits for the class.

dbp said...

Indeed, why should we care about Guantánamo? After all, it has been closed since the first year of Obama's presidency.

What? You say! Not closed? Well, I distinctly remember Obama saying he would close it and what really is the difference between saying and doing?

Robert Cook said...

It has become obvious over time that Bush's choice of remanding battlefield prisoners to Gitmo was the honorable choice, given the bad choices available. I am just saying this out loud, because I am not sure our resident lefties understand that point."

You seem to not understand the fact that most of those who have been (or are still) imprisoned at Guantanamo were not "battlefield prisoners" at all, but merely hapless victims caught up in our dragnets or turned over for bounty money by opportunists or people with grudges against the accused, or victims of mistaken identity.

And, given that we invaded Afghanistan, even actual "battlefield prisoners" are not necessarily or simply defined as "terrorists" but may be simply people fighting to repel foreign invaders from their land...as Americans would do if we were invaded by foreign forces.

Robert Cook said...

Tim in Vermont,

Do not mistake me for someone who favors Obama or approves of his program of mass murder by drone.

Obama is a war criminal and mass murderer just as Bush is.

tim in vermont said...

The sovereign leader of Afghanistan, Mullah Omar, approved the 911 attacks and supported them. We didn't start the war, they did.

tomtildrum said...

Somehow, I'm guessing that Greenhouse never mentions to her class that the Obama administration tripled the population of the prison at Bagram and left open the torture site there.

tim in vermont said...

When was ever there a war that was executed with perfect justice in all particulars?

The obvious answer is not to fight them at all, for to fight a war is a war crime.

If it only weren't for us Americans who insist on keeping alive the institution of war there would be no war. This is obvious by even a cursory reading of the texts of our own Robert Cook.

Basil said...

Robert Cook, we invaded their country because their government, the Taliban (perhaps you have heard of them, they have been in the news some lately) attacked our nation, through their proxies, Al Queda (have you heard of them?) on September 11, 2001. We were retaliating against them for what they did. We did not wake up one day and invade Afghanistan. When the Taliban and Al Queda surrender, these folks will be released, unless we release them sooner. Also, you conveniently ignore the recidivism rate for these "farmers".

Robert Cook said...

"The sovereign leader of Afghanistan, Mullah Omar, approved the 911 attacks and supported them. We didn't start the war, they did."

We started the war. Those who attacked us on 9/11 were not Afghan citizens but were mostly Saudis, and the training and planning of the attacks took place in other countries around the world, including here in America.

I don't know where you learned or have seen proof Mullah Omar "approved" the 9/11 attacks. Do you mean he approved of them after they occurred, or that he gave official approval that they be carried out? If the former, that doesn't warrant our invasion; if the latter, please provide proof that is so.(When asked by the United States to surrender Osama bin Laden to us he asked for evidence linking bin Laden to the attacks. We never provided him any such evidence.) Would we extradite an alleged criminal to another country without supporting evidence of his guilt? Should we?

Even assuming for argument's sake your allegation were true, does this mean all the citizens of Afghanistan--leading their own lives completely separate from the plotting and acts of terrorism of the stateless criminals of Al Qaeda--are guilty of and responsible for 9/11 and we are therefore justified in making war on them?

"...we invaded their country because their government, the Taliban...attacked our nation, through their proxies, Al Queda...."

Al Qaeda were not proxies of the Taliban.

Ambrose said...

If a Republican is sworn in as president in 2017 and Gitmo is still open (and why wouldn't it be), I expect a lot of people will start to care a whole lot.

tim in vermont said...

"Let the rain of airplanes continue!" - Mullah Omar.

Biff said...

Theory is much prettier than messy reality, which might suggest that graduates of elite law schools are, on average, more suited for the academy than for actual governance.

Ann Althouse said...

"For someone who doesn't hesitate to point out Obama's incompetence and won't rest until you get satisfactory answers to "Benghazi!", you are remarkably unconcerned about this subject."

I was obviously imagining what the students were thinking!

Are you playing dumb? Because that was dumb of you, Freder.

Ann Althouse said...

"Because we continue to impose unwarranted and unlawful punishment on men who have not only not been proved guilty of any crimes, but who have actually been given clearance for release yet who remain imprisoned."

So, this is directed at the students, I take it. You disagree with the consensus explanation they reached? In your view, they should care about those individuals? If I'm reading between the lines correctly, they did not.

Also, you seem not to get that these are detainees in a military conflict, not the accused in a criminal proceeding. What do you want done with prisoners of war when the war is ongoing?

RecChief said...

actually, what bothers me the most is that they "quickly found consensus" with Greenhouse's statement

John Lynch said...

When abstract reasoning loses touch with results it ends up like this.

People who want to close Gitmo need to create an alternative, and justify it. I know that Robert Cook and people like him have a solution: close it and release everyone. That's a solution and has a result we can weigh and judge. I think this is the only real alternative available and we should take it seriously. Here's why:

Most liberals mad about Guantanamo don't have a solution to the problem of what to do with the inmates. Either they refuse to offer a solution up for criticism or their solutions are unworkable.

If the inmates are prisoners of war then we can't use the US criminal justice system to try the prisoners, because it would violate international law (the Geneva Conventions forbid prisoners of war to be tried in civil courts).

If they are not prisoners of war, then they lose all protections of the Conventions, and liberals don't want to do that. That was Dick Cheney's position.

Also, there's no political will to change the status quo, anyway. The President could simply close Gitmo, but he won't do that because he's unwilling to face the consequences. Robert Cook is exactly right to criticize the President for failing to do what he promised to do despite having the power to do it.

Congress won't support any alternative because they want to be reelected. The voters don't want any of these men released because they are dangerous and we're all still mad about 9/11.

So, it stays open.

Robert Cook said...

"Also, you seem not to get that these are detainees in a military conflict, not the accused in a criminal proceeding. What do you want done with prisoners of war when the war is ongoing?"

Show that the "war" is justified and purposeful and is not merely a murderous, pointless, criminal boondoggle. Prove that the prisoners were actually combatants against us, and not people snatched at random, or victims of mistaken identity, or human bounty sold for profit to the United States. Define the terms and objectives of the "war" so we and they can know when they might one day be freed.

Release those who have already been cleared for release but who continue to imprisoned. Pay reparations for the majority who were held (or are still being held) for no legitimate reason...who never had any connection to any terrorist groups or acts of terrorism against us.