Friday, July 18, 2008

(Our) Joy and (Their) Pain

The banners said it all. While the Lebanese terrorist organization and political party, Hezbollah, was celebrating the return of several prisoners long held by Israel in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in the summer of 2006, a giant banner proclaimed: "Israel is shedding tears of pain. Lebanon is shedding tears of joy" (quoted in the Chicago Tribune).

This is the logic of terrorists. Conflict is to be resolved by raining terror and pain on your enemies. You experience joy, in their pain. As Philip Bobbitt discusses in his important new book, Terror and Consent: The Wars for the 21st Century, this logic is proclaimed by nations as well as terrorist movements. Indeed, the same logic was expressed by Isreali's as they celebrated the mass bombardment of Beirut in the 2006 war, and by the United States when it celebrated "shock and awe" over Baghdad in the spring of 2003. In both cases, the results have been more cycles of pain.

The choice facing us is not between states and terrorist organization, but between a logic of terror (our joy, their pain) or a logic of mutual recognition and reconciliation. This is the logic that is today represented by global human rights. That movement alone offers a serious alternative to the logic of terrorism.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Criminology and the War on Terror

Scott Shane reports in today's New York Times, that harsh interrogation techniques used by the US at Guantanamo and elsewhere during the war on terror, may have been derived from a 1957 article analyzing Chinese methods of inducing false confessions by US POWs in North Korea.

The link raises troubling questions. Why were techniques considered examples of Communist perfidy adopted by America? Why were methods associated with "false confessions" used in an effort to produce true intelligence?

Less salient but intriguing to your jurisprude is the fact that the author of the original article was Albert Biderman, a sociologist and criminologist whose extensive published work on crime rates, policing techniques, and victimization during the 1960s remains widely known to contemporary scholars of criminology and socio-legal studies. (To read the original 1957 article click here).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The high cost of complaining

Some say that government is remaking itself in manner of the private sector when it comes to being highly responsive to the citizen being "served". If so, the model clearly does not fit well in the criminal courts, at least not for the accused. In California this week a judge sentenced man to over a millenium in prison (1,330 years to be precise) for 11 felony counts of lewd acts with a child (he had molested several girls between 1999 and 2005). While his sentence was made longer through the use of multiple victim enhancements that are part of the armory of recidivist laws prosecutors have available, perhaps his most costly "crime" was his behavior in court.

According to radio station KTLA, as reprinted in the LATimes:

Today a judge sentenced Williams to a record-breaking, 1,330-year prison term after the defendant verbally attacked the credibility of his former attorney, the prosecutor and the judge.
Williams, whose emotional displays ranged from pounding on the table to crying, spent more than 15 minutes criticizing the way his trial was handled.