Sunday, May 16, 2004

Right-wingers worried about hurting Fidel's feelings

David Rivkin and Lee Casey, two prominent spokesman for the conservative side on the enemy combatant issue, have a ridiculous op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today. Normally, this blog is not going to comment on commentators -- there are too many of them, and it's too easy -- but these guys are prominent enough to make it worthwhile.

The Supreme Court must not allow courts to hear legal challenges to the Guantanamo detentions, Rivkin and Casey argue, because it would violate Cuban sovereignty.

I'm completely serious. And they're normally pretty smart people. Possibly they were forced to publish this article after losing some kind of bet:

Indeed, under both international and U.S. law, an extension of judicial authority in these circumstances would constitute an exercise of sovereignty, since that power (where foreign nationals are concerned) can be exercised only on U.S. sovereign territory. This, in turn, suggests a claim of right comparable to annexation, and would plainly violate Cuba's 1903 lease to the U.S., and a 1934 treaty which extended the original agreement. Further, it would also violate the U.N. Charter, which effectively guarantees the territorial integrity of its member states.

Right-wingers hate to violate the U.N. charter. What they somehow forget to mention is that the very existence of the detention center at Guantanamo is a violation of the lease:
[Article II:] The grant of the foregoing Article shall include the right to use and occupy the waters adjacent to said areas of land and water, and to improve and deepen the entrances thereto and the anchorages therein, and generally to do any and all things necessary to fit the premises for use as coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose.

Somehow I don't think Camp X-Ray qualifies as a naval station. So why this sudden concern that judges hearing cases about Gitmo detentions might violate the agreement and therefore Cuban sovereignty, when we've been violating the agreement for years?
When the time comes for the U.S. to build a relationship with a democratic Cuba, an action that was clearly inconsistent with Cuba's ultimate sovereignty over Guantanamo may return to haunt its efforts.

Oh. Yes, it would really make the rest of the world angry if we were to give the Gitmo prisoners some legal recourse. Sure, there's been an international outcry over the detentions themselves, but what would really get the world -- and Cubans -- angry is if judges were to start meddling in Guantanamo's affairs.

This is like arguing that the Vietnamese were really mad at the US for invading their country and killing lots of people and all that; but what really got them angry was the fact that we prosecuted Lt. Calley for the My Lai massacre.

[Note: I do not believe anything being done at Guantanamo is comparable to the My Lai massacre. It's just a way of pointing out how incredibly dumb Rivkin and Casey's argument is. Honest.]

What is the appropriate response to this kind of argument? Should we all start referring to the newspaper in question as the Wall Street Fungus? I'm open to suggestions.