Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Disappearing Act

B: Diana called me this morning.

ID: I smell a segue.

B: She wanted me to remember that today is the Day of the Disappeared; it’s actually the first, although the UN has had a working group monitoring the issue since 1980. Specifically, the disappeared are people who have been taken by governments.

ID: It’s hard to see where anyone could take issue with that. Oh. Wait. Isn’t that basically a veiled criticism of Guantanamo Bay?

B: Please don’t knee-jerk about this. This is so much bigger than our extraordinary rendition program. It’s so much larger than our one nation.

ID: Okay, that wasn’t a bad side-step. But now I’m asking you, flat out, what you think of Guantanamo and the black sites. Do people in those facilities qualify as the disappeared?

B: This isn’t about our government. It’s about all governments. It’s about all people, everywhere. It’s about all of us, deserving due process.

ID: So basically it’s a way for you to blow the one world government while giving the finger to our anti-terror programs, at the same time.

B: All right, I can see you’re like a puppy with a bone.

ID: Is that some kind of autofellatio joke?

B: I’m ignoring you so I can answer your slightly less obnoxious question, about Guantanamo. Speaking as an American, I think the most important thing is to try and live by our ideals. That means trials, even for terrorists. That means not torturing, and not quibbling over the definition of what that is. It means making sure the people we have are actually guilty of the crimes we’re holding them for.

But as the Batman… it’s grayer. Through that lens, I have one, overarching goal, making innocent people safer. I’ve captured the Joker a dozen times- but I haven’t always had enough evidence for a solid conviction. Thankfully, with someone like him, having him involuntarily committed is simple enough- and the handful of convictions we have gotten on him are enough to ensure that he’ll be locked in Arkham the rest of his natural life.

ID: Provided they can hold him.

B: Which is a side issue. Terrorists… we may not have enough to convict them. And they’re people arguably as dangerous as the Joker. It’s possible that people like that need to be a separate, special case, that maybe the existing criminal justice system can’t work in that situation. And for the first year, or two, after 9/11, you could make the case that we didn’t have a process in place, that we were caught unawares and we had to improvise with the laws we had on the books at the time.

But it took five years before the Military Commissions Act was passed- and only then because the Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfield ruled military tribunals unconstitutional. Even then, the Act’s suspension of the writ of habeus corpus was struck down as unconstitutional- because it very specifically contradicted what the suspension clause is all about. The founders had escaped a monarch who abused the court system to stamp out his dissenters; the writ is about challenging that kind of detention.

ID: So you take issue that the government operated extralegally? Isn’t that fundamentally hypocritical, from a man who went outside the law to fight crime. From a man who broke the law, and did some of the things you’re criticizing? Torture, unlawful kidnapping and detention.

B: Maybe. It could be. Ben Franklin, one of the founders, said consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, after all. But I think not. I think that what I did was different. I think that what I did, I did to enhance the law- to help it do the things it couldn’t. Maybe there are areas where the government shouldn’t operate, but private citizens should.

But the difference I see is Gitmo and the black sites are the opposite of what I did. They epitomize the concept of government refusing to work within its own rules; maybe that’s the salient difference. I was working outside someone else’s rules; while the government was breaking its own. And if we can’t keep the government from breaking its own rules, then we’ve opened the door to dictatorship.

So we were disturbingly close to being one of those unaccountable governments who do disappear people in the night- maybe for a while we were. But I think this is one of those things that validates the American experiment. Our executive branch overstepped, and the judiciary shot them down. The legislative branch overstepped, and the judiciary shot parts of that down. But at the end of the day, with all three branches weighing in, I think we reached an imperfect but workable compromise. I’m still not happy about Guantanamo, but I don’t think it’s a black hole we toss our enemies anymore, either.

But all of this is a side issue. There are still thousands of people internationally unaccounted for. And that’s the ones we suspect have been taken by governments- not at all touching the issues of human trafficking, slavery. Diana’s right, that this is important. We may not have a forum with millions of listeners, but it’s the forum we have. This is absolutely worth paying attention to, worth donating, to the UN, to Amnesty, to the Red Cross. Aside from making a sizeable donation myself, I’ve been consulting with the UN OHCHR,

ID: Were you having a seizure there, or was that an acronym?

B: Acryonym. The Human Rights Council, who have jurisdiction over the disappeared. I have some experience man-hunting- even internationally. I’ve got some experience as a detective and a forensic tech. Unfortunately, a lot of the disappeared are dead, but it’s rewarding work. And it lets me stretch my mental legs.

But finally segueing back to our look at the women I’ve loved, I thought we’d talk about Zatanna. Because she’s a magician- you know, who disappears.

ID: I would have gone with the obvious, “Wonder Woman called me this morning,” but whatever, it’s your dime.

B: But in honor of Zatanna, I figured I’d use a bit of misdirection.

ID: Clever.

[ed. note: I’m carving this up into two segments due to length and girth, and posting the second part Saturday, or earlier, if I feel like it]

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