Obama and Counterterrorism: A Timely Conference

by Julian Ku

The Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation have put together a timely conference on Counterterrorism and the Obama Administration.  It starts at 9:00 a.m. next Thursday, May 28 at the Capital Visitor Center in DC.  I have a feeling it won’t be entirely supportive of the Obama Administration policies, but at least it will benefit from the insights of Opinio Juris blogger Deborah Pearlstein and guest blogger Benjamin Wittes.   I certainly wish I could go, but I’ll be out of the country during this event. Our DC OJ readers should check it out!


19 Responses

  1. It’s good to see that they have the usual suspects (Rivkin, McCarthy) and others together on the panels and happy to see TWO count them TWO women!  Now one day a person of color other than John Yoo.

  2. I tangled with Edwin Williamson at the ASIL Council meeting in 2006 on the adoption of the Centennial Resolution on law of war and detainee treatment.  I suspect the “policy differences” crowd will be out in force.  I hope someone there speaks strongly and firmly about criminal prosecution of the high-level civilians and military generals.  If the kids take the fall, so should the so-called grownups.

  3. Ben,

    I think its three women. 

    It is so interesting when leftists discount the voices of conservative “persons of color” as somehow inauthentic. 

  4. Ben,

    The organizers of this event went out of their way to provide ideological balance from the left and the right.  The panels include leaders from the left, including Mike German and Jonathan Hafetz of the ACLU, Gabor Rona and Elisa Massimino of Human Rights First, and Deborah Pearlstein of Princeton.  It also includes well-known leaders from the right. 

    I really fail to see why you find it so difficult to recognize and compliment the hard work of organizers of conferences such as this who succeed in offering ideological diversity on such a sensitive topic.

    Roger Alford

  5. Roger,

    The reason is that Ben’s complaint isn’t about ideological diversity.

  6. Humblelawstudent:

    Yes I know, but I have never heard Ben Davis explain why conference organizers should not focus first and foremost on ideological diversity. 

    Would he, for example, prefer a conference on affirmative action in which every single panelist speaks from the same perspective, despite the fact that there is gender and racial diversity? 

    Having organized dozens of panels for many different organizations, I can assure Ben that ideological diversity is one of the principal objectives of almost every committee that organizes conferences, with gender, racial, age, and geographic diversity typically a secondary objective.

    And of course Ben appears to assume that every person who is invited to speak always says yes.

    I challenge Ben to offer a slate of high-quality panelists for a conference on counterterrorism that includes ideological diversity and meets his other diversity criteria.  Let’s see what he can come up with that does a better job than what these organizers have come up with.  I seriously doubt he can do so.

    Roger Alford    

  7. Hi, nice posts there 🙂 thank’s for the interesting information

  8. Well I suppose that Ben’s misgiving might be better understood by considering how much “intellectual diversity” warrants including actual criminals or those who might incite, aid, or abet crimes on such panels….

    [comment edited by OJ]

  9. It would be nice to see ‘ethnic diversity’ as well. Can’t they find a Muslim and Arab lawyer and human rights activist? Sheesh

    You’re right Charles,  intellectual diversity would include a freed DETAINEE PERHAPS? 

    Anyway I wish I could be there; but I have a prior obligation. 

    Good luck! I hope it is videocast. 


    Sameera Daniels

  10. Julian,

    Something that you and everyone else should understand about me is that there isn’t any political or personal about my project: for seven and half years I have tried to follow the facts and the laws just as objectively and dispassionately as a systems analyst with 30 years of experience. One of my principal interests over that period of time has been the various arguments, rationalizations, alibis, etc,  of the apologists. I know your arguments inside out, and I have yet to hear a single on me that was honest or logically sound.

    If you really think you are justified in editing my comment, then ought to be able to defend your views in an open debate….


    [Comment edited by OJ]

  11. An open debate on the merits Julian —-

    [comment edited by OJ]

    And that’s not anything but a literal statement of fact, the truth and nothing but.

  12. I stand corrected: THREE women count THREE!  Excellent!  I guess I even get grief when I praise progress but get my math wrong.  Rodney Dangerfield must be smiling in his grave.

    I also seek ideological diversity and am happy they have tried to do that.  I have also tried to do that at sessions I organized.  For example, I organized a panel at the American Branch of the International Law Association International Law Weekend in New York in which we asked so many persons that are defenders of the then Bush policies to be part of the panel.  Ultimately, I believe it was David Rivkin who was willing to accept and there was thoughtful discussion.

    I regret if my points on diversity may stick in the craw of some of you but think what it has been like all these years watching Congressional hearings, talking heads on television, etc. and almost uniformly they have been white people speaking and almost uniformly white males at least on what I see.  The only African-American I have seen speaking on this has been a guy named Nance who was a SERE trainer and he is only infrequently seen.  Harold Koh has been the one Asian-American at infrequent times and John Yoo is ubiquitous.  Alberto Gonzales is the only Hispanic American I have seen on either side of the issue.  As to women, we do have general commentators like Donna Brazile for example, but in terms of national security so called  “authoritative voices” or constitutional “authoritative voices” – I rarely see a woman or woman of color on the pro or con of Bush-Obama antiterrorism policies.  Am I missing someone here?  Of the generals, the only one I have seen recently was former Brig Gen Karpinski on Keith Olberman and she was just riveting – just riveting in her blasting of Cheney (“Where were all you heroes when these kids were being court-martialed?”).

    I noted that within that ideological diversity, I would guess Jonathan Hafetz might be the strongest proponent of criminal prosecution for high-level civilians or generals, though I am not certain that the ACLU feels strongly about that. 

    It would be good to have persons from the Muslim-American community involved in these discussions at this level.  For example, here in Toledo is a lawyer named Linda Mansour who is in the trenches of some of these terrorism cases and might shed light on how the hifalutin ideas play out in the concrete world.

    The weirdest thing for me is that I get the sense people think I am a leftist, yet I sense myself being more aligned with the top JAG uniformed lawyers.  I never thought of those types as being leftists but more center or center right.

    Speaking of uniformed soldiers, I hope that all of you took the time to go down to your local Memorial Day parade or at least spend some time thanking those who are serving us.  I started last year – something pricked my conscience about showing respect for all those who have fought for our country – and it is always moving.

    Last year, I wrote a piece after that experience entitled “Memorial Day Memo:  Honor Those Who Stood Up Against Torture” available at http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2008/05/memorial-day-memo-honor-those-who-stood.php

    That may give you a better sense of why I stand where I do.

    I hope someone at that meeting calls for an investigation of the mysterious death of Al-Libi.  Here is a Newsweek piece on that –http://www.newsweek.com/id/197963?from=rss .

    According to this Isikoff article, apparently Al-Libi’s evidence would have been useful in other terrorism trials beyond the torture criminal prosecutions for which many like me have been working for years.  A very fishy “suicide.”  A friend pointed out that maybe the UN should take a look at that since his “evidence” was part of Colin Powell’s presentation to the Security Council to get us into the War on Iraq. 

    I hope someone there will have read Judge Robertson’s opinion in Hamdan last summer that I have mentioned before.  Robertson’s took us back to Chambers v/ Florida in his decision making a comparison that is both jarring and revealing about how that Judge is seeing antecedents for the path that we are on that are not from the better parts of our history. 

    Now, we speak of preventive detention and I hope someone there thinks about it from the point of view of them or one of their friends being preventively detained – not just in terms of some swarthy other who is (of course) the proper object of state power.

    I hope also that someone there will have in mind the diplomats like a friend of mine who are in the Green Zone and who just suffered explosions near them that were terrifying.  We like to look at the uniformed folks, but sometimes forget those folks in the seersucker suits who are not with Other Governmental Agencies but who are actually pretty decent people – like my dad who was in several countries in Africa at tough times (Tunisia, near Algeria during the Algerian War; Nigeria during the Biafran War) may he rest in peace.  Those were also places of my childhood.

    Sorry to ramble if this seems like rambling but this response is what felt appropriate this Sunday morning.

    And Charly Gitting is one of my heroes, because he has been on these issues long before they were cool back right after 9/11 staying strong and providing a wealth of information regularly in his Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions.  THERE is a guy who should be invited to speak at these things – a citizen who has taken his time, who is not on a tenure track, but who just feels this is important to insist upon.  There is the guy who should give the keynote at one of these things.  And, if those there look down their nose at him because his degrees and articles pedigree is not what they aspire to, I hope that they would listen to his heart and mind and be humbled by his faith in America.  That faith is something that the elites sometimes appear to lose sight of (sorry for the syntax).

    Stay strong.  Thanks for allowing me in this space.


  13. Can’t handle the truth Julian??

    Gee, what a surprise.

    [Comment edited by OJ]

  14. I don’t think Professor Davis will be happy until the have a blue left-handed smoke shifter on the panel.

    Just trying to lighten the mood.

  15. Ben,

    When you crassly justify your stance against EITs with an appeal to veterans, you should consider that some of the most prominent vets, who were actually tortured, do not consider waterboarding and other EITs to be torture. (for example, Leo Thorsness and George “Bud” Day — the last I know fairly well.)

  16. Ben,

    I agree with your recommendation to have Charles Gittings serve on a panel. And certainly, to include members of a vulnerable minority, like the American Muslim community. I am perplexed at the reluctance to include the very community that has been most affected. Then again, the politics of human rights communities are a bit of an enigma to me.



  17. Humblelawstudent,
    I recognize I may not be up on what is crass or not crass in the United States at this time, but I fail to see why stating that uniformed soldiers have been court-martialed, served time, and dishonorably discharged for doing the bidding of their higher ups is crass.  That it may be uncomfortable or an inconvenient truth to have it stated so plainly for some may be true, but that is my attempt to write and speak plainly rather than artfully dodge.  I am glad there are two veterans who were tortured who do not consider waterboarding and other forms  (EIT’s! – please do not let the euphemisms of the state delude you as to what it is of which you speak) to be torture.  I want a jury of peers to look at it.  If the jury agrees with the veterans and acquits – so be it.  If they agree with the precedents of which you are aware and with me and convict – so be it.  In a court of law.

  18. Ben,

    Those soldiers who were courtmartialed for torturing detainees were rightfully prosecuted.  We all agree on that. 
    Regarding EITs, if a jury of peers looked at the techniques and concluded they weren’t torture, would you stop calling them torture?

  19. Well if they were rightfully prosecuted, so should the people who set the whole thing up.
    If the jury acquits, they acquit.  How I will feel about it depends on the way they got there.  We all remember the Leipzig trials my friend.

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