Terror on Trial – WSJ

An excellent piece on the subject of putting terrorists on trial.  As we continue to await the trial of KSM, it is worth contemplating the differing perspectives on what a trial like his will look like.

Expect to hear a lot about Nuremberg in the months ahead. The war-crimes trials of leading Nazis, begun in that German city in 1945, will form an important subtext as we approach the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of 9/11, and his associates. The pretrial proceedings at Guantánamo may start as soon as March.

Since 9/11, America’s attempt to balance justice and national security has drawn protests both at home and abroad. Some of the criticism has been fair, but much of it ignores the dilemmas that any administration would face in dealing forcefully with 21st-century terrorists who, unlike the defendants at Nuremberg, have not yet been defeated. Few things are harder for democracies than to render justice to enemies whose aims are both irrational and non-negotiable.

The trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be historic. It will address not just a group of thugs but the enduring human phenomenon of evil. Mutable and persistent, evil has not been discouraged by the progress of reason or the taming of nature. Evil reinvents itself in every age and is reinvigorated by mankind’s inevitable immaturity. Like the fascist ideology that the democratic world fought in the 1940s, the dogma of al Qaeda (and of the extremist Shiite dictators of Iran) is despotic, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and nihilist. Like the Nazis, they cannot be appeased.

On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama invoked Nuremberg. He had studied the tribunal in law school and referred to it in the context of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Boumediene v. Bush, which gave Guantánamo detainees the right to challenge their detention in federal court. Mr. Obama praised the opinion and linked it to the respect for due process, which he said, Nuremberg had exemplified. “During the Nuremberg trials, part of what made us different was even after those Nazis had performed atrocities that no one had ever seen before, we still gave them a day in court, and that taught the entire world about who we are.”

To which the most appropriate response is—up to a point. The top Nazis captured in 1945 were indeed given “their day in court.” But that court was a unique military tribunal, created specifically for the circumstances after V-E Day. The defendants were far better protected than they would have been in any Nazi court (or Soviet court, for that matter), but they certainly did not enjoy the rights of defendants in the U.S. The idea that top Nazis should have the same protections as those afforded to Americans by the U.S. Constitution never occurred to the jurists devising the rules for Nuremberg.

To some, Nuremberg will always be an example of “victors’ justice.” I believe that view is wrong and that the tribunal (where my father, Hartley Shawcross, was the chief British prosecutor) was a necessary and successful exercise of law. At Nuremberg, our civilization developed a vehicle to anathematize men imbued with evil.

Justice Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor and the architect of Nuremberg, put it well when he spoke of the regime that the accused at Nuremberg had served: “Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.”

The scale and nature of the threats from fascism and Islamist extremism are different, but that same problem persists today. In trying both to prevent further atrocities by Islamist extremists, and to deliver justice to those detainees suspected of such crimes, President Obama has found himself, like President Bush before him, faced with decisions that test our ideals. He has been forced to shed many of his preconceptions.

On Sept. 30, 2011, drones high above Yemen targeted a car carrying Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Islamic preacher—and an American citizen. A Hellfire missile killed Mr. Awlaki and another American jihadist travelling with him.

Mr. Obama said afterward that the successful attack, coming less than five months after the killing of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six, was “further proof al Qaeda and its affiliates will find no safe haven in Yemen or anywhere around the world.”

The decision to use a drone to kill American citizens in Yemen was a remarkable turnaround for a politician who had criticized almost every aspect of the “war on terror” waged by his predecessor in the Oval Office. But by fall 2010, it did not come as such a surprise. By then Mr. Obama had also authorized military trials (which he once condemned) to take place in Guantánamo (which he had promised to close).

There is no question that Mr. Awlaki was a remarkably dangerous man. Born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents in 1971 and largely educated in the U.S., he spoke mellifluously and possessed a deep understanding of Western popular culture. His sermons were designed to encourage individual Muslims around the world to launch “lone wolf” attacks against all “infidels” and to persuade American Muslims to rise up against their government.

Over the Internet, Mr. Awlaki personally instructed Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, the American Muslim soldier who murdered 13 of his colleagues and wounded 30 more in a rampage at Fort Hood in November 2009. He helped to train the so-called “underpants bomber,” Farouk Abdulmutallab, who came close to blowing up a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

In 2010, Mr. Awlaki started to groom a British Muslim, Rajib Karim, who worked for British Airways, and instructed him to place a bomb on a flight to the U.S. Mr. Karim was arrested before the plot went far. Later that year, Mr. Awlaki’s group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, managed to get two bombs, disguised as printer cartridges, onto cargo planes bound for U.S. They were discovered and defused en route.

By this time, the U.S. government had decided that it had enough evidence to designate Mr. Awlaki an active terrorist threat who could be targeted. As the administration argued, over the protests of human rights groups, Mr. Awlaki was playing an operational role as part of the enemy forces covered by the legislation authorizing the use of military force that Congress had passed immediately after 9/11. Mr. Awlaki had made no attempt to surrender, and the U.S. was not able to arrest him.

As for the idea that his citizenship should give him protection from attack, it is worth recalling that in the case of Nazi saboteurs arrested in the U.S. in 1942 (the case of Ex Parte Quirin), two of them were U.S. citizens. They were nonetheless convicted and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. citizenship of “an enemy belligerent does not relieve him of the consequences of belligerency.”

Since 9/11, drones have provided a vast revolution in warfare. They have multiplied, as missile platforms and observers, and their technology is still rapidly advancing. Soldiers can now launch drones from backpacks, and the Pentagon is experimenting with drones the size of dragonflies.

Such technological developments raise new questions about the relevance of the Geneva Conventions, whose interpretation has dominated the waging of the war on terror. P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert in robotic warfare, points out that the Conventions were last effectively updated in 1949, at a time when the 45-rpm vinyl record was a hot new invention. The old laws, he argues, are struggling to keep up with high-tech weapons “like the MQ-9 Reaper, which is being used to target a 21st-century insurgent who is intentionally violating those laws by hiding in a mosque or a civilian house.”

Mr. Bush used drones sparingly to attack terrorism suspects. He is said to have feared the inevitable accusation of war crimes. By the time he left office, there had been just 44 drone strikes over five years, according to the New America Foundation, all of them in Pakistan. They are thought to have killed some 400 people.

After taking office in 2009, Mr. Obama swiftly expanded the use of drone attacks on suspected Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then in Somalia and Yemen. Drone strikes in Pakistan grew from 33 in 2008, Mr. Bush’s last year in office, to 53 in 2009. Altogether, there have been more than 240 drone attacks in Pakistan since the beginning of 2009, with a death toll of more than 1,300.

The remarkable thing about the president’s reliance on drones is how little protest, until recently, it has aroused. Waterboarding may be deemed an abuse of a terrorism suspect’s rights, but an attack by a Predator drone results (in the Vietnam-era phrase) in “termination with extreme prejudice.”

Public acquiescence in these aerial killings demonstrates the way in which political and moral judgments can be driven by perceptions of personality and politics. But even Mr. Obama’s honeymoon had to come to an end. His policy of killing suspects rather than detaining and interrogating them has come under increased scrutiny, and not just in the case of Mr. Awlaki.

John Bellinger, the former legal adviser to the State Department, argues that one of the Bush administration’s biggest mistakes was neglecting to secure international support for its novel counterterrorism policies. Unless Obama is careful, Mr. Bellinger says, his drone program could “become as internationally maligned as Guantánamo.”

“The trial of Khalid SheikhMohammed will addressnot just a group of thugs butthe enduring humanphenomenon of evil.”

As a senator and a presidential candidate, Barack Obama criticized almost all of Mr. Bush’s decisions in the “war on terror.” Two days after his inauguration in January 2009, he ordered Guantánamo shut within a year, and that November his attorney general, Eric Holder, insisted that the main 9/11 suspects at Guantánamo, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would be put on trial in federal court in Manhattan.

Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, argued against acting ‘ambiguously or indecisively.’

Since discovering the complexities of fighting Islamist terror, Mr. Obama has abandoned many of his earlier positions. In March 2011, he signed an executive order allowing terrorist detainees to be held indefinitely at Guantánamo. He also agreed that the base’s recently constructed courthouse should be the venue for the military tribunals that he had set out never to allow there.

Brig. Gen. Mark Martins is to perform the task that Justice Robert Jackson did at Nuremberg. He was appointed last June by the secretary of defense to be the chief prosecutor of the military commissions, which were reformed by act of Congress in 2009.

This was, by all accounts, an inspired choice. A former infantryman who has thought deeply about the history of military tribunals, Gen. Martins recently won widespread praise for his work as commander of the Rule of Law Field Force in Afghanistan.

In some ways, his task is even more daunting than that of his illustrious predecessor in 1945. Jack Goldsmith, a former Bush-administration lawyer and the author of “The Terror Presidency,” says that Gen. Martins faces a much more difficult task in legitimating the tribunals than Justice Jackson did at Nuremberg.

For his part, Gen. Martins pointed out recently, in a speech to the American Bar Association, that the military courts, as now reformed, “incorporate all of those fundamental guarantees of a fair and just trial that are demanded by our values.” Anyone accused in them enjoys far more protections than the Nazi defendants had in 1945—indeed, more than in many respected criminal justice systems around the world. Anyone convicted also will have the ultimate safeguard under American law—the right of appeal, all the way to the Supreme Court.

Why not, then, just use the federal courts to try terrorism suspects? They can be used in many cases, Gen. Martins says, but military tribunals are more appropriate, in certain cases, for the trial of non-U.S. citizens who fight in no uniform and without obeying the rules of war—”unprivileged belligerents.”

While giving great protection to defendants, the rules of military tribunals also accord more protection to the government those defendants are accused of seeking to destroy. The rules prohibit the use of statements obtained as a result of torture, or of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, but they take into account the challenges of intelligence-gathering in wartime operations overseas, do not require soldiers to give Miranda warnings to captured enemy forces, and allow an occasional hearsay statement, when it is the best available evidence from a now unavailable witness and the interests of justice are best served by considering it.

Referring to Nuremberg, Gen. Martins says that the new military tribunals cannot “make decisions to please the public or the Congress. Like our forebears, we are compelled to step back from ‘victor’s justice.’ This is what the rule of law is about. Sometimes various people or interests will not be happy. But in the end we can only do the right as we see the right…and trust that our efforts will stand the test of time.”

***

All wars involve choices between lesser evils. In a 1973 essay, the philosopher Michael Walzer described the politician who decides that he has to authorize torture to save lives. “His choices are hard,” Mr. Walzer wrote, “and he pays a price not only while making them but forever after.”

The Bush administration’s early post-9/11 decisions on Guantánamo and “enhanced interrogation” of some detainees (three were waterboarded) are believed to have provided life-saving intelligence, but each proved costly to the reputation of the U.S. Mr. Obama’s decision to kill many terrorism suspects rather than interrogate them has certainly disrupted plots and saved lives. But it carries similar costs.

This continuing crisis is not of America’s making. It stems in large part from the struggle within the Muslim world for the soul of Islam, of which the most brutal manifestation is the pitiless campaign of mass murder waged across the world by al Qaeda and its associates, most often against fellow Muslims.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, America’s commitment and sacrifices have been essential to the world’s ability to resist the forces of nihilistic aggression. That was certainly true in the war against fascism, and it is still true today. Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama has had to learn the hard way that, as the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr warned, “we take and must continue to take morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.”

—Mr. Shawcross’s new book, “Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11 and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” will be published next week by PublicAffairs. His previous books include “Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict” and “Murdoch: The Making of a Media Empire.”

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Why do lawyers get depressed?

I thought this would be something interesting for my lawyer friends to read.  Do you agree with the author? 

Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist and proponent of “positive psychology,” observes that lawyers experience depression at rates that are 3.6 times as high as that of other employed people. They also abuse alcohol and illegal drugs at rates above what’s seen in non-lawyers. Why is this? In part, he says, the law selects people with a glass-half-empty attitude. His research has found that people who score low on an optimism test do better in law school. “Pessimism,” he writes,

is seen as a plus among lawyers, because seeing troubles as pervasive and permanent is a component of what the law profession deems prudence. A prudent perspective enables a good lawyer to see every conceivable snare and catastrophe that might occur in any transaction. The ability to anticipate the whole range of problems and betrayals that non-lawyers are blind to is highly adaptive for the practicing lawyer who can, by so doing, help his clients defend against these far-fetched eventualities. If you don’t have this prudence to begin with, law school will seek to teach it to you. Unfortunately, though, a trait that makes you good at your profession does not always make you a happy human being.

To counter unhappiness in law firms — and more than half of all lawyers say they are dissatisfied with their jobs — Seligman proposes letting people spend five hours a week on tasks that play to personal strengths that are not always appreciated by the profession. The list of such qualities, however, is enough to make you run in the opposite direction from law school. “Take Samantha’s enthusiasm,” he writes, “a strength for which there is usually little use in law …”

Oy. His proposed solution is to have Samantha “work with the firm’s public relation agency on designing and writing promotional materials.”

Of course, it would be substantially cheaper to have communications professionals do the same work, which gets to the heart of the problem. Lawyers are well compensated for the work that makes them miserable. To the extent they move away from the work that is their firms’ bread and butter, the less they warrant the high salaries that offer (some) recompense for their unhappiness. Seligman offers more-plausible examples of ways that tasks in firms could be reshuffled to reduce the drudgery: Give an associate with a great deal of “valor” a break from drafting briefs and have him team up with a star litigator, for example, to prepare for an upcoming trial.

But surely such exciting work is in short supply; everyone would like the task Seligman mentions. I can’t help but be pessimistic about the prospects of reducing lawyerly negativity.

A little bit of Justice

With the release of terrorists in exchange for Shalit, the emotions we experienced were complicated.  However, I just came across a blog post that indicates that those terrorists who murdered American citizens (and I assume those who were accomplices) can be tried by the US courts. 

America Can Prosecute Terrorists Freed by Israel

by Nathan Lewin

On August 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi, a member of Hamas, drove a suicide bomber to the Sbarro restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem, where the bomber blew himself up, killing 15 people including Judy Greenbaum, an American citizen from New Jersey. On March 5, 2003, Abigail Leitel, a 14-year-old Baptist schoolgirl born in New Hampshire, was killed, along with 14 Israelis, by a suicide bomber who exploded a bomb on a Haifa bus.

Three Hamas members — Fadi Muhammad al-Jabaa, Maedh Abu Sharakh, and Majdi Muhammad Amr — plotted that deadly attack. On September 9, 2003, a Hamas suicide bomber slew seven people — including American citizens David, a doctor, and Nava Applebaum, who was his daughter and was to be married on that day — at Café Hillel in Jerusalem. Ibrahim Dar Musa helped plan that bombing.

The perpetrators of each of these murders of Americans violated American criminal law and could be prosecuted in American courts. Yet all of them are now free and living in Jordan or Gaza because Hamas demanded that they be released from Israeli prisons in exchange for Hamas’ release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who Hamas captured and held in captivity for more than five years.

Since the Antiterrorism Act of 1990, it has been a capital crime under American law, punishable by “death or imprisonment for any term of years or for life, or both,” to “kill a national of the United States, while such national is outside the United States.” A conspirator in such a crime can get up to 20 years imprisonment. No statute of limitations precludes prosecution of old offenses.

Another law, passed in 1994, made it a federal crime to use an explosive bomb “against a national of the United States while such national is outside of the United States.” In 2002 Congress authorized prosecution in American federal courts of anyone who, with criminal intent, injured “a national of the United States” outside the United States by detonating “an explosive or other legal device in, into or against a place of public use” or “a public transportation system.”

Prosecutions have been brought in American federal courts against individuals responsible for bombings that killed Americans in the Philippines, Colombia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Many of the individuals accused of these crimes were brought here for trial following their extradition, on the request of the United States, from foreign countries. American prosecutors have not, however, charged the Hamas perpetrators of bombings in Israel such as the 2001 and 2003 bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa, even though American citizens were murdered in these attacks. They have relied on the Israeli legal process to arrest and punish the perpetrators.

Tamimi, al-Jabaa, Sharakh, Amr, and Dar Musa were prosecuted and convicted in Israeli courts. They and other perpetrators of these murders received either multiple sentences of life imprisonment or long prison terms. Until they were released by Israel’s government under duress in order to bring Gilad Shalit home, they expected to spend the rest of their lives in Israeli prisons. They are now free in Jordan or Gaza.

The Department of Justice should now indict, extradite, and put to trial in United States courts, under American law, these killers of American citizens. Jordan has an extradition treaty with the United States that covers all offenses “punishable under the laws in both Contracting States by deprivation of liberty for a period of more than one year or by a more severe penalty.” A conspiracy to commit such an offense is also covered by Article 2(2) of the treaty.

No provision of any extradition treaty should preclude bringing these criminals to justice in the United States. The Jordan treaty bars extradition for “political offenses,” but it would be hard to claim that the mass terrorist killings of civilians in Jerusalem and Haifa were only “political offenses.” At the least, Jordan should be put to that test.

Nor could Jordan or any other requested country invoke the bar against double jeopardy that appears in many extradition treaties to prevent second punishment after a criminal prosecution for the extraditable offense has been conducted and fully carried out. That provision obviously does not prevent extradition of a fugitive who flees a country where he has been convicted in order to avoid imprisonment. It also should not prevent extradition if, by some other unlawful means such as Hamas’ extortionate demand, the criminal process is aborted.

Congress’ objective in enacting the provisions authorizing prosecution of such crimes in United States courts, even though they were committed elsewhere, was to insure that those who murdered American citizens like Judy Greenbaum, Abigail Leitel, and the Applebaums would not be able to avoid just punishment for their crimes. That goal can now be realized only if the United States Department of Justice takes prompt and effective action.

Mr. Lewin is a Washington lawyer who was a federal prosecutor and served as deputy assistant attorney general in the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The pot calling the kettle black

The Washington Post has an article telling us that Al Qaeda is questioning the legality of the US decision to kill Awlaki.  To me, this just smacks of humor.  I am not sure there are any words for the absurdity of this comment.  Unfortunately, though, it is this rhetoric which furthers Anti-American feeling in much of the world. 

Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen has confirmed the deaths of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, the young American propagandist killed alongside him in a U.S. drone strike late last month.

Al-Qaeda has also criticized the Obama administration for killing U.S. citizens, saying doing so “contradicts” American law.

“Where are what they keep talking about regarding freedom, justice, human rights and respect of freedoms?!” the statement says, according to a translation by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist Web sites.

The Obama administration has spoken in broad terms about its authority to use military and paramilitary force against al-Qaeda and associated forces, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would find itself hard-pressed to claim the moral high ground in the debate over the killing of Awlaki and Khan.

But the killing of two U.S. citizens has prompted outrage among civil liberties groups, as well as a debate in legal circles about the basis for the administration’s position.

The Washington Post’s Peter Finn reported after the strike that Awlaki’s killing had been authorized in a secret Justice Department memo, a revelation that later prompted senior Democratic senators and scholars to call for its release. Over the weekend, The New York Times quoted people who have read the document as saying that the memo found it would be lawful to kill the cleric only if it were not possible to take him alive. The memo, the Times said, was narrowly drawn to the specifics of Awlaki’s case.

 

 

Among those who have raised legal objections to the strike: Samir Khan’s family in Charlotte, N.C.

In a statement, the family said that, Khan was a “law-abiding citizen of the United States” and “was never implicated of any crime.”

“Was this style of execution the only solution?” the family said. “Why couldn’t there have been a capture and trial?”

Khan’s relatives also described themselves as “appalled by the indifference shown to us by our government,” saying they had not been contacted by a U.S. official.

After the release of the statement, the Charlotte Observer reported, an official from the State Department called the family last week to offer the government’s condolences.

“They were very apologetic [for not calling the family sooner] and offered condolences,” Jibril Hough, a family spokesman, told the Observer

May The Brain Death ‘Controversy’ Die A Dignified Death,Rabbi Aaron E. Glatt, MD

May The Brain Death ‘Controversy’ Die A Dignified Death,Rabbi Aaron E. Glatt, MD.

For any of you who have read this op-ed, did you also feel a sense of anger after?  For anyone following the brain-death controversy, this particular opinion piece misses the boat completely.  The argument that many are floating against the RCA relates to how we should relate to the morality of giving and receiving organ donations in light of the psaq that brain-death isn’t a clear cut decision of the moment of death.  Instead, Rabbi Glatt has to get into a whole piece about the non-democratic nature of psaq, which seems completely irrelevant.  Besides, as a Rabbi once shared, no halachic argument can be made in the vacuum of the Beit Midrash.  If the argument cannot hold muster in practice, then the argument is not a true representation of the halacha. 

This controversy does not, and cannot, have a simple scientific resolution, despite what anyone may claim. Science does not and cannot answer metaphysical questions. The definition of death according to science is, however, open for debate and can change by popular vote of the appropriate academies or respective legislative bodies.

On the other hand, halacha is immutable, although its ramifications, based upon the available facts, may change. The “halacha lema’aseh” may in fact be different today than years ago for many issues, because of technological advances and/or better understanding of the problem. Halachic analysis requires taking the best scientific evidence available and using the halachic process to provide “lema’aseh” answers to real questions posed.
 
Based on this unbiased straightforward approach, indeed the only possible current resolution to the brain death halachic controversy is “Ailu ve’ailu divrei Elokim chaim.” There simply is no overriding clear-cut halachic reaction that all gedolim agree is the correct lema’aseh response. And that is the one incontrovertible fact that seems to be forgotten amid all the tumult. Therefore it is very sad for me to see this beis midrash “controversy” itself take on a life of its own…
 
Not every person (or rav) is entitled to a halachic opinion. Having knowledge in one area of science or halacha does not automatically provide expertise in another area. How much more so (kal va’chomer), then, the need for individuals to refrain from proffering opinions on matters about which they are not qualified. And the vast majority of Jews are simply not qualified to render a halachic opinion on brain death.

 
A very undemocratic viewpoint, I know, but one I heard echoed many years ago in a class by a great rabbi. One of the students commented that the Taz appeared more correct to him regarding a particular halacha. The Rav quickly responded, “The Shach is not losing any sleep” because you agree with the Taz.
 
One cannot simply vote and count up how many people think or feel a specific opinion is correct in the brain death controversy – it is an exercise in futility, even if all the voters have the title Rabbi or Doctor in front of their name. While politicians may do this (“acharei rabbim lehatos” in last week’s parshah), it does not mean we should poll the electorate and pasken accordingly.

One more issue is his misuse of aharei rabbim lehatot, for it does refer to majority decision making.  While it is true not everyone gets a say, it doesn’t mean halacha is not “voted” on and that the majority decision wins ala Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai as seen in Mishnayot Shabbat.

9/13 – 9/14 reads

First Blood

Sometimes conspiracy theories are not so far-fetched.  It seems that Meir Kahane might have been the first event in the current history of Al-Qaida terrorism on US soil.  This essay describes some of the history of the beginnings of Al-Qaida and its connections with the group that assassinated Kahane.  Very fascinating and very scary at the same time. 

The imam behind the New York mosque enjoys his megaphone

The author’s premise is that the Imam is causing his own bad publicity by trying to continuously make the argument about the value of his institution being built near Ground Zero.  I have said much on the subject in previous posts, so I will leave the editorial to speak for itself. 

Pastor Terry Jones, as right as John Brown

An interesting editorial, for the author, Richard Cohen, argues that Terry Jones, while wrong for wanting to burn the Quran, should also be defended as expressing his freedom of speech and expression.  This is an interesting debate in its own right, as to what constitutes the limits of the freedom of expression.  Yet, I think Cohen has one thing clearly correct.  An America in which one cannot express himself because of fear of repercussions is not a free America.  Nevertheless, as I have already written, the burning of religious books, regardless of the religion is overstepping the boundaries. 

How will al-Qaeda mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11?

We should not be so complacent as to believe nothing will happen again.  Many Americans think we are nearly as safe as we were before 9/11.  I think we have short memories.  Be that as it may, this editorial is a reminder of all the failed and successful terrorist plots.  By definition, a terrorist plot doesn’t have to succeed to be a terrorist attack.  The failures also strike fear, for they can be seen as the what ifs.  This is in contrast to another recent editorial, Post 9/11: we’re safer than we think.  Zakaria argues that we have all but neutralized Al-Qaida and should feel safer today.  As such, perhaps we should back off the war on terrorism.  Yet, if we slow down, we might allow for the rebuilding of the radical movements.  Besides, Al-Qaida isn’t the only one and to quote a figure of 400 might be underestimating the number of sleeper cells that had been in place. 

The Golem of Prague & The Golem of Rehovoth

This small essay was originally published in Commentary.  It can also be found in Scholem’s The Messianic Idea in Judaism.  First off, this is quite an interesting comparison of robotics/computers and the ancient idea of the humanoid fashioned by man.  I particularly like the point by point comparison at the end.  In 2010, man has created an artificial form of speech for this machine, almost one-upping the old Golem stories.  Yet, it is not human speech so much as processed speech from human writing.  Also, Scholem sees ahead to our days, when computers are sleek and attractive, taking up little space.  For more about the idea of Golem, see The Golem: Universal and Particular.  The notion of the Golem is found in different forms throughout literature and mystical thinking.  It is another form of humanity believing it can have “control” over the elements.   

Who’s Bluffing: Abbas or Netanyahu?

The evidence is clear that the peace process is again doomed to failure.  The reality is that until the Arab governments accept the legitimacy of Israel being a Jewish country, peace isn’t possible.  The Israeli government, for better or worse, is willing to discuss trading more land for peace, but they require the recognition of the state as a trade-off.

Book Review – The Value of Human Life

There are many topics which tend to remain in the world of the elite or the learned.  One of these is Jewish Medical Ethics.  A recent book came out which I believe will allow those not as versed in the subject to get a good sense of how halacha confronts modern medicine.  Feldheim published The Value of Human Life, which contains articles from a Jewish medical ethics conference held in Italy in 2008.  All the usual suspects are represented, such R. JD Bleich and Professor Avraham Steinberg.  The essays cover topics regarding infertility, organ donation, end-of-life care and also two essays on general issues of taking care of oneself during life.  The book is sparsely footnoted, which makes it easily readable (for those who want more in depth discussion, this book is not the primary source).  One of the more fascinating stylistic points of the book is that they kept the essays in a similar format to the actual presentations, including stories, references to other talks, etc.  I would recommend people read this book to get a feel of the questions that would need to be asked and investigated if, G-d forbid, people should confront the harshness of life.  While I don’t agree with all the opinions presented, it is important to know debate exists, and the authors tend not to give definitive answers so much as the questions needed to be investigated. 

As a healthcare chaplain, one of the more neglected elements is that families don’t know how to be advocates for themselves, speaking up when something doesn’t seem appropriate or right.  Some of this is due to lack of informedness.  If I don’t know, I can’t know what questions to ask.  I always find myself in the role of patient advocate, teaching patients and families that they have options and choices they can request from the healthcare provider.  Obviously, there is a limit, but the limit is not as narrow as sometimes presented.