Thursday, July 19, 2007

Calm rationality in the fight against terrorism

Brian Tamanaha has been discussing the war on terror with academics outside the US.

"Several related points stood out in these discussions:

First, everyone takes the threat of terrorism quite seriously, although a few remarked that on a relative scale there are perhaps greater threats.

Second, most people reject the notion that the fight against terrorism is properly characterized as a “war” (notwithstanding the above named conference). Rather, it is a significant threat to public safety, one which promises to be with us for some time.

Third, following from the second, there is a broad consensus that the response to terrorism should be conducted within standard legal mechanisms, much like any other kind of criminal proceeding, although particular accommodations might be necessary to handle classified information.

Fourth, the use of torture (or “alternative procedures”) in interrogation is unacceptable for moral, symbolic, and practical reasons.

Finally, the people who spoke obviously cherish and take pride in their legal traditions and legal principles, and have a strong conviction that these must not be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism.

We have much to learn from this more sober, but no less serious and determined response to the threat of terrorism. The several British speakers, all too aware of the manifest threat of terrorism, were especially impressive in their measured approach to the problem.

Our government's response to 9/11 was to come out with guns blazing and a "whatever it takes" attitude that too often saw the law as a hindrance. But the law is one of our great strengths. It is time to draw on this strength and normalize the fight against terrorism."

Well said.

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