Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Notes from all over

What does a life sentence mean?

Berlin, Dec. 20 -- The German government disclosed Tuesday that it had freed a Hezbollah member who had been convicted of hijacking a TWA airliner in 1985, allowing him to return to his native Lebanon despite long-standing requests from the United States to hand him over for trial. ... Hammadi served nearly 19 years of a life sentence for air piracy, possession of explosives and the murder of Robert Dean Stethem, a U.S. sailor from Waldorf, Md. Stethem, a passenger on board TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome, was singled out for brutal treatment by the hijackers because of his military service.

For some, a life sentence is, for all its defects, the preferred alternative to the death penalty.

Dec 21, 2005 -- Hundreds of people have gathered for the funeral of executed former US gang leader Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and rapper Snoop Dogg were among those to attend the Los Angeles service. ...  He said: "Tookie is dead. We're not safer, we're not more secure, we're not more humane."

Who is being judged?

 "A nation reveals itself, not only by the people it produces, but also by those it chooses to honor." -- John Kennedy

Let's hear it again from Albert Camus.

"On the day when crime puts on the apparel of innocence, through a curious reversal peculiar to our age, it is innocence that is called on to justify itself."


The Lebanese blog YaLibnan, and the mainstream media too, are suggesting Germany traded Hammadi for Susanne Osthoff, a German archaeologist and convert to Islam who was critical of the 'looting of antiquities' after the fall of Saddam.


Blogger sam said...

More on Hammadi:

Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration who oversaw efforts to extradite Hammadi in 1987, said German authorities threw obstacles in the way of U.S. prosecutors at that time and only reluctantly cooperated.

"They were not open at all," she recalled. "We knew he would be released early, way back then."

Hijacker Released

12/20/2005 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger usually mellow said...

Politics trumping justice and the rule of law.

These prisoners are mere pawns in someone else's game of chess.

The victims of these criminals are easily forgotten.

12/20/2005 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

While I'll believe it when I see it, according to the AP: US: We will hunt down released Lebanese hijacker

12/20/2005 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...


I just posted my take on your last post the tight rope--and your extended comments.

12/20/2005 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

These prisoners are mere pawns in someone else's game of chess..

these prisoners are nothing but sub-human garbage.

this specific one was not arrested for the TWA issue, he was arrested 2 years later trying to smuggle liquid explosives on another flight....

personally, public viewing of a hot lard bath, then burial in a nice pig's skin is a perfect PUNISHMENT for the scum.

Personally i dont give a hoot if the world cares for me, i care to live...

12/20/2005 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

His Euro sentence was not a real life stretch. And he hasn't paid his due yet to America for murdering a serviceman and hijacking one of our planes.

But that said, I'd rather see us focus on creating a freer Lebanon than churn shit up over there looking for one guy. It will be nice to get him one day, but getting Syrian influence out of Lebanon and working terms with Hezbollah to be more constructive trumps bagging Hamadi for now. Let him look over his shoulder and fear the day when an Arab in our hire does him in with a bullet or bomb.

12/20/2005 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger usually mellow said...

These prisoners are mere pawns in someone else's game of chess..

these prisoners are nothing but sub-human garbage.

I share your setiments. My choice in words may be masking the severity of their crimes, but the larger point is this:

The Germans used this guy as a bargaining chip for something and hence...his release.

Tookie's impending execution was used as a platform to further 'various notions' about society and race relations in America.

Both were used to further someone else's agenda trampling on the victims and the legal system at the same time.

A previous post here by Wretchard alluded to (essentially) the notion that once justice is subverted to political whims and agendas, justice becomes meaningless.

12/20/2005 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

I saw this over at the ACE of SPADES. It reveals the fallacy of "life imprisonment" as a method of keeping killers off the streets. In many instances the killers behind bars attract more criminals to their cause who then perpetrate an other crime (say kidnapping) and get their buddy killer freed. This is a win win for the killers.

Hence, not only did the killer get freed he is now free to kill again.

I will say the Germans were in a bind and per EU SOP knuckled under. This is a form of appeasement that will have negative consequences for years to come. If the thugs were able to get their buddy freed using kidnapping - they certainly will try this method again.

As for the AP's story, I agree with Utopia: "I'll believe it when I see it." That is not to say that there are not some sharp Navy Seals around who could do the job. We will just have to see.

12/20/2005 10:33:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Ledger, they have a couple of spares in the area.

12/20/2005 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I think Hammadi's release underscores why the War on Terror cannot be won entirely by arms. I've often said that the problem with September 11 was not that it happened, but that it happened where it couldn't be ignored. It tipped over rocks from which the worms are still emerging. And the fattest worm of all is what many in the West were too afraid to say on September 12: they were so glad America was struck in the face.

12/20/2005 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Some bloggers, like QuickRob are calling for Hammadi's kidnapping if the US can find him. Others note, quite correctly, that this is precisely the kind of lawless behavior that the US has been accused of.

I noted in the past that whenever you took the moral high ground you had to accept there was a price to pay. You can't say "no torture" or "no to kidnapping" and then change your mind when it is your son or daughter who is at stake. It's always someone else's son or daughter that is at stake. A really principled stand against "illegal behavior" means that you have to watch the enemy get away. Somehow people get the impression that morality comes for free. Uh-uh. One must choose and not complain.

12/20/2005 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

Mike H. they have a couple of spares in the area.

Yep, and I hope they are put to action.

12/21/2005 02:01:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


Choose and not complain? Huh? No way, not going to happen. Choose and complain.

In the winter we are too cold (at least us in the upper midwest and similar climes) in the summer too hot. Satisfaction is way too fleeting.

Anyway this fits in very nicely with the idea the human rights crowd are not stopping with the death penalty but rolling right onto life sentences.

It also fits in with the idea if justice is just paid lip service then people will start to pursue justice on their own.

If Europe wants a true world government then it has to give up the idea that it dictates the form of that government.

12/21/2005 03:37:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...

"Somehow people get the impression that morality comes for free. Uh-uh. One must choose and not complain."

Wrong! The issue here isn't mere morality but justice and the rule of law. If germany wants to start compromising it's enforcement policies then it loses ot's credibilty as a state.

I say germany must be punished for not upholding her responsibilty to victims of crime. They are no longer our allies but clearly now our adversaries.

12/21/2005 05:24:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Marcus Aurelius,

One unpleasant facts facing a person under interrogation, with the choice of betraying his friends and enduring pain, is that if he wants to keep his self respect he has to endure pain. The reason heroes and saints are so rare is that it's expensive to be heroic; it requires extravagant courage to be a saint. Just read the medal citations and the Lives of the martyrs to be convinced of that.

So to anyone who says 'fight cleanly without torturing the enemy or wiretapping without a warrant to keep my soul' I will say two things. First, bully for you. It's a worthy goal and I would no more make fun of that aim than ridicule Damien of Molokai or Audie Murphy. Second, I will say, remember it's going to be expensive. I don't think its contradiction or discouragement as much as the truth.

12/21/2005 05:32:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Soldiers returning from active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, even those without any medals to speak of, have endured dangers that people don't face in ordinary life. The reason their service is recognized is because it definitely wasn't free. It came with risks attached. It came with hurts attached.

There will be people who will promise something for nothing. Who will say you can have perfect safety and no inconviences. No more 9/11s. No more airport searches. Those people are sometimes called demagogues. Others will say "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat." The same man said, "Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey; hardship
our garment; constancy and valor our only shield." That man was called Winston Churchill and the electorate threw him out in 1945 just as soon as Hitler was defeated. And in a way, justly so.

12/21/2005 05:55:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff M said...

The plot thickens.

Captain Ed reports that Hammadi has been detained in Lebanon and may face extraditon to the US:


12/21/2005 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I think it is quite possible Hamadi was not traded for Osthoff. I also think it is quite possible Germany paid a ransom for Osthoff.

12/21/2005 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Good comment Jeff. Your theory of European ransom makes sense. It's happened before, in the Sahara and in the Philippines. Still the bottom line is that Hamadi is wandering the wide world and Steham's dead. And the Germans released Hamadi. The world doesn't always make sense.

12/21/2005 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...


Oh, absolutely. That the Germans would consider releasing this guy is yet another sign of the problems the Euros have, and are going to have, in facing the Islamic threat growing within their own borders.

They let the wolf in the door already, and they are going to have a hard time getting him back out again, these attempt at appeasement notwithstanding.

12/21/2005 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

wretchard writes:

"Some bloggers, like QuickRob are calling for Hammadi's kidnapping if the US can find him. Others note, quite correctly, that this is precisely the kind of lawless behavior that the US has been accused of."

The US has an internationally-recognized right to try Hamadi for air piracy.  Laying hands on him in a lawless part of the world may be criticized by the left, but it would get us respect from quarters where respect is important (i.e. not Europe).

12/21/2005 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Karl said...

What is a life sentence?

Well, 19 years is a good long life span for a dog. It's several times the life span of a ferret. It's 165 times the life span of a honeybee, and some 500,000 generations for E. coli bacteria.

Maybe sentencing judges need to be more specific. Let's sentence terrorists to a "life sentence" equal to the lifespan of a redwood tree.

12/21/2005 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Why try him?

Best solution would be to have him capped quietly.

Yeah, I know the show of a trial points out to everyone the US will go and get him but the last thing we need is more cameras for Ramsey Clark (on second thought putting his idiciocy on display may be a good thing).

Yes Wretchad, I get the point that a lot of the time in the debate on spying and torture people completely miss the concept of cost-benefits analysis. I blame Benjamin Franklin for the (IIRC it was Franklin) who said those who give up liberty for security will get nor deserve either. So many people then take that as gospel and do not see the debate in terms of cost vs. benefit.

The point I am trying to bring out is if most people complain because its what people do. Most people don't understand the implication of freedom is they bear the costs of their choices all they want is benefit and when they are exposed to cost or lack of benefit they complain.

Its going to be a tough job getting the left used to thinking that way, though we should try.


IIRC a life sentence in WI means 30 years. I mentioned that to my wife and she was stunned she thought it meant one leaves prison in a hearse. However there are all sorts of ways for lifers to do less than their 30 years.

G'night all.

12/21/2005 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger PhilippinesPhil said...

So Hammadi got out after 19 years and that stinks. I can't say I'm surprised considering where he was held, but if you're American and you object to this seeming lack of a full measure of justice, don't start throwing stones from within your glass house. Our own system is flawed to the core when it comes to letting off criminals, unjustified paroles, and early releases. I lost faith in the US system when OJ walked, and I really thought someone would have "taken him out" by now too, just as some are calling for some back alley justice for Hammadi some day. Hold not your breath.

12/22/2005 12:22:00 AM  

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