Thursday, April 12, 2007

Repent, Or Else

The AP reports that Singapore is holding 39 terrorist suspects indefinitely and without trial. Even the list of suspects is apparently secret. I thought Guantanamo Prison was the worst place in the world? Now maybe Singapore will be condemned by the United Nations for Human Rights violations. But somehow I doubt it because I equally doubt whether Singapore gives a damn.

Singapore is holding 39 people for involvement in terrorism and espionage, the government said Monday. Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng told Parliament that the 39 are being held under the Internal Security Act, which allows for arrest without charge and indefinite detention without trial.

And none of them are apparently going to see daylight again unless they are "rehabilitated".

Three others were released after cooperating in the investigation and being rehabilitated, Wong said. ... "Several of them continue to hold on to the core JI belief that Muslims and non-Muslims cannot live in harmony. They also believe in the establishment of an Islamic state through violent means," Wong said. "Rehabilitation, including religious counseling, for these detainees is ongoing. Their cases are regularly reviewed."

I wonder what Mahatir in neighboring Malaysia thinks of all that. He always has an unkind word for Israel and America. But then again, there's a special set of rules for judging America and Israel and totally separate book for evaluating the rest of the world.

One of the most interesting features of the world political terrain is the existence of media masking. Simply put, there are things countries outside the media limelight can do which countries in the spotlight can't. Recently, the Ethiopian Army responded to an attempted Islamist urban uprising in Mogadishu. The Ethiopians were poorly equipped for precision strike. They had very few smart weapons capable of minimizing collateral damage. They had nothing American troops had. But they had something American troops will never possess, the ability to simply apply as much indiscriminate brute force as deemed necessary. By all accounts the fighting devastated Mogadishu and while the Ethiopians were briefly criticized by Human Rights monitors it is doubtful that the charges will stick, simply because accusations against poor blacks don't sell newspapers or help liberals get elected.

If one were to name the most brutal urban war in a Muslim nation, the three battles of Grozny must rate as far and away the worst. It was taken twice by the Russians and retaken once by the Chechens amidst destruction literally rivalling Stalingrad. Back and forth over a period lasting more than half a decade. On one New Year's Eve alone, the Russians lost an entire mechanized infantry brigade -- 120 APCs, 26 tanks, every man and the regimental commander too -- the Maikop brigade, and the press barely even noticed.

But although the Russians have a reputation for being crazy, nobody ever said they were stupid. If Russians were allowed brutality Moscow reasoned that Chechens would be allowed even more. They drew the obvious conclusion. Today, the Chechen war is in its Third Phase and being fought in part by Chechen Muslim mercenaries on behalf of Moscow, and their brutality against fellow Muslims is probably unsurpassed. The way in which the political terrain works is that Americans and Israelis are held to a high standard, Singapore to a less and Russians to a lesser. And down the ladder it goes. By the time we get to Ethiopians the expectations are low indeed. By employing Chechen Muslim mercenaries the Russians have ensured that Human Rights monitors have no expectations left at all. Men like that are beneath the lowest rung of the ladder. They are already subterranean, on the staircase to hell.

This creates a bi-modal regime, or if you prefer, a "forward slope" and "reverse slope" in which facilities like Guantanamo Bay attract all the political fire, while Changi prison or some Chechen stockade is totally masked from criticism. Once this is understood, it is readily comprehensible why some detainees at Guantanamo Bay would do anything not to be released -- when that means being returned to Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Jordan.

The hypocritical Human Rights establishment is directly to blame for this hideous state of affairs. In a kind of reverse triage, their priorities are to find human rights abuses where they are least likely to be found and ignore them where they are most common. In his study of why so few prisoners were taken on some battlefields in World War 2, Niall Ferguson observed that when taking prisoners became an encumbrance in places like the jungles of Papua New Guinea, for example, they were simply shot. With food short, nobody wanted to share rations with men who only moments before were trying to kill their captors. One of the policy questions regarding any regime governing the "rules of war" is whether they do not in fact create an incentive to kill prisoners by making the standard for the treatment so high that there is either an incentive not to take them or bury the evidence. In Chechnya at least, the question is probably already answered.


Blogger ElMondoHummus said...

Well, Wretchard, Human Rights Activists remind me of the story of the drunk searching for his keys in the light of a lamppost. When asked why, when his car was not nearby and he probably lost them elsewhere, he replies "Because this is where the light is".

Anyway, no: I don't see the condemnations taking up anywhere near the time and press that any accusation against the US does. These groups do far less searching where the probability of finding violations is high and do far more looking where the ease of access to information is. And that's the way they've always been.

4/12/2007 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

Citing a Gresham's Law of human behaviour, we not only second Marshal Wretchard's concerns but foretell that field forces in any close-in combat will revert to primitive sooner than let so-called "rules of war" endanger their survival.

Recall the scene in "Breaker Morant" when British forces capture Boer guerillas and execute them on the spot. Muslumps of course would indulge vicious sadism first... but who are we to criticize devotion to Allah the merciful, the compassionate?

As in Chechnya, much of this is already stuffed under the rug. When endemic non-State conflicts become insufferable, we predict that governments will privatize defense as in the past. Letters of Marque and Reprisal, anyone? Big bucks there, for Crips 'n Bloods with attitude.

4/12/2007 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Someone needs to define the difference between a prisoner of war and a kidnap victim. The dreadful Palestinians are currently demanding the release of hundreds of terrorists in exchange for a couple of kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

Were the British sailors prisoners of war and spies as claimed by the Iranians, or kidnap victims as claimed by the UK and US?

If Singapore has not declared war on anyone, I'm wondering what laws they're being held under, and what test do they have to pass to be released.

Or maybe the problem is just that the concept of "war" is outdated as we go about the ever-more engaging activities involved in killing each other.

4/12/2007 03:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

I don’t know why Americans and especially the Bush administration don’t daily point out the cheap grandstanding and double standards of the morality merchants, or at least stop apologizing for ourselves at the point of a finger. Some self-doubt and criticism is healthy, but the constant rebukes from partisans both here and overseas and American orgies of self-questioning are enervating and detract from our constructive global efforts. Everybody loses, of course, not the least of whom are the victims of real oppression, torture and abuse around the world. But the merchants make next to nothing off of them, and so they’re largely ignored.

My daughter, who is en route to Singapore this evening on business, was told that chewing gum will get her arrested over there. Not sure if it’s true, but sure hope it breaks her of the habit.

4/12/2007 04:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Congrats on your 14 million visitors Wretchard.

Great post - It's crazy how Russia is outsourcing brutality to avoid human rights groups.

4/12/2007 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger doolz said...

From the post title, I assumed this was going to be about Global Warming!

4/12/2007 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Harrison said...

As a Singaporean, I must admit that the government is simply continuing its agenda of justifying harsh measures on the grounds of national security. Having recently pored through considerable material regarding Singaporean history post-independence, the ideology of vulnerability and the nurturing of the besieged mentality among citizens has been a constant fixture of domestic and foreign policy. As such, the UN is unlikely to criticise Singapore when it seems hypocritical to deny such a physically small country among a sea of Muslims its inalienable right of sovereignty.

4/12/2007 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


The Israelis argue precisely the same thing. That they have the right to defend their little patch because they are so vulnerable. The argument used to work for the Israelis back in the 1950s, maybe. But that was before they beat the living daylights out of all Arab comers. And now people figure that Israel, being so much more competent, ought to spot the Arabs a handicap, like they do in golf.

The USA, being orders of magnitude more powerful than Israel is supposed to give its enemies an even greater handicap. It is often asserted that the suicide bomber is moral because it is the "poor man's F-16", and one should just smile indulgently if Hamas goes and attacks the kindergarten or daycare center because after all, he would stand no chance going up against the IDF outpost. But against a daycare center or Israeli supermarket, well that's "fair". America, being bigger, is supposed to shrug off 3,000 dead in Manhattan and just concentrate on "healing". Not unleash the US Armed Forces on the miscreants. That's disproportionate. No. It should be all like 18 holes between friends and a drink at the clubhouse.

Somewhere in the Human Rights manual there's this little book of compensatory factors they use in their moral scale. Amazing when you think about it, really.

4/13/2007 12:59:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston2 said...

Since I was a logistics officer in the Marine Corps I was unlikely to deal directly with the POW capture vs. kill question...but one advantage of being retired is I can write some thoughts.

If I were in Iraq today, with the catch & release policy (necessitated by prison limitations) I would keep quiet when no prisoners were taken. If appointed as an investigating officer, I would go through the motions, nothing more.

[While I'm totally for fire discipline -- shooting unarmed civilians is heinous -- anyone who takes up a weapon puts his/her life on the line.]

Please know that killing prisoners is directly in contravention to USMC training and policy. Nonetheless, to me any guy/gal not wearing a uniform has no Geneva protections (screw policy). Further, non-uniformed combatants are arguably spies and can be shot on the spot.

Conversely, if the terrorists took prisoners and did not torture them, I would do the same. This SHOULD be our policy. I believe most Americans would understand -- the liberals be damned. As stated by Wretchard and others, the double-standard exceeds any conceivable "goodwill" benefit
(and any "intelligence value" -- we have too many prisoners to interrogate properly, not too few). Of course, we get nothing but ill will from liberals and can expect nothing more.

4/13/2007 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In nature a scorpion could sting a lion
a small bite but powerfully toxic
Why should the cat with powerful paws
Refrain from batting it off it?

4/13/2007 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger The Wobbly Guy said...

Jane-Nah, chewing gum isn't illegal. What's illegal is actually selling it.

We're an uptight bunch here in S'pore. Wish we could lighten up a bit more, but hey, can't have everything in life.

As for human rights activists... well, quite a number of pragmatic S'pores think they're a bunch of wussy do-nothings who can't understand how the world is run.

4/16/2007 05:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wobbly Guy,

Yes, her ridiculous teeth-whitening, breath freshening gum was confiscated at Customs going in. She’s enjoying her week there, working and buying lychees and jewelry at the market in her off-time. Remarked on how quick to smile everyone is. Feels safe there. Loves the "sultry" humidity and "schizophrenic" architecture of at least the part of town where she's staying. (Can she say that?!)

4/16/2007 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

They are not in favor of "human rights" nor opposed to torture, they are simply anti-American and anti-Semitic. The later because they have always been anti-Semitic, the former, because the US killed their cherished dream of the Soviet Utopia.

4/17/2007 11:16:00 AM  

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