Jack Kus agrees with a U.S. Army major at the Naval War College -- there are "big advantages" in the current administration's legal doctrines....

By Jack Kus

United for Peace of Pierce County
June 9, 2004

In today's number of Secrecy News, there was an item that made me feel safer, right down to my toes.

It was in a report on documents being made public in connection to this Abu Ghraib business.

All those folks in the biggest office building in the world and their confrËres are trying to keep all of this stuff secret. [1]

They should wise up! Their wanting to keep it under wraps just makes 'em want to read it more!

Anyway, the last item mentioned by Steven Aftergood -- portentous name, no? -- is a little bit unusual for a news report.

It's a student paper written this spring at the Naval War College entitled "Terrorists as Enemy Combatants."

It would be interesting to know what course this paper was written for.

"Military Science 432: Advanced Liquidation Doctrines"? "Military Science 550: Assassination: Theory and Practice"? Or maybe "Military Science 666: The Law of War"?

Whatever. "Terrorists as Enemy Combatants" deserves an "A" in any of those classes.

"The biggest advantage in treating al Qaeda and Taliban members as enemy combatants," wrote Maj. Scott Reid in the paper he turned in in February 2004, "is the right to kill them by virtue of their collective enemy status instead of arresting them for their individual criminal acts."

That's right. "The right to kill them by virtue of their collective enemy status."

There's a phrase that makes you think.

Of who, you say? What was that? Oh, you're thinking of him, too?

That's funny, I thought that just the other day we were celebrating his defeat.

Still, you've got to admit that the phrase has uses.

Or "virtues," as Maj. Reid puts it.

'Cause al Qaeda is not an organization that's up front about who is and is not a member. So who we've got to have "the right to kill" with no questions asked. Legally, that right belongs to the president. It just stands to reason.

And in practice, of course, the president won't be around. They never let terrorists get near the president. So it'll be up to the soldier. Hence the "big advantage" of the doctrine described by Maj. Reid -- no dummy he.

Back on the home front in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we can assuage our consciences and rest assured that we're citizens of a decent, civilized nation by knowing that whoever is killed will surely be found to have been a "member" of a "terrorist organization."

Or, at the very least, that the fine, decent American who is doing the killing will be able to believe that he or she had adequate cause to think that such was the case.

There may be a little collateral damage now and then, I suppose.

But those people should have been more careful about who they were associating with.

In practice, maybe you should keep your distance from anyone you think the president might be thinking could be a "member" of a "terrorist organization."

'Cause "when terrorists decide to attack a sovereign nation," writes Maj. Scott Reid, "they are almost entirely at the mercy of the sovereign."

"At the mercy of the sovereign" -- a fine touch. Maj. Reid has wit.

"Affording [terrorists] any greater legal combatant status," he writes, "would only serve to legitimize terrorism."

Now, the bleeding hears will say that if anything could legitimize terrorism it would be doctrines like these.

Well, you can bet there aren't too many bleeding hearts on the faculty of the Naval War College! Or among all the bright hotshots at the White House, the Department of Justice, the Executive Office Building, and the Pentagon, where they dream up these things -- or we would have heard about all the resignations, right?

All I can say is that it makes you sleep sounder in your bed at night, knowing that your tax dollars are being paid to clear thinkers protecting America and all that America stands for as they adapt to 21st-century realities.

Hey, fella. Yeah, you over there -- you know who I mean -- you, scowling in the corner.

What's the matter? You don't think so? You don't like it?

Well, remember what they used to say in the Vietnam War? "Love it or leave it."

I hear a caller from Toronto asked a Washington Post reporter on Wednesday morning: "What in God's name is your country becoming?"

Maybe you'd just feel more comfortable moving to Canada, fella.

Maybe you should go now.


By Steven Aftergood

Secrecy News
June 9, 2004


Deliberations over the treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism may or may not be classified, Bush Administration officials say, but in either case they will not be officially disclosed.

But thanks to various media outlets, several such deliberative documents are being unofficially disclosed, to the Administration's discredit.

A classified 2003 draft report that takes a relaxed view of the legal requirements governing prisoners in the "global war on terrorism" was made available by the Wall Street Journal here:


A State Department memo on the applicability of the Geneva Conventions was posted by the New York Times here:


The refusal to properly disclose this material "is a matter of grave concern," the Washington Post editorialized today.

Furthermore, "There is no justification, legal or moral, for the judgments [regarding interrogation techniques] made by Mr. Bush's political appointees at the Justice and Defense departments," the Post said.

"Theirs is the logic of criminal regimes, of dictatorships around the world that sanction torture on grounds of 'national security'."

See "Legalizing Torture," Washington Post, June 9:


An unofficial student research paper that nevertheless provides a useful introduction to the topic is "Terrorists as Enemy Combatants: An Analysis of How the United States Applies the Law of Armed Conflict in the Global War on Terrorism" by Maj. Scott Reid, US Army, Naval War College, February 2004: