Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below, he examines our nation’s concepts of vengeance and justice in light of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s forthcoming trial in New York City. See Lim’s previous OUPblogs here.
There are four reasons which have been supplied to suggest that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) does not deserve a civilian trial in New York:
1. This is what KSM wants – a show trial, and he should not get what he desires.
2. The trial will increase the risks of a terrorist attack in New York.
3. Classified information will be released in a civilian court trial, to the benefit of potential future terrorists.
4. The injury KSM has inflicted is a war crime, and not a domestic criminal matter.
1-3 are unverifiable predictions, sub-points to the main point, 4, which is the motive force behind the considerable agitation behind Attorney General, Eric Holder’s decision. Those who oppose a civilian trial for KSM want vengeance more than they want justice. This is exactly what Michael Goodwin has argued:
“Either try the detainees in military courts on secure bases or, best of all, give them death now. Mohammed and some others already acknowledged guilt and said they were ready to die.
I say we take yes for an answer.”
Well, there we have it. Goodwin wants vengeance primarily, and justice only incidentally. Now, vengeance and justice are not unrelated. Vengeance presumes the existence of guilt, so the pursuit of vengeance can lead to justice. Indeed, in an anarchic, godless world of all against all, vengeance is the closest thing there is to justice. To speak of justice would be a categorical mistake because without the apparatus of sovereignty and law, it is a standard that stands on stilts. We say “Justice under the Law” because without law, justice is a meaningless concept.
Goodwin and others like Mayor Rudy Giuliani who want to deny KSM a civilian trial believe, though they have not fully articulated their reasons, that the international milieu exists as a state of nature in which there is no universal law and no universally accepted sovereign law-giver, and therefore, the pursuit of justice is folly and the pursuit of vengeance necessary. If there is neither legality nor illegality, then there is only strength and weakness. Vengeance will have to do. This is why Rudy Giuliani insists on the frame that we are a nation at war, that we are dealing with terrorists or “enemy combatants” and not what John Yoo called “garden-variety criminals.”
To be sure, in a government of laws such as in a liberal democracy, justice takes on higher attributes that vengeance does not (and cannot). While justice is about law; vengeance is about necessity because it privileges immediate judgment over the process that would deliver such a judgment. While vengeance gives specific solace to those who were injured, justice assures all citizens that the system in which they conduct themselves works, – i.e., while vengeance is pointed, justice is blind, and while vengeance is preponderant, justice is proportionate.
Well and good. But as we consider whether or not KSM should have been granted a civilian trial, we need to determine the context in which we make this judgment: is terrorism a domestic criminal matter or an act of war? If the context is the former, then the Constitution takes precedence and it makes sense to speak of justice and that is what KSM deserves. If it is the latter, then because there is neither universal law nor a sovereign law-giver in the international milieu, KSM will have to suffer our vengeance because justice is not an alternative.
We have not settled on an answer to this question of whether or not terrorism is a criminal or a war crime because our historical definition of war has not caught up with its modern incarnation in which deterritorialized non-state actors perpetrate acts of violence. Our discussion over what KSM deserves is a footnote to this larger debate.
Edward A. Zelinsky is the Morris and Annie Trachman Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University. He is the author of The Origins of Ownership Society: How the Defined Contribution Paradigm Changed America which looks at how defined contributions (IRAs, 401(k) accounts, 529 programs, FSAs, HRAs, HSAs…) have transformed tax and social policy in fundamental ways. In the article below he questions why Derek Jeter’s New York tax settlement has not been made public.
Published reports indicate that Derek Jeter and the New York Department of Taxation and Finance have entered into a settlement concerning the Department’s claim that Mr. Jeter, domiciled in Florida, owed New York income taxes as a resident for the years 2001 through 2003. Neither Mr. Jeter’s lawyer nor the Department will disclose the terms of this settlement. (more…)
By Kirsty OUP-UK
Quotations are an endless source of information and amusement. In celebration of the new edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations, editor Elizabeth Knowles has kindly written the piece below, taking us through the most engaging parts of working on a dictionary of quotations.
One of the most fascinating parts of working on a dictionary of quotations is the sense of encountering a wide range of distinctive personalities: what the 14th-century William Langland might have described as ‘a fair field full of folk’. Many people come to life through their own words. Marlene Dietrich commented ‘Glamour is what I sell in my act, and it costs plenty. It’s my stock-trade.’ (more…)
Last week there was a startling article in the New York Times about the area of the brain responsible for fever. In light of last week’s Medical Monday’s posts from Plum and Posner’s Diagnosis of Stupor and Coma we decided to revisit the text to learn more about fevers. Below is an enlightening excerpt.
Fever, the most common cause of hyperthermia in humans, is a regulated increase in body temperature in response to an inflammatory stimulus. (more…)
Mark Lytle is Professor of History and Enviromental Studies at Bard College. His most recent book, The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring and the Rise of the Enviromental Movement; offers a compact life of Carson. After reading John Tierney’s article in yesterday’s New York Times I asked Lytle if he would like to write a response. His thoughts are below.
In his effort to deflate the celebratory mood accompanying Rachel Carson’s centennial year, John Tierney [“Fateful Voice of a Generation Still Drowns Our Science,” New York Times, Science, June 5, 2007] is a voice of reason compared to Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn and those of his ilk waging war against the patron saint of the environmental movement. Many critics before Tierney have played the malaria card, to discredit Carson, Silent Spring, and the EPA’s decision to restrict DDT. Tierney claims to have a somewhat higher purpose as he sets out to right what he sees as a wrong against science. Silent Spring, he charges, is a “hodgepodge of science and junk science.” Yet, the science he uses to debunk Carson rests heavily on a review written in 1962 by I.L. Baldwin, an agricultural bacteriologist at the University of Wisconsin. As one of those who incurred Carson’s wrath, Baldwin was hardly an impartial witness for science. (more…)
On this day in 1792 the New York Stock Exchange was formed. We turned to Oxford Scholarship Online(OSO) to find out more about the NYSE. OSO helped us find Wall Street: A History by Charles R. Geisst. Below is an excerpt from Geisst’s introduction.
Like the society it reflects, Wall Street has grown extraordinarily complicated over the last two
centuries. New markets have sprung up, functions have been divided, and the sheer size of trading volume has expanded dramatically. But the core of the Street’s business would still be recognized by a nineteenth-century trader. (more…)
Canadian author Deborah Ellis, recipient of the Order of Ontario for 2006 and the Governor General's Award for Looking for X has faced challenges to her books. When contacted about this "Banned Book Challenge," she promised to give it a go.
What a great idea! I can't promise, but I will try.
recently interviewed Ellis.
Your books are often controversial - not least in your native Canada. In particular, Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak has been both promoted and removed from reading lists in Ontario. What are your views on book censorship, particularly of children's and young adults' books?
I think all topics should be available in children's and YA novels, but not all writers have the talent to write about all topics in a way that is accessible to children. We put children in all sorts of situations around the world - prostitution, drug abuse, slavery, incest, etc - and it takes special talent to write about those things in a way that is respectful. There are topics that I won't touch because I know I don't have the talent to do them properly.
A Canadian challenged book list
has the following information about the recent banning of Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak
2006—In Ontario, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) urged public school boards to deny access to this children’s non-fiction book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to students in the elementary grades.
Cause of objection—The CJC said that Ellis had provided a flawed historical introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The CJC also said that some children in the book portrayed Israeli soldiers as brutal, expressed ethnic hatred and glorified suicide bombing. The effect on young student readers, the CJC said, was “toxic.”
Update—Although the Ontario Library Association (OLA) had recommended Three Wishes to schools as part of its acclaimed Silver Birch reading program, and although schoolchildren were not required to read the book, at least five school boards in Ontario set restrictions on the text:
a) The District School Board of Niagara encouraged librarians to steer students in Grades 4–6 away from Three Wishes and to tell parents that their children had asked for the book.
b) The Greater Essex County District School Board restricted access to the book to students in Grade 7 or higher.
c) The Toronto District School Board restricted access to the book to students in grade 7 or higher and withdrew the book from school library shelves.
d) The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board refused to stock the book and refused to provide copies to students who asked for it.
e) In 2005, before the CJC made its views about Three Wishes public, the York Regional District School Board also withdrew the book from the Silver Birch program.
Protests by the OLA, The Writers’ Union of Canada, PEN Canada and the Association of Canadian Publishers failed to persuade the school boards to repeal their restrictions.
Sarah Elton wrote this article
for the Globe and Mail in the wake of the controversy.
I am embarrassed to tell this blog's readers that I live within the boundaries of the District School Board of Niagara and at one time taught for them. I have read this book and find it to be a fair and balanced view of the conflict. It is powerful because it is in the words of the children themselves and it challenges the adults in their lives and even as far away as Canada to put a stop to the horrow. Our JT Book Club (ages 11-15) is reading Three Wishes
Take the "Banned Book Challenge
" yourself and let us know what your goal is.