Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sheik Khalid Mohammed, Rights, and the Terrorist Aftershock

Culturism does not hold that rights are – with apologies to the great Thomas Jefferson - inalienable or God-given. They do not hang in the sky enshrined by metaphysical truths as “human rights” advocated contend. Rights come from cultures that believe in them and can afford them. Enshrining rights in mystical ether and ignoring their real-world basis and costs endangers our nation.

Today the White House abandoned their plan to have Sheik Khalid Mohammed, the admitted 9-11 mastermind, tried in lower Manhattan. The decision was done on the basis of considerations that show rights are not metaphysical abstractions. Trying Mohammed requires creating a security perimeter. This would have meant locals would have had to have shown identification to get to their homes, traffic would have been terrible, and businesses would have been virtually inaccessible. Rights happen in real times and places.

Mohammed’s right to be tried in Manhattan would have come at the cost of others’ right to stay in business. The trial will cost, according to New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelley, around $200 million a year and last for several years. The Federal government may reimburse for some of the costs. But whoever supplies the dimes, we can see in times of financial stress and hiring freezes, Mohammed’s rights happen at the expense of others’ rights to get fire service, police protection, or teachers. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Rights cost money.

Rights happen in a spectrum that, in our history, could be said to run from lynching to Sheik Khalid Mohammed. Lynching could not have been called a form of justice when the wrong person was caught. But, for arguments sake, on that occasion when the person lynched was guilty, the justice was swift. Such deterrent and retribution required zero lawyers, delay, or cost. In the middle of our spectrum of justice, we have cases where guilt is in doubt and we have a trial. And, at the other extreme, we have a clearly guilty man getting hundreds of millions of dollars worth of protections. The extremes are clearly problematic.

During times of war, even America has had a culturist, rather than an absolute metaphysical, vision of rights. We did not, for example, both have the resources to give every person of Japanese descent a trial before relocation and fight World War Two. Nations have long interned enemy combatants, or potential enemy combatants, en masse for just such reasons. We knew that had we lost World War II, no one would have rights. We understood that rights do not exist in a vacuum; they cost money, take time, and require a culture that believes in them for them to be in existence.

It is unprecedented that we now, in debt and at war, spend hundreds of millions to protect a man clearly guilty of killing thousands of Americans. Obama believed that the cost was worth the international propaganda value of the trial. This change of location shows that he only secondarily realized the disruption caused by the trial will have a domestic political costs. It will also have the domestic impact of disrupting businesses and costing us each lots of money. In a time of War this chaos and economic bleeding could be considered a second terrorist hit. Until we realize that rights cost money and require a sustainable functioning society to buy them, we are vulnerable to such aftershock terrorism.


Pastorius said...

All you are describing here is the flux of Cultural Relativism.

Rights that are the result of cost/risk-benefit are not rights at all. They are mere luxuries.

We have our rights, which do exist a priori even to many Atheists, because we fought for them.

You argue here that, were we able to afford it, we would have gone through with trying KSM in NYC, and that it would have been reasonable to do so.

There is nothing in natural law, Biblical law, Objectivism, or any other framework, which would support the idea of affording the full spectrum of rights to the murderous enemy of one's nation.

KSM ought to be killed for what he did to our nation. Of that, there is no doubt.

Your point about the internment of the Japanese is an example of risk assessment. In that case, it is true to say that we went against our principles out of necessity. I understand your point there.

However, risk assessment can be informed by natural law, Objectivism, and Biblical law. So, all is not flux.

The idea that KSM has a right to a fair trial, according to our Constitution, is preposterous.

midnight rider said...

Good God Philosophy on a Saturday Morning after a Friday Night. Ain't that one of the Seven Deadly Zins? Whatever happened to Looney Tunes?

Rights exist. Period. Man does not give the Rights, they exist. And cost nothing to exist. Life, liberty and all that good stuff.

What costs is choosing to protect those Rights or to deny them. How nations choose to protect them or not is up to, ultimately, their citizens. Because the citizens always have the RIght to rise up and throw off their oppresors for new guards. That's a Right, not just in America. Many nations choose not to protect that Right, but their people could still do so if they had the willpower to force the issue. It's how it happened here, of course. (and may yet again). And protection of those Rights is a Privledge, not a Right, extended by the Nation/State/whatever in question.

Our Constitution was created to protect the Rights of American Citizens, not the Rights of others though we often choose to do so.

KSM chose to deny the Right to Life, Liberty and all that to 3,000 others on 9/11 alone, plus whatever attempts were/are in the works.

It is our Right to choose how to deal with him, how to protect the Rights he chose to deny us. We can choose the expensive and stupid Fair Civilian Trial or, my choice, a short drop and a quick stop. That is up to us. But it is our choice to decide whether we want to protect HIS Rights or not and how. It is not automatic.

Damien said...

Pastorius and Midnight Rider,

I pretty much agree with both of you here.

Pastorius said...

Culturist John,
I thought of another point you are missing. Whether or not you believe rights are part of the structure of the Human Psychic Universe, or given to us by God, you can't deny the fact that OUR CULTURE BELIEVES THAT RIGHTS COME FROM GOD.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.

You're factually wrong in your argument.

Not only that, but your insistence on Culturist Relativism is turning you into a Nietzschean Will To Power advocate.

Dangerous territory.

Unknown said...


The only thing worse is post-Saturday midnight philosophy! I was away from the computer all day. I will address your insightful and important comments manana!

Thanks, John

midnight rider said...

Si. Es Muy Bien. Gracias Senor Juan.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'll certainly be checking back for updates on this comment thread! Please feel free to hammer it out - not boring, not heavy, not even close - as I admit I have never actually taken a philosophy class, and I surely suffer from the burden of simplistic thinking in this area.

At this time, I am down to: If I go with John's argument, which I'm inclined to want to, will it/could it ever produce a counter jihad with real teeth.

-But if I go with Pastorius', will I get that very thing I want, but also a "Handmaid's Tale" sort of future world where "creationism" less restrained by "rationalism" runs amok. A world where future Galileo's are once again just a bit too dangerously radical for society's and their own good.

I know the Pope apologised for that, but he never quite got around to explaining how it happened in the first place and why it positively never will again.

You may think I'm not being completely serious, but welcome to my brain. Any help with this struggle is very much appreciated.

Pastorius said...

I didn't think you were joking. I think your concerns are valid.

That being said, you might take comfort in the fact that I am a Christian who does believe in Evolution, and I am very pro-Scientific Inquiry. I am even for things that many non-believers I know are against;

Genetically Modified Foods.


Cross-species production

Gentically-modified human beings



Anyway, my comment to John really has nothing to do with setting up any sort of Christianist state. I think THAT is antithetical to our Culture.

My comment that our Culture does believe that God grants rights is based upon what our Founding Fathers said about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

That idea is handed down in schools, and to the extent that it is not anymore, well, it ought to be. Because that is what our country is founded on.

We have only gotten weaker as we have chosen to ignore that idea.