who, as the debate on rematriation and repatriation rages, go by so many different names…

One otherwise sophisticated writer makes the kind of weird atavistic argument about both male and female ISIS you’d expect from Mussolini.

[Their] indelible marks of national origin tell us that the foreign fighters are, in the end, products of our own societies, and no more capable of being disowned than any other villains we produce, either for domestic mayhem or for export. They are Japanese and American and British. We inflicted them on the world. They are our responsibility, and we have to punish them …

Two problems here: The writer seems to have missed the last eighty years of thought about nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and postmodernism, and settled back comfortably into the most reactionary notions of … well, add ‘German’ to his curiously selective list of countries of origin and see how that feels…

And second – even if we could agree with the absurd proposition that breathing this or that air uncontrollably infuses one with originary territorial belonging, nothing in this position precludes disownership. Parents disown children; nations disown citizens. All those ISIS self-inductees who as their first revolutionary gesture burnt their passports disowned their countries. It’s hardly common, but it happens and isn’t that shattering a scandal. It merely means that free people realize they retain the right to expel others or to expel themselves from familial or political collectivities.

As Christian Barry and Luara Ferracioli write:

[Those] who have engaged in [certain extreme] forms of political violence … have themselves strongly communicated their disassociation from [any particular political] community through their actions. And if they are prepared to carry out such acts of serious political violence then they have no grounds for complaints if the community chooses to banish them. They have already, in effect, self-excluded.

************************

Come back! All will eventually be forgiven. is neither a rational nor dignified stance for a self-respecting country to take in regard to people who act assiduously to destroy not only it but the entire world. To hold that cultists who regard every manifestation of culture as a Semtex site should be acknowledged as our own is bizarre. If the legal and moral act of disownership means anything, it means we disown these people. And keep in mind that provisions for appeal exist: “U.S. law provides [Hoda] Muthana a mechanism to challenge the secretary of state’s conclusion that she is not a citizen, even from outside the United States.”

I think best practice would be our establishing, with other countries, in-place international tribunals to try these people, whose crimes after all are against humanity, not particular countries. As to where they’d serve their sentences: Some people argue that international prisons radicalize their prisoners yet more; but when we house these people in our own prisons, we make ourselves vulnerable to radicalization. “Even if convicted, they would threaten to radicalise others in prison.” “Convicted IS fighters will occupy a laudatory position within the prison estate, particularly among those convicted for domestic terrorism offences. They will also have an opportunity to use their experiences to radicalise those from the general inmate population and to educate them in any firearms or explosives proficiencies they may have acquired.”

And as to where these people would go once they served their sentence: I’m sure some version of ISIS will still be in place for them to join up with; or, if they want to assume citizenship of a country, they can make a case for their rehabilitation and therefore possibly be able to return to their erstwhile home country; or they can apply for citizenship elsewhere. (Hello, Macedonia!)

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13 Responses to “People are saying the damnedest things about the ISettes, those sexy thangs…”

  1. Total Says:

    No. Our citizens, our responsibility. The reality of what you’re saying is that we would leave it to someone else to deal with the person, the rough equivalent of a family disowning a child and forcing the neighbors to handle them.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Total: I disagree. Your position would find illegitimate any use of international courts, jurisdictions, organizations, in resolving matters that indeed have international as well as national implications. The Belgian prime minister is far from the only person who has recommended exactly the international solution I’m recommending. The idea seems to be picking up steam.

    The equivalent of a child so destructive you refuse to “own” him or her anymore would not be throwing the problem at random neighbors, but doing what is in fact done in the real world: You bring in schools, churches, and various local/state government agencies, to try to resolve the situation. It takes a village.

    Sometimes it takes a world village. Especially when your crimes are international crimes against humanity and may in fact have little to do with the place from which you came.

  3. Total Says:

    You’re imagining an international world that doesn’t exist. The reality is going to be not that she’s tried by an international court but that she (and her child) rot away in a Turkish refugee camp, while we avert our gaze.

    You can argue that there *should* a way to deal with things internationally, but there isn’t, and in its absence, you are, in fact, pushing your child out for the neighbors to deal with.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Total: Well, this is an easy one. We’ll see which one of us is right. I have plenty of confidence in the efficacy and humanity of several international institutions (UN, etc.), especially when they work with NGOs, which they of course do with great effect in places like East Timor and many others. They don’t always work, but often they do. The International Criminal Court would be the relevant legal body here I guess, although I’m no expert. Again, I have confidence in international institutions, and I think it’s a pretty well-grounded confidence. You seem equally confident that they have nothing to contribute.

  5. Total Says:

    It took the UN 24 years to get Indonesia to give up East Timor, and who did the heavy lifting? The Portuguese, who worked out the treaty with the Indonesians, and the Australians, who sent the peacekeeping force to cover the elections. That’s hardly ‘great effect’ by the UN.

    What crimes exactly would the ICC be trying Muthana for?

    And even if they were to convict her of something, the prison where those convicted are held is run by the Dutch. So, as per my original point, it would be another nation handling an American citizen, not some imagined international community.

    You seem equally confident that they have nothing to contribute.

    No, I’m quite confident that they will contribute nothing.

  6. Margaret Soltan Says:

    She accepts that she would likely be charged with providing material support to terrorism and need to serve time in jail.

    Muthana seems to have been one of ISIS’ most energetic and bloody enthusiasts for mowing down groups with trucks and beheading individuals with swords. She was always messaging us about it.

    It’s funny how people can interpret stuff differently. To me, your comment points precisely to the importance of international cooperation in solving complex international problems: The Portuguese and the Australians did some of the heavy lifting in Timor for sure, but also the UN (in the person of Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian) and NGOs from all over the world.

    As for the Dutch running a prison with Americans in it, the same prison would have Dutch prisoners, as well as prisoners from many other countries. And would itself no doubt eventually be run by an international group of officials.

    Which is to say that my position on the aftermath of ISIS is this: If there were ever a more international phenomenon than ISIS, I can’t think of what it is. (The Communist International?) These people torched their passports and waged war on the world, which makes them everyone’s problem.

  7. Total Says:

    She accepts that she would likely be charged with providing material support to terrorism and need to serve time in jail.

    I didn’t ask what the US might charge her with, I asked what the ICC would charge her with. What war crimes, specifically, did she commit?

    To me, your comment points precisely to the importance of international cooperation in solving complex international problems: The Portuguese and the Australians did some of the heavy lifting in Timor for sure, but also the UN (in the person of Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian) and NGOs from all over the world.

    And in 24 years, the UN got it done. That’s some speedy international work, that is!

    As for the Dutch running a prison with Americans in it, the same prison would have Dutch prisoners, as well as prisoners from many other countries. And would itself no doubt eventually be run by an international group of officials.

    It’s a standard Dutch prison, which they let the ICC use cells in, and no, international officials have never run it, even after decades of it housing war criminals from the Balkans. Most of those convicted by the court are sent to be housed in other nation’s prisons.

    Which is to say that my position on the aftermath of ISIS is this: If there were ever a more international phenomenon than ISIS

    That’s not the discussion we’re having. ISIS may or may not be everyone’s problem (how’d the UN do there, by the way?), but Hoda Muthana is an American citizen and she and her child are our responsibility.

  8. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Well, I’ve enjoyed kicking this one around. I’d only add that the article I linked to in my last comment (“Prosecuting Crimes of International Concern: Islamic State at the ICC”) seems to have no trouble regarding the sort of thing Muthana has done as appropriate for the ICC (“those responsible for the propagation of genocidal propaganda and individuals who provide aid or assistance to IS which contributes to its crimes”). I also think there’s a pragmatic problem for your side: Very few home countries seem willing to take these people back. So the problem is simply there, and an international solution seems, for most countries, the only solution on the table.

  9. Total Says:

    I’d only add that the article I linked to in my last comment (“Prosecuting Crimes of International Concern: Islamic State at the ICC”) seems to have no trouble regarding the sort of thing Muthana has done as appropriate for the ICC (“those responsible for the propagation of genocidal propaganda and individuals who provide aid or assistance to IS which contributes to its crimes”)

    Your article is by an academic asserting that the ICC could do something but preemptively admitting that the ICC 1) doesn’t have jurisdiction, and 2) doesn’t really have applicable crimes to charge people with. After which, it starts wandering deep into subparagraphs to establish ‘modes of liability.’ This rather seems to fit my point — the international system you want to step in doesn’t actually exist and wishful thinking — or analysis — doesn’t exist.

    Very few home countries seem willing to take these people back

    I’m not interested in what other countries are doing. I’m interested — as your post was — in what the United States is doing. And it is wrong to state that the US hasn’t been taking people back. At the Times points out, American men who went to fight for ISIS have been repatriated to the United States; it’s the women who have been the sticking point, for some reason.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/19/us/islamic-state-american-women.html

    So once again: our citizens, our responsibility.

  10. Margaret Soltan Says:

    I see your point about wishful thinking. I should have said that in that article, in my discussions about this with various people, and in my own thinking about it, it seems clear that rather than what you characterize as wishful thinking, what’s really going on (theoretically and practically) is an acknowledgement that the international community will probably have to revisit the laws on the books and make changes/additions to deal with the unprecedented complexity of this situation.

    When all is said and done, though, you and I simply and deeply disagree — on first principles, if you’d like. I believe these people – men and women – are too dangerous to live here. I’m less preoccupied with modes of punishment than I am with the special nature of their threat, along with my fear that for various reasons our courts won’t be able to make much of a case against many of them, so that they will be living among us. Criminals are one thing; but there’s nothing like a technically sophisticated bloodthirsty religious fanatic to really ruin your day. At bottom I don’t think these are our citizens; they’ve done enough to lose the privilege.

    On the matter of responsibility – I see moral responsibility here as figuring out how to keep them out. And yes – I know that legally there’s nothing much we can do about their return.

  11. Total Says:

    will probably have to revisit the laws on the books and make changes/additions to deal with the unprecedented complexity of this situation.

    Sure. And in the decades it takes to do that, Murthana and her child will die in a camp in Turkey. So that’s a positive result.

    When all is said and done, though, you and I simply and deeply disagree — on first principles, if you’d like.

    Well, yes, that’s why I was posting.

    believe these people – men and women – are too dangerous to live here

    And I think you’re wildly optimistic about the kind of people we already have living here.

    I’m less preoccupied with modes of punishment than I am with the special nature of their threat, along with my fear that for various reasons our courts won’t be able to make much of a case against many of them, so that they will be living among u

    Yes, there’s nothing more threatening than a single mother who tweets awful things.

    technically sophisticated

    Using twitter is not being technically sophisticated. It’s using twitter.

    At bottom I don’t think these are our citizens; they’ve done enough to lose the privilege

    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside”

    We don’t get to make that choice; Donald Trump doesn’t get to make that choice, and I’m appalled that you’re supporting him in thinking that he can make that choice. She’s a citizen of the United States, and we should not shirk our responsibility because we’re scared.

    I see moral responsibility here as figuring out how to keep them out

    I know you do. Shall we build a wall?

  12. Aging_Immigrant Says:

    UD, your final point captures the fundamental issue. These individuals have committed treason by actively working to kill our soldiers and enforce a reign of absolute terror. The ideology behind their treason persists, and there is absolutely no reason to believe they would not join the cause again when back in the US. They chose to relinquish their citizenship by moving to join a terror network, just as I would be relinquishing mine if I decided to permanently emigrate to another country. The only difference is the traitors didn’t use a formal legal process for doing so.

    There are valid concerns that the a legal prosecution of these individuals under existing US law could result in a failure to convict for a number of reasons. The scope of this terror network is a novel kind of threat that crosses national boundaries, so a new international process will be required. I don’t care if it takes two decades and these individuals have to live in a refugee camp for the duration. It’ll be two decades more of life than that of the tens of thousands of poor souls they contributed to murdering.

    Perhaps if the media had more consistently shown the obscene and horrific actions these organized terror groups perpetrated we would have more of a national consensus that these individuals require a special form of justice. Instead, we’ve been given mostly verbal descriptions that diminish the public’s sense of outrage and revulsion, making it easier to take the feel-good position of forgiving the “poor single mothers” who provided full-throated support and recruitment of the murderers.

  13. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Aging_Immigrant: Many thanks for the comment. I’m particularly intrigued by your last point:

    Perhaps if the media had more consistently shown the obscene and horrific actions these organized terror groups perpetrated we would have more of a national consensus that these individuals require a special form of justice. Instead, we’ve been given mostly verbal descriptions that diminish the public’s sense of outrage and revulsion…

    This points to all sorts of really interesting problems, covered well in this discussion of how best to deal with plentiful, well-produced ISIS atrocity videos.

    The author is basically arguing for greater repression of this material – the opposite of your argument – largely because it seems to have done a bang-up job of drawing thousands of people like Shamima Begum to ISIS.

    So first point would be that depraved people all over the world find watching the terror, despair, torture, and violent dismembering of innocents insufficiently gratifying; they are motivated by the spectacle to get on a plane and go to a place where they can drink up some of that blood themselves.

    Second point would be that to protect the dignity of those dying, to protect this most private ultimate vulnerability, the media has for decades routinely edited out that moment, whether it’s James Foley or a skier dying on the slopes… I mean, I would have thought something like that would be the second point, but I note that in this thoughtful Guardian discussion of the matter, no one touches on that at all. Oh well. Their points seem to be:

    In a world of free-for-all media availability, it’s a little silly even to bother talking about “decisions” media outlets make about snuff films. But there’s still the “major media” vs. the rest of the world point to be made: The places where almost all of us get our news should probably continue to think hard about what they show.

    But again: Why? You’re arguing that the more of this obscene (your word) material we see, the more sensitized we will become to the special evil of ISIS. But aside from the earlier point that some of us will just want to cash in our frequent flier miles and speed over to the killing fields ourselves, there’s the idea that far from sensitizing us, exposure to these images desensitizes – indeed, to some extent brutalizes us.

    Publishing still images of the moment of death, or running video from the live show or the gunman’s Twitter feed shows viewers what the killer wanted us to see: himself an implacable instrument of death; his victims terrified and dishevelled. By publishing his account of the attacks, we become propagandists for the killer rather than investigators unmasking his secrets, just as we do if we share Isis videos. Isn’t it better to remember the dead as vibrant journalists, friends, children and partners and him as an unhinged madman?

    Judging by my own responses to these videos (I can’t watch them at all. At all.) I’d say that their real danger is that they fuck up our civilization circuitry. The basic sensitivity, the basic humanity, we intuitively extend to human beings we recognize as just like us (this would exclude the depraved/sociopathic), is in danger of being dislodged when we become voyeurs of this particular sort. Interestingly, this is an argument plenty of people make about pornography itself (another species of obscene), and even though I don’t think porn should be suppressed I certainly see the point.

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