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Bringing Out The Worst In Us

There's a saying that "tough cases make for bad laws." Likewise, I find myself wondering if the very worst people tend to have a similar effect.

Last week, two of the most reprehensible, contemptible, vile child molesters were arrested. One of them, though -- Christopher Paul Neil -- was arrested in Thailand after he had taken of himself raping young boys and posted them on the internet. He is being charged with violating a Canadian law against "sex tourism" -- going abroad to commit sex acts that are illegal in Canada.

I have no problem with Mr. Neil spending the rest of his days behind bars. Indeed, I would even prefer if he were to somehow accidentally fall out of the plane on his trip back to the Great White North. But his case brings up some troubling aspects of our law-enforcement system.

Mr. Neil is being charged in Canada with deeds he committed in Thailand -- and, possibly, Viet Nam and Cambodia. Those are sovereign nations, and Canada has no right to impose its laws within their borders. In effect, Canada is saying that its own laws are superior to those of other nations -- that the citizenship of the offenders trumps the geographical jurisdiction.

I don't like this idea. It smacks of the same sort of attitude that I get aggravated over when people from other nations come to the US and insist on bringing elements of their own culture -- and demand that their beliefs trump existing laws. One example is when certain religious practices -- such as Santeria -- conflict with animal-cruelty statutes. Numerous others involve Muslims -- such as the infamous taxi drivers who want to declare their cabs subject to the laws of Shariah (no unescorted women, no guide dogs, no alcohol, etc. etc. etc.) and immune to the laws governing public accomodations.

That isn't the only way the kiddie-diddlers screw over our system. The recidivism rate among pedophiles among the highest for all crimes, so the notion of "locking them up for our protection" is a damned good one. Unfortunately, that runs astray of existing laws and principles. Requiring them to register for the rest of their lives as sex offenders is another one that raises some awkward questions about our legal system, along the lines of "pay your debt to society" and that sort of thing.

And it ain't just the child molesters that cause problems. Our legal system is designed, largely, for criminals. That's not a bug, that's a feature. But when it's asked to deal with people who are not truly criminals in the classic sense, it tends to stumble.

We see this in the War On Terror. The terrorists we fight -- especially the ones who come here to fight us -- are technically criminals, as they break laws in the course of their actions. But they are not "criminals" in any way that we're used to dealing with. Their motives and goals are usually political, and see themselves as warriors and fighters and soldiers. But they don't abide by the rules that cover those people, either, so -- when we capture them -- we don't really have an effective way of dealing with them.

Finally, we have the rarest of exceptions, the heads of state and government officials of nations that we defeat and conquer. The Nazis and Imperial Japanese of World War II were the first that we caught, and we chose to put them on trial. Most were convicted in special courts, and many were executed.

But in more recent times, we've ended up holding people that we're not quite sure what to do with. When we invaded Panama, we brought Manuel Noriega back to the United States and put him on trial in a regular court. This struck me as just a little stupid, and possibly insane. He'd declared war on us, attacked and killed our troops, harassed our civilians, and in general was a pain in the ass who was about to gain control of a critical resurce (the Panama Canal, the giveaway of which was probably the dumbest move Jimmy Carter ever made -- but that's a very tough call, as there is a LOT of competition there).

The capture and trial of Manuel Noriega was a risky thing. What would happen if he was acquitted? Would we have to re-invade Panama and put him back in power? Could he sue for damages? Fortunately, he was convicted and remains in prison to this day.

Likewise, when Saddam Hussein was captured, we might have had to face a similar dilemma. Again, we lucked out and there was enough of a semblance of an Iraqi government by that point to put him on trial -- and execute him.

I haven't come to any firm opinions on this sort of thing, but I'm finding myself more and more in favor of simple, summary executions in times of war. It was what Winston Churchill wanted to do to the Nazi regime, and it has a certain elegance and utility: being a high-enough official in a government that has been defeated and conquered OUGHT to be a de facto capital offense, and in most cases the facts are established long before the end of the war: the losing government did, indeed, commit certain acts, and certain officials were in authority. That should be more than enough "evidence" to justify their killing. As we saw in Saddam's case, all we end up doing is giving the evil ones one last grand stage to spout their ideology and attempt to sway the world one final time, now as a "victim."

How would this translate into those who rape and abuse children? I don't know. They have, in my eyes, forfeited all claims to citizenship and civilization and even basic humanity, but are we really willing to take them up on that? And how do we prevent whatever we concoct from being turned into just another way to punish those who we, as a society, dislike -- much like the War on Drugs has perverted large portions of our legal system and the psychiatric profession became an enforcement arm of the government against dissent in the Soviet Union?

Like I said, I don't know. I don't like writing pieces where I kick around a problem without offering at least the bare bones of a solution, but it looks like I might have to here.

But if ever there was a need to prove that pedophilia is a crime that victimizes far more than the assaulted children, that it is also a "crime against society" as well, I think this does that in spades.


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Comments (26)

Bad, bad guys.... (Below threshold)

Bad, bad guys.

"I don't like writing piec... (Below threshold)

"I don't like writing pieces where I kick around a problem without offering at least the bare bones of a solution, but it looks like I might have to here".
You gave the only solution: "but I'm finding myself more and more in favor of simple, summary executions in times of war". Battle field trial and execution for terrorists. Real guns and real bullets for the police in places like D.C. yesterday and no delay in using them. Shoot the first row of idiots and watch the rest of the cowards scatter like the sewer rats they are. This would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

One of my jobs at the colle... (Below threshold)

One of my jobs at the college is to talk with students about their attitudes in dealing with others. Many are going to health care fields where they will meet with patients whose lifestyles are radically different than what their own may be. The students need to realize that they are there to treat the patient - not judge their lifestyle. Therefore, we discuss the need to be accepting of people whose beliefs may be different than your own.

As a general rule, I believe in that theory.

However, in recent years, some theories, such as the parents having the right to end the life of disabled infants (within a certain time frame) and suggestions that the age of consent for sexual activity be lowered significantly, have made their way into some pretty mainstream publications.

I am not at all sure that someday I won't be asked to characterize those beliefs as "acceptable" - and am already planning on an early retirement in case that I am asked to do that.

Jay Tea, I confess that the... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea, I confess that the "summary execution" is a solution I would lean toward - particularly in the case of child molesters. It is certainly very, very attractive!

But then I think of the article Kim linked to about General Peter Pace and his moral compass, and I find I must pause and consider.

In this poor, sorry, broken world we live in, knee jerk responses are not always infrequently correct, and being cautious in our actions (if not our words, LOL) is probably a good idea. I think you are wise to bring the topic up for discussion, even without offering a solution.

See, now, this is why I like your posts: they make me think!

This case raise some... (Below threshold)

This case raise some interesting questions. What does it mean to be a citizen? A Citizen of another country often times wants his country to protect them when they travel. Often times when a foreign government will impose a penalty that seems excessive we hear the cry of protection from these travels. Such as drugs in many Asian countries carries the death penalty.

In this case it is illegal in Thailand to have sex with 15-18 year old (1-3) in prison and if below 15 it is 6 years. Thailand has specific laws relating to sex tourism and has appealed to the international community to help it fight this. This is such problem for them that it is part of their constitution. So this is not case where one country is imposing it views on another it case where they are being cooperative in enforcing laws they see as common. Furthermore Thailand likes these crimes tried in host countries to discourage the trade.

As an American Citizen I have rights given to me by the constitution when I am in the USA. If I were to goto another country to visit I will be subject to the laws of that country and as such I should knew and obey them. If I run into trouble I may request help from the US Consulate in that country. Those who come to the US are subject to US laws they do not have the right to impose their cultural rules here just like when I am a guest in their country I cannot force my views on them. If there are not Citizen they do not get all their privileges Americans enjoy just like in many countries the legal system is different for non citizens. A prime example from when I was stationed in Asia is the South Korea traffic laws. If a Korean and non Korean has an accident the non Korean is at fault. Why cause if the non-Korean was not in the country the accident would not have occurred.

I've always had a problem w... (Below threshold)

I've always had a problem with the exercise of "extra-territorial jurisdiction," not least because it might give countries with less rational justice systems the same idea.

Here, I wonder if leaving this scum to the mercies of the Thailand criminal justice system isn't potentially worse than summary execution. Three years in one of their jails? Ewwwwww.

Most countries don't have "... (Below threshold)

Most countries don't have "leave at will" policies at their borders for their citizens. Its a privilege, not a right.

My guess is that the rationale to that Canadian offense occurs when leaving the country with the intent to conduct those acts. Hence the crime is committed at the Canadian border.

That's a way, via a technicality, to side-step the sovereignty issue.

Actually I find it a pretty... (Below threshold)

Actually I find it a pretty simple case. Canada may not be able to impose its laws within other sovereign countries, but I figure that it can govern its citizens' behavior while they are abroad -- they are, after all, citizens of Canada, regardless of where they're at. So while Canada may not be able to impose rules on Thai citizens in Thailand, I don't see why they can't impose rules on Canadian citizens in Thailand.

I don't see it as a case of Canadian laws trumping Thai laws -- it seems to be against the law in both countries. Also, this is not a case where Canadian law is directly going against Thai law, i.e. if one says you must drive on the left while the other says you must drive on the right, although I would assume that in such cases the home country would not press the issue as a matter of diplomatic courtesy. Meaning if people want to impose their native laws on America when they come here, then they'd better take it up with their consulate, but we're still a sovereign nation so they still have to follow our laws. If say Canada's age of consent is 12 and Thailand's age of consent is 18, I don't expect any Canadians to be able to push "but in my home country the age is 12!" if they break the law in Thailand following Thai law's standards.

P.S. Just wanted to add, I ... (Below threshold)

P.S. Just wanted to add, I don't think "the citizenship of the offenders trumps the geographical jurisdiction" is the same thing as "its own laws are superior to those of other nations", and I think that's the crux of the confusion. Citizenship does affect jurisdiction, but it is not the same thing as saying that one country's laws are superior or supercede that of another. Another way to think of this is to say that Thailand is allowing this guy to return to his home country (via extradition, after all, Thailand could reject the extradition request), and Canada is imposing its own system of laws on this guy (no doing sex crimes while abroad) once this guy returns. But Thailand is freely allowing this guy to return, not coerced or anything -- it is sovereign to do so, as if it simply revoked the guy's visa.

Bust a cap in his ass. Gam... (Below threshold)

Bust a cap in his ass. Game over. Do that to every child molester.

Child pedeophiles in south... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Child pedeophiles in south-east Asia are a justifiably easy target for conservative Americans with their strong sense. of personal justice. Who in their right mind excuses pedeophilia? (But since Jay talks about war time) judgements are more problematic during war time. Then the Conservative fallible moral compass spins around...They are not to so quick to condemn, but instead according to polls, approve someone like Nixon pardoning a worse perpetrator because he was in uniform, i.e. Lt. Calley (the only one ever convicted) who recently said he has no regets about ordering 500 vilagers mainly the elderly, women and children to be mowed down and executed because they were Vietnamese villagers. Some women who survived were gang raped by U.S. soldiers instead of being summarily executed.
at My-Lai
Jay seems sympathetic to summary execution, if our leaders and officers are doing it to advance the war on terror..( o'kay perhaps not Lieutenants' in villages) but certainly American government policy is that no American soldier can ever be brought in front of the International War Crimes Court at the Hague to be tried for war crimes, genocide and systematic human rights abuses as the rest of the world must.

Accountability has improved in the forces since My-Lai and Vietnam, so maybe it's a little unfair to cite it.. But some of those undisciplined soldiers are probably wandering around in mercenary outfits like Blackwater enjoying the same immunity, which undercuts our moral high ground that Rice and Bush (and Jay) talk about and make the USA no different from other countries that war sometimes brings the best, but as often, the worst out of us.

That the canadian governmen... (Below threshold)
k. smart:

That the canadian government would bring this alleged(merely pro forma, this sack of human garbage is guilty, guilty, guilty) criminal back from Thailand is an insult to humanity, and canadians.

Having had the misfortune to be descended from United Empire Loyalists, and thereby missing out on being born into the greatest nation ever, instead garnering citizenship in the socialist dystopia called canada, I can tell you what will happen in the canadian(kangaroo) courts.

He will get around six months of house arrest wearing an ankle bracelet, and an order to stay away from any area where children gather. And an order to refrain from being near children unsupervised. If this (expletive deleted) does actually get jail time, he will be housed in a special facility even more luxurious than the canadian standard, because even hard time convicts know enough to kill him.

Unfortunately, this perp's status as one of canada's protected classes(this time, homosexual child rapist) will qualify him as a "victim". Secondarily, canada will never hire the police personnel to monitor this pervert 24/7, so he will be free to ruin many more innocent victim's lives.

He should be tried in Thailand, where he will get real jail time, not a suspended style sentence, and quite likely no early parole. Unfortunately, this freak will probably enjoy all that jailhouse homosexual happiness almost as much as he likes buggering little boys.

Like almost seven of ten canadians, I too long for a return of the death penalty.

It sucks to be canada.


War is the controlled use o... (Below threshold)

War is the controlled use of force to achieve a political objective. Countries wage wars and those countries win and loose wars and they are responsible for the conduct of those persons under their control. The reason the US refuse to surrendered jurisdiction to The Hague is that an act can arbitrary be declared a war crime and our enemies would use our war fighters as pawn in a political chessboard. Almost all things that are declared war crimes are punishable by UCMJ and American Civil law. We provide the presumption of innocence and a spirited defense this is by no mean a universal axiom.

My-lay was a horrible event but not the first or last but Americans have tried and convicted our own. What did the Hoi Chi Min do to the NVR and VC that committed similar crimes to their own people? How about treatment of US POW at the Hanoi Hilton? The UN often voices outrage of actions being done by Israel but allow the Palestinians atrocities to pass unnoticed. NY Times and world always talk about Gitmo and the treatment of POW. However even the Red Cross admits that prisoners are treated fairly and where abortions of mistreatment occur we take care of it. However why is their not outrage for when you have people kidnapped and behead as normal operations by the enemy. This is because of political climate and thus is one of the reasons that neither Democratic nor Republican administrations have singed onto the International War Crime treaty.

It always good to know that we have lost our Moral high ground to AQ who takes young kids and serves them to a family at lunch. Or occupies a city and kills women at will as standard operating procedure. Oh blame America first.

As a Canadian who is also a... (Below threshold)

As a Canadian who is also an American Immigrant, I can say that having anyone visit a poor country in order to perpetuate child abuse and sex crimes is, or should be, a crime that severs that person from all associations with the rest of the human race.

We are destroying ourselves by a permissive attitude towards anyone who does this.

To read someone who has been on the frontlines of this issue for decades, go here
thank you for reading.

What Canada is doing was on... (Below threshold)

What Canada is doing was once called "extraterritoriality:" the assertion of jurisdiction beyond one's national borders. It's a privilege routinely claimed by an occupying power after a war victory, but usually over the troops and other personnel assigned to occupation duties, no one else. I can't see how Canada gets away with it, except that the rape of children is so heinous that everyone who can grasp the implications has decided to look the other way.

Time to muddy the waters so... (Below threshold)

Time to muddy the waters some. If the crime was having sex with a child and THEN POSTING IT ON THE INTERNET, where did the crime occur? Is this person being charged with the sex act, or the dispaly of the sex act over the interent, including at points within his home country? The American courts are having lots of trouble with that part of the law and it's definitions too.

Steve Crickmore,Ju... (Below threshold)

Steve Crickmore,

Just a suggestion:

If you would like to discuss a specific topic, simply post it at Wizbang Blue rather than trying to manipulate it to look like it is somehow relevant to the topic posted here by Jay.

I'm sure that Lee, Larkin, and the gang there will agree whole heartedly with whatever you say ..... which, of course, is good since they are the only ones, apparently, who can respond to topics there.


I like Scrapiron's idea. Ri... (Below threshold)

I like Scrapiron's idea. Right on.

It sets a bad precedent, in... (Below threshold)

It sets a bad precedent, in general, to start prosecuting people in their home countries for breaking the laws of said country while in another country. BUT, I don't think that rational is applicable here. This Canadian law makes illegal the act of "sex tourism" and by its definition one can't break this law if you stay inside Canada. I, personally, like the way this law was written, and how it is finally being used. He didn't just break the law by having sex with children. He broke the law by leaving Canada to do it. If he had molested kids INSIDE Canada, the "sex tourism" law would not apply. I guess the only problem now is convincing a jury that the PURPOSE for his Thailand jaunt was to molest children. It wouldn't be too tough to convince me of that if I was on the jury.

but I figure that it can... (Below threshold)

but I figure that it can govern its citizens' behavior while they are abroad

You speak as if being a citizen means your property of the government (i.e. the king's subjects).

P.S. Steve Crickmore is a ... (Below threshold)

P.S. Steve Crickmore is a blithering idiot with a one track mind(and it appears to be a monorail...) and really should post his crap in the appropriate place, which isn't on this thread.

The democrats will never ag... (Below threshold)

The democrats will never agree to execution of child molestors. It would take too many votes away from Shrillary.

"The democrats wil... (Below threshold)

"The democrats will never agree to execution of child molestors. It would take too many votes away from Shrillary.

22. Posted by Scrapiron "

That's right Scrapiron, I'll never forget that week and a half of democrat whining from the "FRAUD" Kerry and the "BEAST" Hilda crying "85% of FELONS VOTE DEMOCRAT".

Funny it took that long for them to figure out they where chewing on leather again as apposed to having found a new group voters they didn't actually have to buy.

The democrats will never... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

The democrats will never agree to execution of child molestors or by extension 'summary executions' either. I realise my opinion is unpopular when it is easier to convict, pass and execute capital sentence immediately. I much prefer the jury and trial system even though imperfect, in Canada as well, that allow appeals in child molestation and homicide cases, because human beings and authorities are so fallible and so often manipulate the evidence.

In this case the crime is p... (Below threshold)

In this case the crime is punishable in both countries. The Thai police arrested him on charges made by one of their citizens and are sending him back to his home country.

Now if he went to say Amsterdam and bought a prostitute of legal age there and recored him self. If Canada tried to prosecute him for doing a legal act in foreign country that is illegal in Canada then i think that would be "extraterritoriality:".

I think one that get less popular support is labor laws. Example in China in some provinces if you make equivalent of 100 USD a month you are living a good life(meaning you can provide food,housing and clothes for your family and still have money left over). However many folks would like labor laws of the US enforced there to give these folks a "living wage." So they want to hold those companies working in foreign lands to the same standards as American companies as far as pay scales.

Now I am not advocating child labor or slave labor but economies are very different through out the world and what might be poverty in the USA is a living wage in other places.

The term 'living wage' is S... (Below threshold)

The term 'living wage' is Stalinist. What is living?






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