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Post- Event Summary
Wednesday evening at AEI, panelists debated how best to apprehend and prosecute enemy combatants in the unconventional war on terror. William Shawcross, author of the new book “Justice and the Enemy,” highlighted the moral challenge today’s murky battlefield poses to policymakers. Building on widely accepted precedent from the Nuremberg trials, he asserted that using Guantanamo Bay and military tribunals does deal justice to enemy combatants. Former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey argued that the U.S. creates perverse incentives when it allows enemy combatants who violate the laws of war, as terrorists routinely do, access to more lenient civilian courts. AEI’s Marc Thiessen concurred, asserting that by defying the laws of war, enemy combatants deny themselves legal protection as prisoners of war. Furthermore, he maintained, the U.S.’s goals after apprehending terror suspects should be extracting intelligence to stop future terror plots and then exacting justice. Improving the U.S. armed forces’ policing capabilities and thereby their ability to gather intelligence, AEI’s Paul Wolfowitz added, would benefit both efforts enormously.

Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution discussed the importance of the public debate over whether it is moral to treat apprehended terrorists as military combatants. This debate is divorced from reality, he said, and the likelihood a prisoner’s rights will be abused is extremely slim because of strict regulations in military courts. Panelists agreed that terrorists’ choice to blur the line between civilian and combatant challenges traditional justice systems, but reiterated that the U.S. armed services have demonstrated discipline, restraint and tight adherence to legal boundaries through the duration of the current conflict.

Event Description
How should al Qaeda terrorist suspects held in Western detention be brought to justice? What is the “just” way to deal with ruthless, stateless adversaries who seek the destruction of Western society? What courts are most appropriate when trying terrorists? In his new book, “Justice and the Enemy” (PublicAffairs, 2012), British author William Shawcross describes how the lessons of the past can direct us in confronting our enemies today. He explores the history of serving justice to the enemy, from the Nuremberg trial—the precedent for postwar justice for a vanquished enemy—for which his father was the lead British prosecutor, to the current difficulties in bringing justice to terrorists, especially those under the sway of radical Islam. Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the Brookings Institution’s Benjamin Wittes, and AEI’s Marc Thiessen will join Shawcross in the discussion. AEI’s Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of defense, will moderate.



5:00 PM

5:30 PM
WILLIAM SHAWCROSS, Author of “Justice and the Enemy”
6:00 PM
Panel Discussion
MICHAEL B. MUKASEY, Former U.S. Attorney General
BENJAMIN WITTES, Brookings Institution

7:00 PM
Adjournment and Wine and Cheese Reception

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Julissa Milligan at [email protected], 202.862.5905.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.

William Shawcross is a distinguished journalist who has covered international conflicts and conflict resolution for many years. He is the author of many books, including “Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia”; “The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust, and Modern Conscience”; “Deliver Us from Evil: Warlords, Peacekeepers, and a World of Endless Conflict”; “Allies”; and the bestselling “The Queen Mother”. He is a former chairman of Article 19, a London-based charity and pressure group that defends the rights of free expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Declaration of Human Rights; a former board member of the International Crisis Group; and a former member of the High Commissioner for Refugees’ Informal Advisory Group from 1995-2000. His father, Hartley Shawcross, was Britain’s lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. Mr. Shawcross appears regularly on television and radio, and his articles have appeared in leading newspapers and journals throughout the world.

Michael B. Mukasey recently served as the 81st U.S. attorney general, the country’s chief law-enforcement officer. As attorney general from November 2007 to January 2009, he oversaw the Department of Justice and advised on critical issues of domestic and international law. Judge Mukasey also served for 18 years as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, including six years as chief judge. He is the recipient of several awards, most notably the Learned Hand Medal of the Federal Bar Council. Judge Mukasey joined the international law firm Debevoise & Plimpton as a partner in the litigation practice in New York in February 2009. He focuses his practice on internal investigations, independent board reviews and corporate governance.

Marc A. Thiessen was a member of the White House senior staff under President George W. Bush and served as chief speechwriter to the president and to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Before joining the Bush administration, Mr. Thiessen spent more than six years as spokesman and senior policy adviser to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). He is a weekly columnist for the Washington Post, and his articles can be found in many major publications. His book on the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation program, “Courting Disaster” (Regnery Press, 2010), is a New York Times bestseller. At AEI, Mr. Thiessen writes about U.S. foreign and defense policy issues for and the Enterprise Blog.

Benjamin Wittes is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and co-director of the Harvard Law School-Brookings Project on Law and Security. He is the author of “Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor After Guantanamo” (Brookings Institution Press, 2011), and co-editor of “Constitution 3.0: Freedom and Technological Change” (Brookings Institution Press, forthcoming). He is currently writing a book on data and technology proliferation and their implications for security. He is also the author of “Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror” (Penguin Press, 2008), and the editor of “Legislating the War on Terror: An Agenda for Reform” (Brookings Institution Press, 2009). He co-founded and co-authors the Lawfare blog (, which is devoted to nonideological discussion of the intersection between national security policy and U.S. laws and legal institutions, and he is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on National Security and Law.

Paul Wolfowitz is a visiting scholar in foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, where he studies development issues. He has spent more than three decades in public service and higher education. Most recently, Mr. Wolfowitz was president of the World Bank and deputy secretary of defense. Before that, he was dean and professor of international relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He has also served as undersecretary of defense for policy (1989–93) and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia (1986–89). Mr. Wolfowitz was the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs (1982–86) and director of policy planning at the Department of State. He worked as deputy assistant secretary of defense for regional programs at the Department of Defense and as special assistant to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (1973–77).

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