Monday, February 15, 2010

Feeling Tough

Speaking of Rachel Maddow and Representative Aaron Schock (R.Ill) on Meet The Press, host David Gregory asked Shock about former Vice-President Cheney's contention that the Obama Administration considers terrorism criminal acts rather than acts of war. Shock responded

Well, look, all I can tell you is what my constituents are telling me and where I think most of Americans are, which is they see an American citizen who attacks their soldiers at a, at a base in Fort Hood, Texas, tried in a military tribunal. And they see a foreigner who comes to our soil for the sole purpose of attacking our country and our American citizens and he's read his Miranda rights. The majority of Americans, the polls indicate, do not support the president and this administration's plan to try these people in civilian court.

Maddow had to explain to Shock

there have been three convictions under military tribunals, three, and two of the people convicted are now free. It's no great guarantee that anything awesome is going to happen in terms of guaranteeing guilt and guaranteeing a long sentence to do the, to do the tribunal route.

She then very effectively quoted the Judge William Young, who sentenced Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, to life imprisonment on January 30, 2003 in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. From the transcript:

We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is all too much war talk
here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice. You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist.

You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice. So war talk is way out of line in this court.

You're a big fellow. But you're not that big. You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.

Glenn Greenwald notes that at his Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing (military commission), Khalid Sheikh Mohammed made a similar argument, comparing himself to George Washington.

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch maintains

The warrior mystique helps them to recruit glory-seeking young men to join their cause. It helps them justify the killing of their enemies and portray all of their victims as casualties of combat. It enables men like Osama bin Laden to portray themselves not as outlaws hiding in caves but leaders of great armies, confronting the world's superpower on a global battlefield.

While terrorists think of themselves as big, tough guys involved in a war, conservatives think of themselves as big, tough guys involved in a war. No law enforcement for these guys. With all that testosterone flowing, at least on our side we have the ability to do what's best, not necessarily what makes us feel warm and cuddly. Fortunately, that would include the Justice Department, which wrote in the 24-page memorandum, "Preserving Life and Liberty"

Altogether, the Department has brought charges against 375 individuals in terrorism-related investigations, and has convicted 195 to date. While every component within the Justice family has contributed to the fight against terror, the men and women of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Criminal Division, the U.S. Attorney's Offices, and the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review have led the Department's work to protect America from terror.

That was 2005. Perhaps John Ashcroft was not as simplistic and narrow-minded as some of us thought he was, or at least today's Republican Party makes him look reasonable.

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