01 May 2013

Uncommon Commentary #338: Dzhokhar's No Joker

You may recall that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (of the explosive underwear) spoke volubly about his plot until he was "Mirandized", i.e., advised of the right that a US citizen (which this Nigerian has never been anyway) has to remain silent upon being arrested &c., and that afterward he provided no information.  And you probably know that history is repeating itself, for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev acknowledged his part in the bombing of the Boston Marathon's finish line (and supplied valuable intelligence), before a judge and lawyers prematurely terminated the FBI's questioning of him and delivered the same Miranda warning, whereupon he began his boffo mime performance.  Republicans had wanted the Obama administration to treat him as an enemy combatant, so that he could be interrogated for at least 30 days before he would be given a preliminary judicial hearing; instead, his hearing commenced after just 16 hours.  Certainly giving him such a status would have been preferable to the approach that has been taken, but why regard terrorists either as enemy combatants (and thus entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions) or as domestic criminals (and thus entitled to the protections of the US Constitution)?  Have we forgotten that, earlier during this War on Terror, the more perspicacious legal experts were recommending that we view terrorists in the same way as we do pirates, who have traditionally been considered hostes humani generis, that is, enemies of all mankind?  To call someone an "enemy combatant" is to confer some dignity upon him by implying that he fights for his country against other soldiers; a terrorist attacks civilians on behalf of a stateless organization like Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda.  To prosecute a foreign and international criminal as if he were a domestic one is, of course, worse yet. (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a US citizen, and thus has a Constitutional right to a trial—I, however, see no point in spending taxpayer money to try someone whose guilt is indisputable, as that of Tsarnaev now is—but I'm writing of terrorists in general; I was planning this uncommon commentary in advance of the tragedy in Boston.)