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Terrorism, Torture, and the Tea Party

October 7th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

This morning I received an e-mail from the Tea Party Nation (I get several e-mails a day from them, actually, but this one caught my eye) with a link to a short column about the trial of Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani, written by someone named Judson Phillips.

For years, the Bush administration opposed trying terrorists in civilian courts. They said that liberal judges could create havoc with these trials and turn them into farces.

The left said, the terrorists could be tried in civilian courts. What could go wrong?

Well, today, we just found out.

For those of you who don’t know, Ghailani is accused of bombing two U.S. Embassies in East Africa in 1998. The star witness for the prosecution was found due to information the military obtained by water-boarding Ghailani, which the judge—a Clinton appointee named Lewis Kaplan—ruled made him ineligible to testify. After all, if the authorities can just go around torturing people to pick up key witnesses in criminal cases, that opens up the door to some very unpleasant possibilities for all of us. As long as we don’t allow the fruits of torture to be used as evidence in criminal trials, we give the authorities a darn good reason not to torture anyone.

Of course, not torturing suspected criminals just doesn’t fly in Tea Party-land:

Ghallani was on the receiving end of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” In other words, he was water boarded. Good for him. I doubt the 224 people killed in those attack or their families would really care whether this terrorist received “enhanced interrogation.”

That’s not the point, Judson. This isn’t about the 224 people killed in the attack (may they rest in peace). It’s about the six and a half billion other people in the world who look to America as a model of human rights. It’s about being an honorable nation, a nation that does not need to resort to barbaric and criminal activities like water-boarding to protect ourselves and bring justice to crime victims. We are supposed to be better than that.

It’s also for the sake of our troops, Judson. If we not only torture our enemies but flaunt the fact that we torture them, what’s to stop our enemies from torturing our troops when they get their hands on them? Why shouldn’t China torture every American spy it captures, if our government sanctions this activity? If we torture prisoners, we lose the right to morally condemn anyone else for torturing us.

Mr. Phillips goes on:

Judge Kaplan is… wait for it. Drum roll please. Judge Kaplan is a Clinton appointee. I know that comes as a shock to everyone that a liberal president would appoint a liberal judge. And when a liberal judge has the chance to hurt America, guess what. He does not hesitate.

Yeah, liberals just hate America and we try to help the terrorists every chance we get. Clinton himself did his best to destroy America by appointing anti-American terrorist-sympathizers to every position he possibly could, and now his evil plans are finally coming to fruition. Now the terrorists might think that they won’t be tortured if we capture them, that we’ll actually give them a fair trial. We wouldn’t want that, would we? We want all Muslims to believe that we’re at war with their religion and that we’ll torture and humiliate any Muslim we manage to get our hands on. That’s the message we want to send.

The dumbest lawyer in America, Attorney General Eric Holder said he remains confident terrorists can be prosecuted in civilian courts. As Dr. Phil would say, how’s that working out for you?

You may want to check your spelling and grammar before accusing others of stupidity, Judson, but as for prosecuting terrorists in civilian courts I’d say that’s working out just fine. If your end-goal is to execute as many Muslims as possible, maybe not. But if your end-goal is justice, that’s far more likely to come from a civilian court than a secret military tribunal. Using evidence obtained through torture violates core principles of justice. If we have to let a few guilty men go free to protect even one innocent person from torture, that’s a price we should be willing to pay.

Since the first terrorists were captured after 9/11 and put in Guantanamo, liberal lawyers have lined up to help the terrorists. Their help has not simply been limited to trying to make sure they got a “fair trial,” but to help them identify (and endanger) CIA operatives, expose classified information that helps the enemy and generally give aid and comfort to those who want to attack America.

Here we go again with the “liberals hate America” theme. They couldn’t possibly be interested in justice—they’re merely trying to make America more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Standing up and defending those who would destroy us doesn’t make the enemy reconsider his image of America as an evil empire, but it gives them “aid and comfort” (translation: these lawyers are guilty of treason and should be hanged). “The Americans let one of us go because he was tortured?” they’ll say. “Those freedom-loving bastards! If they’re willing to release their enemies for the sake of their principles, they must be weak. Time to attack!”

No, Judson. Torturing people and prosecuting them behind-closed-doors (not to mention locking them away for years and years lest they get out and plan another attack) is weak. Potentially putting ourselves at risk in order to live up to our principles is the very definition of courage. Your position is one of cowardice.

Of course they refuse to see that. To them it’s not cowardice, just plain malice:

Ghallani is not an American citizen. He does not deserve the protections of the United States Constitution. He deserves to rot in a cell some where for the rest of his miserable life. But, if the liberals have their way that will never happen.

First of all, if you’re going to write a column about this you might want to check to make sure you’re spelling the guy’s name right.

Second of all, we should extend our civil rights to everyone—not just American citizens. Why? Because that’s the kind of country we are, or at least the kind we should be. The rights that our forefathers fought for were not supposed to be special privileges that they would grant themselves and nobody else—they were believed to be unalienable rights, bestowed upon all human beings by their Creator. The revolution was fought for the sake of rights that our founders believed they already had—that all people inherently have—to make a separate country where those pre-existing rights would not be violated.

The Tea Party (quite ironically when you consider the origin of their name) wants to go back to the days of monarchy when the chief executive could imprison, torture, and execute anyone seen as a threat without giving them the slightest chance of proving their innocence.

Of course none of that matters to the Tea Party. This is what’s really important:

The media reported that when Judge Kaplan announced his decision, Ghallani smiled.

I bet he did.

Frankly, Judson, I don’t give a damn if he smiled. Maybe Ghailani does deserve to rot in a prison cell for the rest of his life, but that’s not the point. This is a far bigger issue than Ghailani or his victims. This is about justice and human rights. It’s about who we are as a nation, and whether we abide by our own principles even if we don’t like the results.

Sorry, but if you are tortured, you do get a pass. Hopefully there’s enough evidence to convict Ghailani without relying on the torture-tainted stuff, but if not then we have to let him go free. It’s the best way to prevent our military from torturing people in the future, if the fact that our torturing people is an extremely effective terrorist-recruitment tool isn’t enough.

There is no good reason not to try terror suspects in civilian courts. They should be treated like common criminals like everyone else. Elevating them to “enemy combatant” status adds to the impression that they are Holy Warriors, makes it easier for Al Qaeda to recruit, and when coupled with torture undermines the basic principles Americans live by.

Obama has done many things in terms of national security that enrage me, but appointing Eric Holder to the position of attorney general and allowing him to try terrorists in civilian courts is not one of them. At least in this regard, he’s getting us back on the right track and wiping away some of the stains of the Bush administration. We liberals (not all of whom hate America) need to have his back on this issue and be prepared to meet the ignorant howling of the right-wing with our own arguments, which have the virtue of being based not only in fact but in the very ideals that our nation was founded on.

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