Presidents Bush and Obama have created a vigorous public debate since the September 11 attacks over whether suspects in the “war on terror” are entitled to a regular criminal trial, court-martial (the regular military justice system), or a “military commission” trial, or whether they are entitled to a trial at all. A “military commission” is traditionally an executive branch (or Article II) court, created to try war criminals in a time and place where there are no criminal or ordinary military courts to try suspects. But Congress has explicitly authorized them twice since the September 11 attacks.
Bush’s and Obama’s actions since 2001 raise a number of fundamental constitutional questions: Can the President — as Bush tried to do — detain an American citizen indefinitely without trial? Can the President — as Obama claims — kill American citizens without trial? Are Bush’s and Obama’s efforts to detain foreigners indefinitely without trial constitutional? When, if ever, is a “military commission” constitutional? Can U.S. citizens be subject to a military commission? How about foreigners? Do the Bush/Obama military commissions follow the Constitution? And finally, putting aside constitutional principles, are military commissions more effective on a practical level in punishing suspected terrorists? The following are 11 constitutional principles about the trial rights of Americans and foreigners during the “war on terror.”
Authorities in the United Kingdom have arrested seven suspects in connection with a terror plot. British intelligence raided more than a dozen homes and collared six men and a woman between midnight and about 7 a.m. Monday, according to news reports. They are connected, the New York Times reported, to “Islamic militancy,” which describes yet another plot by “British citizens” who are really "Asians" or of another nationality. Typically, those words are media code for Muslims.
No Surprise: The Name Is Mohammed
Police raided five neighborhoods in Birmingham to net the half-dozen suspects, who ranged in age from 25 to 32. The woman is 22.
According to the Times:
A West Midlands police official, who requested anonymity because he was discussing an unfolding operation, said initial speculation that the arrests were linked to Irish republicanism was unfounded. The official declined to confirm the BBC report that those arrested were Islamic extremists, but said the operation was “linked to international cases as much as local.”
America got two textbook expositions of the great progressivist myth in the September 12 CNN/Tea Party Presidential debate. The great progressivist myth is this: If government doesn't do it, then it won't happen. If the government doesn't do it, it doesn't count. If a person is against government intervening, he therefore must favor the ends the liberal or progressive claims will happen without government intervention. In short, the great progressivist myth is that you either favor government intervention, or you are an awful person who wants some horrible consequence.
One exposition of the progressivist myth in the presidential debate occurred when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Rep. Ron Paul if society should let an uninsured man die — the assumption being that this would happen if government did not step in. The other exposition occurred in an exchange between Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum on the subject of our interventionist foreign policy. in the case of both healthcare and foreign policy, Dr. Paul argues that government interventionism does not save lives. The healthcare issue is the subject of a separate article by this writer; the foreign policy issue is the subject of what follows.
NATO and U.S.-backed rebel forces in Libya are reportedly engaging in systematic attacks against the black population in what some analysts have called war crimes and even genocide, sparking condemnation worldwide from human-rights groups and officials.
Reports and photographic evidence indicate that numerous atrocities including mass executions have taken place even in recent weeks. Many black victims were found with their hands bound behind their backs and bullets through their skulls.
Horrific internment camps, systematic rape, torture, lynching, and looting of businesses owned by blacks have all been reported as well. And countless sub-Saharan Africans have been forced to flee their homes in Libya to avoid the same fate.
The al-Qaeda-linked rebels’ campaign of racist terror began shortly after the Benghazi uprising in February. More than a few videos surfaced on the internet in the early months of the conflict showing brutal lynchings and beheadings while Western-backed rebels cheered.
Analysts are warning that serious chaos could ensue as a coalition of radical activists, leftist organizations, self-described “revolutionaries” and anti-capitalist agitators — some of whom are reportedly linked to the Obama administration — plots to “occupy" Wall Street starting on September 17. Under the banner of a “Day of Rage,” critics and supporters say the protests could be just the start of something much bigger — and the list of targeted cities in the U.S. and around the world is still growing.
The real goals of the effort remain murky. But despite the apparent socialist and collectivist bent of many participants, even some constitutionalists have expressed tepid sympathy after organizers released a statement blasting the American “kleptocracy” run by “banksters.”
“We must stop their influence, their motives, and their tricks, from continuing to destroy our democratic republic,” concluded a “tactical plan” released last week by one of the organizations affiliated with the movement. The group, known as US Day of Rage, also called for an end to the influence of money in politics.
The CNN/Tea Party Express debate continued to expose the difference between Texas Representative Ron Paul and the rest of the Republican field on the issue of America's multiplying foreign wars. An audience member asked the candidates if any defense spending cuts should be considered.
Newt Gingrich began the foreign policy and military-spending discussion with an alarmist and unrealistic statement that "I think we are at the edge of an enormous crisis in national security. I think that we are greatly underestimating the threat to this country. And I think the day after we celebrated the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we should be reminded exactly what is at stake if a foreign terrorist gets a nuclear weapon into this country."
Of course, only a handful of nation-states have nuclear weapons of any kind. And the ability to make easily transportable nuclear weapons is perhaps limited to the United States, Russia, and Britain.
Former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan remembers being at the American embassy in Yemen on September 11, 2001 when, a few hours after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, a CIA official finally produced material, including photographs of two of the hijackers, that the FBI had requested months before.
"For about a minute I stared at the pictures and the report, not quite believing what I had in my hands," Soufan has written in his just-released memoir, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda. "My whole body was shaking." Had the material, documenting an al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia in January 2000, been combined with information from the investigation in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole that same year, he believes, the suicide mission to hijack airplanes in the United States and fly them like missiles into key commercial and government buildings might have been discovered and thwarted.
It is now possible to see why it has taken so long to restore the area where the two giant World Trade Center towers stood. Because there were so many factors to consider in rebuilding the area, decision-making became incredibly complex. But once decisions were made, the rebuilding projects could proceed. Architects, designers, and contractors got to work. The building originally called Freedom Tower (now renamed One World Trade Center) will be the tallest building in America at 1,776 feet. Two smaller towers are also being built. The memorials for the nearly 3,000 people who were murdered on September 11, 2001 have been completed. The museum, beneath the memorials, is in the process of being built as well as the transportation center at the site.
In other words, this site will become the chief visitor attraction in the nation, second only to Washington, D.C. It will enshrine everything that took place on that fateful day when so many lives were taken, so much property destroyed, so many responders scarred with lung problems, having breathed in the incinerated dust as they tried to rescue whomever they could rescue. 343 firefighters and 37 police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were killed that day by the collapsing towers.
"At 8:46 on the morning of September 11, 2001, the United States became a nation transformed," the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9-11 Commission) said, noting the time at which the first of two planes attacking the World Trade Center struck the north tower. The "transformation" seemed real and dramatic at the time. Even before the shock wore off, the America that some accused of having been on a "holiday from history" since the end of the Cold War was suddenly aroused and united in purpose. The seemingly feckless President became both symbol and spokesman of that new resolve as he stood amid the rubble at "ground zero" at New York, bullhorn in hand, and promised that the people responsible for knocking down the Twin Towers would soon hear from all of us and feel the power of our righteous retribution. Most of the nations of the world, including many that had long been critical of the United States, poured out their sympathy and support. Even the left-wing French newspaper Le Monde published a headline proclaiming, "We Are All Americans."
As the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 dawns upon us, Americans will come together to recall the happenings of that infamous day. Ceremonies and even parades will occur in cities and towns around the country as television and radio stations allocate time for special programming and school children partake of numerous activities.
At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, to say nothing of heartless, I confess to having little patience for the pomp and circumstance to which we are treated year after year around the eleventh of September.
For sure, the attacks of that day were as awful as any that this country has experienced during our lifetime. Those who personally suffered loss on that day are as deserving of our compassion as those who attacked us are deserving of our justice. Yet from these facts it most certainly does not follow that there is an obligation on our part to annually engage in ritualistic expressions of our collective angst over the losses that we endured a decade ago.