it all sounds so nice …

The critics, who are currently enjoying an increase in support from the right, of course couch their radical stance in terms of due process, as if what they are asking is the most ordinary thing in the world.

“What we are seeing today,” said William Barr last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “is an extreme … effort to take the judicial rules and standards applicable in the domestic law enforcement context and extend them to the fighting of wars.” Mr. Barr is referring to the current effort to treat Guantanamo detainees like American criminals, with full access to our courts. We agree with the former attorney general that “nothing could be more farcical, or more dangerous.”

If the critics are right, and detained terrorists have an inalienable right to access U.S. courts, then they have created a new standard — one which has no precedent in the Geneva Conventions, the Constitution or U.S. history. Even worse, as Mr. Barr suggested, it is a standard that would effectively make victory in the war on terror impossible.

Last year the Supreme Court acknowledged that this war is different, and that determining a combatant, legal or otherwise, is not as simple as it used to be. Lower courts are divided on how to interpret this decision, but the fact is that every Guantanamo detainee has had a chance to contest his detention as a combatant before a military tribunal. It’s enough for now just to note that this is beyond what the Geneva Conventions require for a POW.

“Not good enough,” insist the critics, who want nothing less than full constitutional rights bestowed on foreign enemies of the United States. The Geneva Conventions do not acknowledge such a right, the Constitution does not acknowledge such a right, so why would this administration acknowledge such a right?

[No court access for Gitmo terrorists (Washington Times Op/Ed 05jn22)]

Does it make a difference if you capture someone bearing arms against your soldiers in combat who is dressed as a civilian or sweep up men, women, and children you just suspect of not liking you? To people like Durbin, it appears not as this is a primary difference between the population of Guantanamo prisoners and the prisoners in the gulags and concentration camps.

Do we treat people captured bearing arms against our soldiers in foreign lands the same way as people hunted down by police for committing crimes against citizens? There seems to be many folks who think we should.

What is particularly pernicious in these matters is that those who accuse the US President of acting like Stalin or Hitler or Pol Pot are the ones who are covering up such distinctions, exagerating allegations of abuse, ignoring existing oversight, ignoring any effective references for measuring behavior, and even making misleading or false statements to attempt to lend credibility to their views.

The accusers make their accusations with the utmost aplomb. They make falsehoods and misrepresentations and distorted analogies as if they were “the most ordinary thing in the world” for someone to do. These are not ordinary circumstances and the decisions to be made are not those faced in day to day affairs. How we approach the Global War on Terror must be faced with better intellectual integrity. We cannot place 3000 deaths and massive destruction in New York City as “the most ordinary thing in the world” and just pretend we can leave it to be ignored in the history of ordinary events. Unless, of course, we indeed want to allow such events to be just an ordinary and usual event in our lives.

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