Friday, March 19, 2010

Scared Shitless of a Mouth

The other day Eric Holder was confronted by Republicans who want to prevent any nasty icky Muslim terrorists from ever being tried like the criminals they are.

Eric Holder, like his boss Barack Obama, caved in to them:

Mr Holder's response dodges the question a bit, but it also seems to suggest he doesn't like the idea, and thinks it's a Republican attempt to portray his administration as soft on terrorism.

Osama bin Laden "will never appear in an American courtroom," Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told House members at a hearing Tuesday.

"Let's deal with the reality here," Holder said in response to questions from Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.). "The reality is, we will be reading Miranda rights to a corpse."

The blogger who quotes the above says that trying Obama would be a good idea. I agree. I MORE than agree.

There must be some part of my brain that's still frozen in September 10th 2001 mode, because I just can't remember the chapter in American history where we apparently decided that criminal trials are some kind of favour we do for terrorists that proves we're postmodern multicultural cowards who lack confidence in our own civilisation, or whatever. Seems to me that if a trial was good enough for Adolf Eichmann and Saddam Hussein, it's good enough for Osama Bin Laden.


Let's look at the Constitutional protections for justice:

The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. - Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 2

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed. - Article III, Section 2, Paragraph 3.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law... - Amendment V.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence. - Amendment VI.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
- Amendment VIII.

...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
- Amendment XIV, Section 1.

You will notice that, in every single quote here, there is no mention whatever of citizenship. The Republicans claim that all of the above protections only apply to American citizens... yet this is utter bullshit. These are not privileges granted only to citizens, to be ignored when dealing with foreigners; these are restrictions on the federal government. These are either things the federal government MUST do, or CANNOT do, when dealing with criminals.

It is unconstitutional to revoke the writ of habeas corpus except in case of domestic rebellion or armed invasion by a foreign power- PERIOD.

The Constitution demands a speedy public trial by jury for those accused of crimes.

The Constitution (Antonin Scalia's beliefs notwithstanding) prohibit cruel and unusual punishments- and also prohibit self-incrimination. That means, twice over, NO TORTURE.

And finally, after the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment passed all of these protections down, imposing them on the states- and, again, making the most basic ones available not solely to American citizens, but to any person whatever held within the jurisdiction of the United States, by any level of government.

And yet the Republicans claim that we need to overturn all of this, and hold people accused of terrorism- not convicted, merely accused by a single person- in prison indefinitely without trial or even legal counsel. Why?

Because of what these people might say at their trial.


We tried Hermann Goering in an international court. We gave him full legal representation. We let him testify. We let him talk as much as he wanted- and oh, boy, did he talk. And then we proved, beyond all doubt, that he was an integral part of the Nazi war machine that killed millions of soldiers and tens of millions of civilians- including millions of German citizens.

And along with Goering we tried von Doenitz, Albert Speer, and dozens upon dozens of other Nazi leaders and commanders and officials, giving them all the opportunity to speak. This had some unusual results- Speer, for example, effectively pled guilty and gave testimony to both the evil of the Third Reich and the intense charisma that Hitler used to gain and hold power. In a few cases- Hjalmar Schacht, for example- were even found innocent of Nazi Germany's crimes against humanity.

And that's not all. We also tried Japanese war criminals- over five THOUSAND of them.

But, you say, these were not terrorists? We also tried the perpetrators and mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing. We tried Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh for the Oklahoma City bombing. We tried Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber."

And why did we give all of these people, who in most cases richly deserved what was coming to them if not more, a trial?

Because that is what we Americans call JUSTICE.

Because we, as a nation, are BETTER than these people who commit murder on a mass-production scale. Because our forefathers, having firsthand experience of a government which denied jury trials and which occasionally imprisoned people with no legal recourse whatever, wrote it down, and then reinforced it, that these things would NOT BE PERMITTED in their new country thenceforth.

And yet the Republicans are scared shitless that, because the accused has the right to testify in his or her own defense, that these terrorists would open their mouths in court and thereby, just possibly, persuade people to join their cause. For this threat- the threat that a man, in shackles and an orange jumpsuit, who may or may not even speak English, could undermine our country with words alone- the Republican Party, as a whole and virtually without exception, is willing to throw out our entire system of justice.


Pathetic, bullying cowards, so convinced of the fragility and weakness of the republic they claim to hold dearer than all other things that they will throw out everything that makes the republic worth having in order to defend it.


And yet... they are not the biggest cowards.

The biggest cowards are the people who keep caving in to Republican bullying- who support indefinite imprisonment of Guantanamo prisoners, military trials or no trials at all for many of them, and who are willing to abandon their attempt to try even one of these men for his crimes- and to even ridicule the idea of trying anyone in the future.

Cowards like Eric Holder, and Barack Obama.

Democrats, Republicans... cowards, all.

We need something else.

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