Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Politics of Fear

Recently, there has been heated debate concerning the fate of suspected terrorists. With Guantanamo Bay closing down and the question of where these alleged criminals ought to be tried, the politics of fear have once again surfaced and captivated an audience of Americans with short term memories.

During the Bush Administration 190 terrorists were prosecuted in what are called “Article Three” courts. All of them were convicted and now reside in maximum security prisons. Still, there are those out that lack faith in the fundamentals of our judicial system and the law enforcement officials who protect our citizenry. Furthermore, they would have us believe that American principles can take a back seat to convenience and demagoguery. During a convention with Republican “Tea Party” activists, former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin drew rousing applause by her audience after declaring “We need a Commander in Chief, not a Professor of Law.”

When dealing with the decision to try a person in a court of law (military or civilian) it seems to me that the law ought to take precedence and that it ought to dictate our actions. Although, I suppose if one were not familiar with the tenets of our Laws than this would be a rather convenient thing to dismiss.

The assumption by the pundits is that a military court would be vastly different than a civilian one. This is not the case. The presumption of innocence, burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and due process are legal rights that are shared by all courts in our Judicial system. Furthermore, we ought to send a message to those who despise our country by affording them the very rights and freedoms that they wish to kill us for. We ought to hold ourselves to a higher standard and the rule of law so that justice prevails.

Umar Farouk Abdulmatuallab, affectionately known as the “Christmas Day/Underpants Bomber,” has further fueled this debate. Republicans were outraged when they discovered that he was read his Miranda Rights since he was being interrogated by the FBI. Instead, they would prefer their harsh interrogations which they advocate.

The United States cannot live in fear. We need to try terrorists like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (mastermind of 9/11) in the very city that he tried to destroy. I suspect New Yorkers and families of the 2,750 people killed on 9/11 would gain a sense of closure when this man who is given all of his civil liberties in accordance with the principles that he despises is tried and convicted. This is the message we can send to the world: America is not afraid.

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