Preach it, Brother Edwards!

A welcome manifesto for conservative civil libertarians from a former Republican congressman:

The problem here is that those who are whining the loudest, whether it’s a nutcase Senator or a callous talk show ratings-chaser, are, at bottom, people who apparently don’t really buy into America.  They claim to be patriotic – that is, to love their country – but they seem not to really understand what, exactly, America is, or what it stands for, or what “to be American” really means.  America is not 50 chunks of land, lakes, fly fishermen and football teams; it’s an idea, a concept, a commitment to, well, “truth, justice, and the American way.”  And that’s why we have courts, not show trials and not summary judgments.  It’s not because we love terrorists, it’s because we hate them and we are going to subject them to the thing they most fear–justice, democracy, the rules of a free society.

Those who insist that we set the rules aside claim to speak for “conservatives.”  What utter nonsense.   I serve on the board of directors of The Constitution Project.  That organization recently released a paper called “Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration”, which called for accused terrorists to be tried in federal courts – our American courts – not in so-called “military tribunals.”  A lefty declaration?  Among  the 130 men and women who signed – diplomats, judges, prosecutors, military intelligence officers – were high-level officials from both the Nixon and Reagan administrations (including Ronald Reagan’s FBI director, high-profile leaders of national conservative organizations, former outspoken conservative leaders in Congress).  The fact is, there is nothing “conservative”, nor “patriotic” about this blatant rejection of the American system of government and justice, this sneering distrust of the courts, the lawyers, the judges, the juries of rank-and-file Americans.  To dismiss the system the Founders created and embrace the model favored by Joseph Stalin and the Taliban is not to love America but to loathe it.  Those who do so, believe a lot of things, but believing in America isn’t one of them.

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6 thoughts on “Preach it, Brother Edwards!

  1. Among the 130 men and women who signed … were high-level officials from both the Nixon and Reagan administrations (including Ronald Reagan’s FBI director, high-profile leaders of national conservative organizations, former outspoken conservative leaders in Congress).RINOs. All of them.

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  2. There is absolutely nothing Stalinist about the military tribunals. This is just absurd hyperbole, like calling Bush “Hitler.” Nobody is proposing setting aside the rules—much less the “system the founders designed,” ie, the Constitution. That is just a straw man. People, whether you call them “conservatives” or whatever you want, propose applying other rules than those which apply to US citizens for these enemy combatants.

    They are “enemy combatants” because they cannot be considered “prisoners of war” because they have not signed and do not respect the Geneva Conventions, which define “prisoners of war.”

    Moreover, the prisoners at Guantánamo are unlawful enemy combatants because they are members of an unlawful non-state insurgent group. Moreover, the jihadists’ preferred tactic of attacking civilians is cause for forfeiting any Geneva Convention rights they may have had. The Geneva Conventions exist to protect civilians as well as to protect lawful combatants from abuse.

    The insurgents may “hate most” our democratic system with its protections for individual’s civil rights, or they may not. This statement is of a piece with the platitude that Guantánamo is al Qaeda’s best recruiting tool. Al Qaeda was recruiting much more effectively before Guantánamo was established and their list of grievances is long and endlessly changing, depending on circumstances. Before 9/11 it was the presence of US troops on the Arabian Peninsula and the sanctions regime against Saddam’s Iraq. Today, both these are no longer true and yet the still hate us. Who knows what they “hate most?” Who knows what it their best recruiting tool? The author of this screed is just speculating with absolutely no support for his speculation. Whatever it is that they “hate most,” it emphatically is not the military tribunals that process them once they’re captured. This is easy to determine since they hated us long before the military tribunals were put into practice and they’ll still hate us long after they’re obsolete. Just as a matter of common sense, what the insurgents “hate most” is obviously being locked up for the duration of the conflict with no possibility of release or of communication with the outside world. That’s exactly the punishment we should be meting out to them. Whatever is their best recruiting tool, common sense tells us that it is not anything that we can take away from them short of defeating them entirely. Success it the best recruiting tool for al Qaeda as well as for the NY Yankees. Success is the best recruiting tool for humanity at large and has been forever. We take away their success, by using, among many other things, our legal rights to detain them as unlawful enemy combatants for the duration of the conflict, and their recruiting will fall to zero. As an example, how are the Nazis doing today in the recruiting department? Their recruiting fell off dramatically as soon as they were defeated, when Germans started to wave the American flag and rushed to declare that they had always been against Nazism. Nobody wants to be a loser, not even jihadists.

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