Monday, December 7, 2009

Terrorists and Trials

The ruckus: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (or 'KSM' as he has been nicknamed by the media) is going to be tried here in the US. In New York City, to be precise.

Well, I see nothing wrong with that.

So long as he was read his Miranda Rights before he was arrested. Which I doubt. Highly. Mostly because he was captured not by American forces, but by the Pakistani Intelligence Services!!

Otherwise, he must be tried as a prisoner of war. And he needs to be tried. In fact, the international agreement we entered into concerning POWs means we must try him somehow. (Those are the Geneva Conventions, in case you were wondering.)

The problem is, at this point, that most of the men in Guantanamo Bay and the other unsanctioned prisons all over the world have not even had a chance to access counsel. These men are totally cut off from the world. They are charged, on evidence that is either coerced out of them or largely circumstantial. It must be circumstantial, because terrorist organizations don't just let their records out into the open (kind of like government and government officials).

Add to that the fact that many of the men detained at Gitmo and CIA black sites were not even captured by US forces- they were captured by Pakistani or other Middle Eastern forces, and then turned over to us. Makes me wonder- are the men they are giving us really terrorists, or just people the governments of those countries want to get rid of? And what are those countries' incentives?

Changing the 'status' of these men does nothing. Redefining them as 'enemy combatants' does nothing. An enemy combatant is a soldier who is fighting against you. When you capture him, that makes him a prisoner. Since we're supposedly at war, that makes him a prisoner of war. He should be afforded every courtesy generally given to POWs.

During World War II, the German and Japanese POWs were treated very well. This was because we hoped if we treated them well, our men would be treated well if captured. In fact, the POWs were treated so well that some of them stayed here, having gotten a very good taste of life in America.

I'm not saying that we should feed the men in Gitmo T-bone steak and turkey every day- but I do think there should be some semblance of openness in the process of everyday life and interrogations at Gitmo. The silence about what goes on there is worrisome.

There's also the problem of the CIA 'black-sites'. They are places generally in other countries with known histories of human rights violations where the CIA imprisons people with no oversight, no legal counsel, and giving absolutely no way for anyone to know where they are or what goes on behind their walls.

And all this in the name of national security.

We have imprisoned teenage boys, forced recruits, and cooks. Yes, some of them (a very few) have actually committed crimes. But the problem is that we don't know which ones have and which ones have not. They are given no trial, there is no review of the evidence, these men don't even have the benefit of a lawyer!

The CIA abducts men from their homes, sends them to other countries (extraordinary rendition) where it is quite likely they will be tortured or killed. These men are not told what they are being charged with, they are not given the benefit of a formal arrest, the arrests are not even carried out in an acceptable fashion!

And we justify all this by saying that they're 'just terrorists'. We don't need to worry about it because they want to kill us.

I have just one thing to say to that: even an evil man deserves a chance to defend himself. We gave Hitler's cronies that much benefit. We should do it for these men.


suntzusays said...

Speaking of "coercive" tactics.

JT Norlander said...

Hitler was in charge of a nation, a nation filled with people who didn't agree with him.
There's a difference between fighting a nation and fighting an sect of people, or a religion that says kill all who aren't Muslim.

Evil is evil. Hit it hard and ask questions later.