Is LindJohn’s notion of an Enemy Combatant Racist? How about attempted Assassination of the Commander in Chief?

Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain (or as I refer to them, LindJohn) have demanded that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev be charged as an enemy combatant rather than tried as an American civilian.

This attempt to sidestep the US Constitution by creating an alternative jurisdiction, and to try civilians in military courts, is a stride toward dictatorship. It is precisely the tactic used by Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, and the demand that the military stop arresting and trying civilians has been central to the country’s revolutionary reform movement.

Likewise, Bahrain has started trying civilians in military courts, as part of its authoritarian crackdown on its protest movement.

That exemplar of human rights, the Uganda regime, also resorts to this practice. So LindJohn want to put us in some pretty classy company.

We who already have some of the liberties that youth Egyptians yearn for should not be so quick to surrender them. Tsarnaev is an American citizen and a civilian who killed and injured people on American soil. He is a murderer, and should be tried in the courts like a whole host of others who committed or plotted murder as a means to terrorizing the public.

The point seems obvious to anyone to the left of Attila the Hun. Those who point to the Civil War are confusing ordinary times with times of martial law. We’re not having a civil war and there is no martial law.

But here’s another consideration.

Paul Kevin Curtis stands accused (we don’t know if he is guilty) of sending a ricin-poisoned letter to President Barack Obama.

Obama is not just any civilian but is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States.

So if anyone should be charged as an enemy combatant, it should be Curtis. Yet senators McCain and Graham have not suggested that step.

Peter Bergen sagely writes that an “FBI study reported that between January 1, 2007, and October 31, 2009, white supremacists were involved in 53 acts of violence, 40 of which were assaults directed primarily at African-Americans, seven of which were murders and the rest of which were threats, arson and intimidation. Most of these were treated as racially motivated crimes rather than political acts of violence, i.e. terrorism.”

He points out that in December of 2011, Kevin Harpham was sentenced to 32 years for planting a bomb at the site of a Martin Luther King, Jr., parade in Spokane, Washington. There isn’t any difference between Harpham and Tsarnaev. Both targeted a public event involving moving through the streets. Harpham was allegedly a member of a hate group, the National Alliance, founded by William Price, the author of ?The Turner Diaries. He was also interested in the Aryan Nation..

Then there was Wade Michael Page, who killed six persons, five of them of Sikh heritage and one a policeman. His was certainly an act of terrorism.

I am not aware that Senators McCain and Graham suggested that any of these individuals be tried as enemy combatants.

I’ll just come out with it. I have to ask whether their use of the term “enemy combatant” is racist. Is it only for deployment against people not of northern European heritage?

Moreover, the system the senators are appealing to is itself broken. Despite assurances that the military tribunal system is fair and can work as well as a civilian trial, in fact defense attorneys at Guantanamo are full of horror stories about how their clients have been dealt with. A big problem is that many were tortured and so where they have confessed, the statements are tainted. And apparently once someone is sent to Guantanamo and charged as an enemy combatant, even if he is subsequently cleared for release it is hard for the government to let him go. Uncharged, unreleased prisoners are hunger striking. Guantanamo should be closed and the whole enemy combatant thing should be rolled up. It is an embarrassment before the rest of the world.

26 Responses

  1. No, it is not racist, it is religionist. Muslims are terrorists, Christians are just criminals.

  2. Tsarnaev is a white American Muslim from Chechnya who may have been inspired by radical Islam. This event may endanger Chechnyans status as white people. Which is odd, given that not long ago, “Caucasian” was used on forms to mean “white”, and Chechnya is in the Caucuses. But, people like Graham and McCain have always played a role in deciding who’s in and who’s out.

  3. I don’t understand why Federal authorities and laws would have precedence here. Why not just obviate the whole question by letting Massachusetts, the victims of the crimes, do the prosecution? They will follow accepted law.

  4. The Tsarnaev brothers were of Chechnyan heritage. Their roots go back to that region of the Caucasus Mountains. It’s likely that their actions reflect on traits common to most people from that region. We should therefore be on the lookout for all Caucasians as possible terrorists, who should therefore be adjudicated without adherence to the Constitutional protections afforded other Americans.

  5. The question of whether or not Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be tried in a civilian court or by military commission as an Unlawful Enemy Combatant depends neither on his status as a terrorist nor his US citizenship. One can be a terrorist (with political ends) without being an Unlawful Enemy Combatant. For example, if Tsarnaev committed the bombings with his brother because they were lone “anarchists” or wanted to make their own “statement” against the US government, they would be terrorists making their own statement, but should be tried in civilian court. If, however, they were acting on behalf of Al-Qaeda or some other organization that had clearly declared and waged war on the United States through terrorism, Tsarnaev could legitimately be considered an Unlawful Enemy Combatant and tried in a Military Commission, his US citizenship notwithstanding.

    There is precedent for trying Unlawful Enemy Combatants (includng US citizens) by military commission, and the Supreme Court has upheld it. During World War II, eight German citizens (one of whom was also a US citizen) received saboteur training near Berlin. In June 1942 the group of eight was split and were conveyed, along with explosives and detonators, across the Atlantic via two submarines, one group landing off Long Island, New York and the other off Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida. Their mission was to blow up railroads, bridges, tunnels, and other targets in the US.

    All eight were quickly caught by authorities. Although there were arguments on both sides of the issue, President Roosevelt approved trial by military commission. They were charged under the Law of War, the Articles of War, and Conspiracy to Commit Espionage and Sabotage. All eight were found guilty. Six of the saboteurs, including the US citizen, were sentenced to death and executed. Two received extended prison sentences. The case was brought before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in “Ex Parte Quirin,” found that the President had the authority under the Constitution to try all eight, including the US citizen, and sentence them in a military commission.

      • “Yeah but we’re not at war with Russia (Chechnya) or Kyrgyzstan.”

        No we are not, but we have been at war with Al-Qaeda and other assorted affiliates ever since they declared war on and attacked the US. As I stated above, Tsarnaev would be considered an Unlawful Enemy Combatant and, thus, could be tried by military commission only if he was acting on behalf of Al-Qaeda or an affiliated organization that has been at war with the US. If he was not acting on their behalf and was acting on his own, he would not be considered an Unlawful Enemy Combatant and should be tried in civilian court. The key to his status is, was he acting on behalf of an entity that is a declared enemy of and has attacked the United States, or was he acting on his own?

        • “Wouldn’t this require a formal declaration of war from the USA? And logically, the prior recognition of al-Qaeda as a sovereign power?”

          No, and No. The US has engaged in wars and sent troops into conflict on many occasions without a formal declaration of war. In fact, since the adoption of the US Constitution, the US has only issued five declarations of war.

          Being a recognized sovereign power has never been an essential element for status as a belligerent. The sovereign nation-state as we know it has only existed little more than 300 years, with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years War. Yet war has been around for at least five thousand years. War can be a state that exists between sovereign states, between sovereign states and other groupings and entities that are belligerents, and between belligerents that do not possess sovereignty at all but are political groupings of one sort or another. Tribal warfare which occurs among tribal groups in Papua New Guinea and West Papua in Indonesia, for example, is definitely a form of warfare, but it exists among groups for whom “sovereignty” is an alien concept.

    • So did those two brothers, to test the attempted analogy to the German-American turncoats, receive training in sabotage from the Russian or Kyrgystanian or Chechnyan government or military in how to turn Mirro cookware into IEDs? Quite a fixation on wanting to thoroughly establish that “military tribunals” with, it would seem, expanding jurisdiction, are sanctified and “legalized” to determine guilt under less rigorous law and procedure and evidence rules than obtain in some civilian courts.

      I might offer that on the civilian side there’s no guarantee of “justice” in any sense of the word either; anyone who’s ever been involved professionally in the Cook County courts can attest to that. Ever heard of the Red Squad? link to Seen the recent abstracting of “terror events” here, and what it might tell about how “the system” works? link to Happy that the Guantanamo captives might be on the way to freeing themselves by starving themselves to death (except for the forced feeding? Here’s the “legalist justification” from the Right Side: link to

      Of course, Bill whoever-you-are, all that has nothing to do with the tiny frame you want the discussion to be compressed into…

      Oh, and on how the US government fostered democracy in places like Italy after WW II, by making sure there would be none of that “ballot box revolution” stuff where voters dared to elect an “uncomfortable government” that was not conducive to the forwarding of “US national interests,” there’s this bit, of course, about the what one might dare to call anti-democratic activities under Operation Gladio:

      link to

      • “Oh, and on how the US government fostered democracy in places like Italy after WW II.”

        What does your statement, quoted above, have to do with the issue of whether Tsarnaev should be tried in a civilian court or a military commision? I fail to see any relevance to the topic under discussion. Enlighten us.

  6. As usual Juan you are on point. In addition, New York state senator Greg Ball, to his shame, called for the suspect to be tortured. It behooves us to ask how we have become so flippant over our attitudes towards being a country of laws and being so fast to rush towards things such as torture and military tribunals. I think John Adams put it best:

    “[W]hen the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American Constitution is such as to grow every day more and more encroaching. … The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society.”

    I would further add that I have had an unsettled feeling all week: a 19 year old shuts down an entire large city in the eastern U.S. for several days. Oh really? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something not quite right here. In DC when the sniper terrorized the area in 2002 we carried on somehow. If I am missing something, someone please let me know, but I can’t help but think that there has been an over-reaction here, and that this is feeding the likes of McCain, Graham, and King . . . and that this in turn is feeding a collective loss of public virtue that refuses to end the political careers and cast into outer darkness those who call for the most extreme degradation of the law and justice.

    I believe this is what FDR meant when he stated that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself: there is nothing that compromises a country’s collective values more swiftly, leading to tyranny.

    What happened to “Be Calm and Carry On”?

  7. I think LinJohn is less complex than racism and religious bigotry. It is basically a stoker in the boiler room of the USS Hegemony. Keep that ship a’movin, and keep a lookout for those give-peace-a-chance pirates.

    The USS Hegemony proved its non-discriminatory bonifides when it turned it’s guns on white Christian Serbia in 1999. Google it up.

  8. Religionist is a good term. The young man and his kid brother look Boston through and through. This is about two souls who got terribly, terribly lost. The citizens of Boston, as far as I could see, responded with decency and kindness. Law enforcement perhaps overreacted, but understandably. The older man was killed in a shoot-out that was more characteristic of criminal apprehension than of anti-terrorism activity. The boy was all alone in the end in a boat in a suburban backyard. In a sense, all murderers are terrorists. We should not have separate systems of justice for any group. We should work to make sure our Constitutional system of justice is functioning and respecting our fundamental concepts. And we really need to demand that the media, especially the 24-hour media, behave ethically and with restraint. And that their commentators learn to shut up and take a breath once in awhile, for God’s sake. Their 24 hour coverage is completely antithetical to maintaining a civilized society.

  9. Beyond all the significant issues, it’s even sadder or worse or whatever to know that neither McCain nor Graham care one tiny bit about any of the arguments they offer or substantive claims. They are simply the worst, most manipulative games for the sleaziest and vanest of reasons. They don’t care one tiny bit whether their recommended approach does or does not increase any security or addresses some issue, it’s simply part of posturing for ideological and public relations games. Utterly disgusting.

  10. An amendent: all mass murderers and serial killers are terrorists. Any murderer on the loose probably could be considered a terrorist, too.

  11. Remember Jose Padilla? (I know; he might as well be a part of ancient history for most people). He did not even do anything, just supposedly thought about doing stuff. He started out under the military tribunal regime and was tortured to insanity before getting a civilian “trial.”

  12. Chechens are Caucasians. Any Republican LindJohn “enemy combatant” case would have been easier to make against the deceased older brother,Tamerlan.THOSE TWO NUTJOBS STILL MIGHT TRY. LindJohn should also ask the FBI how in the world they lost track of him despite the Russian government’s contact, questions and warning about Tamerlan in 2011 as well as his six month trip to Dagestan in the first half of 2012. Not keeping watch on any individual like that was beyond SLOPPY.

    • It seems that Tamerlan would have been the perfect target for one of those FBI orchestrated sting operations. The other sting candidates needed a lot of prodding, financing, logistic support, and patronizing to get them to pull the triggers on those FBI toy pistols. Tamerlan was ready, willing, and eager. (It’s ridiculous to think that the FBI was in fact running a sting on Tamerlan and he got to far out front, isn’t it?)

  13. Here is what I don’t understand: Even if you declare him an enemy combatant, he still doesn’t have to talk. Unless, of course, McCain and Graham are suggesting that he should be tortured. But even is one is tortured they don’t have to talk or they can lie to the torturer. It seems like certain politicians politicize these horrific events. They’re are also using it to stop immigration reform, ect.

  14. The test of racism would be if, for example, and heaven forfend, Palestinian Christians should conduct terrorist acts in the USA. Then we could see if “terrorism” was (in practical terms) defined in terms of religion, skin color, or something else.

    If dark-skinned Christians are accused merely as criminals where similarly-acting (as alleged, naturally, we sometimes forget that little nicety, don’t we?) light-skinned Muslims are accused of “terrorism”, then we’ll know it is all about religion.

    Not looking forward to finding out.

  15. As Freddie DeBoer put it:

    The United States has dealt with American citizens who had commit acts of terrorism before. We Mirandized them, we charged them, we ensured that they had competent legal counsel, and we tried them in civilian courts where they received the typical rights and protections guaranteed to the accused. In none of those cases did this decision endanger more lives, prevent adequate prosecution, or otherwise present any threat to the country or its people.

    Timothy McVeigh: killed 168 people. Injured over 800 more. Was motivated by political convictions. He was arrested, Mirandized, charged, appointed with legal counsel, and tried in a civilian court. Ted Kaczynski: killed three people. Injured 23 more. Was motivated by political convictions. He was arrested, Mirandized, charged, appointed with legal counsel, and processed through a civilian court. Eric Rudolph: killed two people. Injured at least 150 more. Was motivated by political convictions. He was arrested, Mirandized, charged, appointed with legal counsel, and processed through a civilian court.

    If you recognize that the results of these legal cases were consonant with our system of jurisprudence and with justice, you cannot ask for a separate status for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev without supporting legal discrimination based on ethnicity and religion. To deny Tsarnaev the legal status conferred on prior domestic terrorists, or to support such a denial, is to abandon the most elementary commitment of modern jurisprudence, which is the equality of all people under the law. It’s to stand for legal bigotry.

    • Nony, I might ask whether the issues go further than concerns about legal bigotry. This young fella seems to me to have a lot of the same flavor as those Columbine teens when it comes to struggling to find a personal identity in a f___ed up world. No excuse, of course. The arguments from the legalists about how to “try, convict and execute” him, whether to “Mirandize” him (which imports a lot more than “reading him his rights,” there are procedural and substantive bits that go along with) are more about efforts by authoritarian types who are much more interested in “freedom of action” for their own initiatives, whether wars of choice, torture or subversion of governments with “it was legal” as a defense, should the ordinary people or some hoity-toity “libruls” among the ruling class decide to prosecute them or shove them, as they say, under the bus.

      All this chatter about casuistical categories is mostly about pushing EVERYthing into the category of “WAR,” in which, if you follow the arguments here, there’s a “legal” way to make it come out that “anything goes as long as OUR side does it,” with EVERYthing being peddled as an “existential threat” needing some enormous shifting of common wealth to “counter.” $4 trillion to “address” a few hundred to a few thousand “al Quaeda?” Requiring hundreds to thousands of “installations” (which of course are also just “necessary” parts of the Global Networked Battlespace — Nine Areas of Responsibility that blanket the planet with claims of EMPIRE) and all those drones and Hellfires and “smart bombs”? A “thing” that even the loonies in the “militias” here at home scoff at, particularly the ones who have had their institutional butts kicked by Asymmetric Warriors with AKs and IEDs, and know that as has recently been re-proven, Big Wars on Little People tend to have Slink-Away Endings, much as predicted by old guys like Sun Tzu? link to

      This is a whole lot less about bigotry, seems to me, than it is about that “hegemony” thing and what authoritarians like to refer to as “discipline,” using the word as noun, adjective and verb, and in all the senses that the dictionary provides. link to

      And always remember: “The purpose of torture is torture. The purpose of power is power.” Whatever bits of debating-team chintz one tries to dress it up with.

  16. I think that the widespread idea that all killers are murders and all murders are terrorists is not a very accurate idea.
    Here is a list of killers.
    Ted Bundy, William Tell, Benidict Arnold, John Gacey, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Jeffery Dahlmer, Daniel Shays, Timothy McVeigh, Richard Rameriz, Claus Stauffenberg, Bryon
    De la Beckwith, Dennis Rader, Chief Little Crow, Heinrich Himmler, the unibomber, Carlos the Jackel, the multitudes of
    American men who have killed their wives in a fit of anger,
    the numerous american men who have killed someone for the insurance money, Eddie Murphy, Erwin Rommel, Jesse James, a famous American General who as a LTC followed orders and violently drove peacfully protesting WW1 veterans out of Washington in the 1920s, Fransico Franco, George W. Bush.
    This list leads me to conclude that some of the men on this list are common criminals, some are so vile that they do not really deserve to get the consideration that a common criminal gets, and some deserve a level of consideration
    higher than what a common criminal gets.

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