Jan 18, 2010

POWs, spies & terrorists: an appropriate judicial and penal model

When I was 11, my uncle and I played chess a lot.   (I was pretty good that I can even beat our neighbor’s dad.)  During our games we talked about the war, WWII, a lot.  I lost my grandpa and a granduncle at that war.  I learned about the Geneva Convention protecting everyone’s troops.  It was a civilized war.  When captured, one can disclose his name, rank and serial number then be kept in the POW camps until a prisoner exchange or release can be arranged.
 But those rules were for soldiers who fought reasonably i.e. by going after military targets and not harming civilians.  I guess there was no other kind during that war.  The worst was when an enemy dons the uniform of your troops; that one gets to be executed immediately when caught.
I wonder what my uncle would have thought about terrorists who wore no uniforms and attacked civilians.  My guess is that these guys would be lower than maggots where a firing squad would be too dignified for them.  So, he would be perplexed  to know that they will be given civil rights protections and flown in civilian courts for a regular hearing.  These poor excuse for military personnel would be protected by a court appointed lawyers and be making plea deals to bring down their sentences.  They cannot even be interrogated.

Sometimes, I wonder if this country's leaders lack perspective and judgment.  Perhaps Harvard law needs to teach about wartime justice so that their graduates can use the appropriate paradigm and not usher the miscarriages of justice that make the land of freedom a joke in the world.

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