AUSTIN, April 20, 2013 - The always patriotic U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham says the Boston bombing “is Exhibit A of why the homeland is the battlefield.” In an interview with the Washington Post: “It’s a battlefield because the terrorists think it is.” Referring to Boston, he observed, “Here is what we’re up against,” and added, “It sure would be nice to have a drone up there [to track the suspect.]” He also slammed the president’s policy of “leading from behind and criminalizing war.”
On Twitter, Graham suggested the Obama administration arbitrarily toss the court system and Constitution for “intelligence gathering purposes.” According to Graham, accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, should be held as an enemy combatant. This legal status has been mostly reserved for al Qaeda captured abroad or foreigners, such as those held without charge for the last decade in Guantanamo Bay’s military facility.
Senator Graham is a known proponent of military-style detention for American suspects merely accused of terrorism. During debates regarding indefinite detainment provisions in 2011, which effectively invalidated the Bill of Rights, he notoriously bellowed that Americans accused of a terrorist-related crime should be denied Due Process. “When they say I want a lawyer you say, “Shut up! You don’t get a lawyer”.
He was also a most vocal critic of Senator Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster designed to demand answers regarding the Obama administration’s domestic drone program. When the tide of public opinion turned against him, he stopped vocally defending the “homeland battlefield” ideology, but Graham never lets a crisis go to waste.
These statements are a lame attempt to justify the further militarization of the American justice system. While most Americans are content with disregarding this typical chickenhawk rhetoric, this narrative becomes increasingly more dangerous.
All Americans should be wary when congressional leaders like Graham attempt to justify 12th century-style military custody.
As journalist Tom Mullen rightly observed, “The Bill of Rights was already on life support before this tragedy. Before the dust settled after 9/11, the 4th Amendment had been nullified by the Patriot Act. The 5th and 6th Amendments were similarly abolished with the Military Commission Act of 2006 and the 2012 NDAA resolution, which contained a clause allowing the president to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil without due process of law.”
How much further can we move to invalidate our entire legal process? If we are at war with radical individuals and America is a battlefield, then why pretend we have laws? Why didn’t we just call in a few Apaches and dispatch the suspects promptly, as we do in war? Why bother with arrest and detainment, evidence or trial?
Because the United States is not at “war” with its own citizens that commit acts of terror for an ideology any more than we were at war with the Columbine shooters and various other domestic terrorists. They should be captured or killed in accordance with law, tried and convicted if guilty. They should be exonerated if they are innocent. That is the American way.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is an American citizen accused of a terrible crime, and current evidence suggest he is likely guilty. While there are legitimate arguments regarding whether he should be Mirandized, he doesn’t lose his right to trial, evidence and appeal because he’s been accused of a crime, no matter how egregious. He should not be treated as an enemy combatant and released to military custody as Graham advocates.
Let’s remember the definition of freedom. Let’s remember that the United States has based its worldwide reputation on protecting freedom, which is rooted in respect for the rule of law. We have taken up the banner of liberty and protected human rights around the world, both by example and with blood.
Did our nation’s warriors sacrifice their lives so that politicians could undermine liberty by declaring the “homeland” a “battlefield”? Can the United States government be at war with its own people? If the “War on Terror” cannot be won without destroying the Constitution, then have we not already lost?
Perhaps Senator Lindsey Graham speaks so loosely of “war” at every turn because he’s never seen “war” from his lush digs in corporate royalty land. Without due process, there is nothing protecting the innocent from mistakes made by bureaucrats. When the law is manipulated for one suspect, it is much easier to bend it for us all. If you disagree with him, perhaps he should hear from you.