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Who is a criminal vs who is a terrorist? Why does it matter?

This is one of those cases where the attached article linked below isn’t so very important. I don’t need to know if the people mentioned in it were really “wrongly ensnared” or not. The notion that someone could be is enough for me to ponder.

I think, based on experience, that the idea of letting suspected terrorists go is a very unpopular idea. Right now we have people being held in perpetuity for being suspected terrorists. They haven’t had trials, nor been convicted of anything. That’s because they aren’t considered criminals. They are considered to be enemy combatants.

The idea of possibly letting some of them go is so controversial that it represents a subject seldom approached. On the one hand you have people who argue that if we do that we are creating a possibly dangerous situation by putting someone out there who means to do us harm. On the other hand you have those who don’t want to admit that the US might be doing something wrong and are willing to use terrorism as the excuse to make that wrong thing seem right.

The rules that we have laid out for criminals do not apply to enemy combatants.

I am not suggesting that the same rules do apply. I am able to understand there is a difference. However, I feel that there should be some limitations on that which aren’t currently being met and some consistency in application. I also think there should be greater transparency. These things are being done in the name of the American people so I think the people should know more. I get there are somethings that are best kept secret, but not everything.

Part of that is how we define who is an enemy combatant. For example the men who carried out the Boston bombing did so for terroristic reasons in support of an enemy out to harm America. Then White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaking on behalf of the Obama Administration, said they were not going to treat them as enemy combatants but instead, “We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice.” This didn’t represent anything new; it  has been done many times.

Why them and not others?

Legitimately we know that some people who have been in custody for many years have never actually bombed some American interest – but these brothers did. Yet they were given all the benefits of the US justice system and some – sitting in Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay prison – just sit there even though they may not have actually harmed anyone because they have ties to terrorism or terrorists. What does that actually mean? We aren’t really told. We’re just told to trust our government.

Ten years or more in prison without a trial is a very long time indeed and I don’t trust out government.

It’s not that I am bashing America, you all know I think it is the greatest country the world has ever produced, but I don’t think I’m supposed to trust my government. I see America and the government as two different things. There are those in government who, as we all know, do things that aren’t in keeping with the ideals that founded America. They say they are doing it for the good of the nation. I’m certain they believe that. But I’m not certain they are right. I can’t be certain because I don’t have enough information to make an education opinion on that. This is why I can’t trust them. I can only trust them if I know the facts, everything else is faith. I don’t have faith in government.

Maybe I am wrong and all the people being held should be held. Maybe I’m right and there are some people who need to be released. Because I don’t know, I must question. Questioning does not mean you are anti-American, it just means you don’t make judgments about other people’s lives based on faith in those wielding power.

I just want to know how we know that a bad guy really is a bad guy. Normally the way we do that as a society is because they were found guilty in a trial after having the evidence against them presented. Even though that system isn’t perfect it does tend to work very well and the imperfections are the exception, not the rule. What marker do we use other than faith for those we call terrorists?

I have no love for them, for people who are terrorists, but this isn’t about them, it’s about America. It is a country I love and I want that country to have integrity and I’m worried it has lost some of that integrity.

Locked up Forever?
The long read: Saifullah Paracha, the oldest prisoner in Guantánamo Bay, will probably die in detention without ever being charged. His son is currently in a US prison. Both have been in custody for almost 15 years, accused of aiding al-Qaida. But did they?

Source: Forever prisoners: were a father and son wrongly ensnared by America’s war on terror?

One thought on “Who is a criminal vs who is a terrorist? Why does it matter?

  1. You’ve missed the issue. Terrorists and enemy combatants are two different legal terms and the latter cannot legally be applied to those inside the borders of the US at this time. Hence, they’re handled as criminals.

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