Thursday, February 14, 2002

The leadership of the American Bar Association have apparently just passed a resolution demanding that captured members of Al Qaida be treated like common criminals, and the Wall Street Journal's editorialists are angry at them for it. More specifically, the ABA has demanded that the standards of justice applied to bin Laden's operatives be those of domestic criminal courts, not military tribunals. What they are implicitly admitting, of course--along with the Journal and pretty much every other conscious being in the known universe--is that common criminals in America receive far more lenient treatment than, say, those accused under military jurisdiction (the latter including not only POWs but also friendly soldiers).

There was a time, mind you, when criminals were treated like--well, criminals, and soldiers (of any nation) were actually accorded, in some respects, a higher degree of dignity. Today, though, military tribunals are notorious chiefly for their habit of actually convicting and punishing wrongdoers, whereas the civilian criminal justice system is equally notorious for allowing scofflaws free rein on the oddest pretexts. What should be disturbing to Americans is not that Al Qaida terrorists might end up being tried in one or the other venue, but rather that one of those court systems--the one ordinary citizens count on to protect them from domestic thugs and hoodlums--is understood to be quite capable of offering the terrorists a relatively cushy deal. Sure makes one sleep well at night....

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