In the Arena

Criminal v. Military

  • Share
  • Read Later

Michael Tomasky has a really interesting post up about the efficacy of civilian v. military trials of terrorists during the Bush Administration. Guess what? Civilian procedures put a much higher percentage of terrorists behind bars.

That still leaves the vexing question–if this is, as the President said, a war against Al Qaeda–of where we draw the line between civilian and military cases. I think Michael Kinsley had an arbitrary but entirely reasonable bright line: where we catch them. If they’re caught here–like Undiebomber and Richard Reid–they’re tried here. If they’re caught overseas, like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, that’s assumed a battlefield capture and part of the military system. There are no clean answers here, but there is reality: In the end, civilian rules can’t apply to U.S. military operations overseas. We have to be able to seek out and kill the enemy. If we’re lucky enough to find and target Osama in North Waziristan some day, no one’s going to read him his Miranda rights–someone is going to fire a Predator missile.