There's been a lot of breathless bloviating going around about how military tribunals are going to screw up our relations with our friends in Western Europe.
The reasoning goes like this: Countries such as Spain will not send Al Qaeda suspects to the U.S. for trial if they have to face either a military tribunal or the death penalty.
Here's the reality: Spain was never going to send us Al Qaeda suspects. Never. Never. Never. The reason being that even without military tribunals, we were always going to hold open the option of the Tim McVeigh treatment — that is, the needle.
Many of our European friends — including Britain, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Sweden — are all against the death penalty, and would never send a suspect to the U.S. if such a punishment were a possibility.
Losing friends is not a reason to oppose tribunals. It's okay to oppose tribunals because you believe that normal criminal justice procedures should not be aborted or overtaken by summary justice.
But that argument misses the point. Members of Al Qaeda are combatants whose goal is the overthrow and defeat of the government and nation. We simply do not grant such people our system of justice, nor should we.
We shouldn't have granted Ramzi Yousef our system of justice either. He got lucky twice: the first time was when we gave him a regular trial, and the second was when the jury gave him life instead of the needle.
Yousef is a perfectly good example of why these people should not get the same sort of trials that ordinary defendants would. He was an Iraqi intelligence agent sent here to blow up the World Trade Center. It was insanity to treat him as a criminal. He should have been treated as a combatant out of uniform, but a combatant nonetheless.
In such a case, and in the ones soon coming before us, if the panel of generals and colonels determines the evidence shows the defendant was engaged in war against the nation, I say ship 'em to Terre Haute.
That's My Word.
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