Do Captured Terrorists Have Rights?

Do captured terrorists have rights? That is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo".

An editorial in today's L.A. Times (search) entitled "Perhaps O'Reilly Is Wrong" spells out the paper's reasons for demanding that captured terror suspects get lawyers and Geneva Convention (search) protections.

We posted the entire editorial on We urge you to read it because the debate is vitally important to your safety. Also, the editorial is a good one, because it stimulates a very important debate. It was written after editorial writer Michael Kinsley (search) heard this on "The Radio Factor".


O'REILLY: Shutting down Guantanamo (search) and giving suspected terrorists legal protections would help restore our reputation abroad. No, it wouldn't. I mean, that's like saying well, if we're nicer to the people who want to kill us, then the other people who want to kill us will like us more.

Does that make any sense to you? Do you think Usama is going to be more favorably disposed to the U.S. if we give the Guantanamo people lawyers? I mean, but this is what they're saying. It is just — you just sit there. You go they'll never get it until they grab Michael Kinsley out of his little house and they cut his head off. And maybe when the blade sinks in, he'll go, "perhaps O'Reilly was right."


O'REILLY: Now I stand by every word of that, but Kinsley and his paper dissent. Their position is that by providing lawyers to captured jihadists, America's image will improve in the Muslim world. The paper also believes the Bush's administration hard-line policies have fueled Muslim anger.

Here's where those theories go wrong. A, no al Qaeda informer or any other sane person would testify in a criminal proceeding against a captured terrorist. That would mean an immediate death sentence for that person and their entire family. Al Qaeda makes the Mafia look like Britney Spears.

With no direct public testimony against them, many captured terrorists would be acquitted.

C, the Convention clearly states that terrorists are not entitled to the treaty's protections. You must wear a uniform to get that.

D, the anger and ferocity of the Islamic fascists rose under the Clinton administration, which was largely nonconfrontational vis-a-vis Muslim fanatics. Clearly, the soft approach did not work and never has worked with fanatics. Being nice to Hitler did not stop Hitler, as every student of history knows.

E, no matter what kind of olive branch the U.S. extends to the Muslim world, it will not be reported accurately. Al Jazeera (search) is not fair and balanced. The hateful clerics who control much of the information flow in the Middle East are not going to like the USA more if we give the jihadists lawyers.

And F, the Bush administration's tough stance against al Qaeda (search) and other terrorist organizations has badly hurt them. Again, reasoning with the unreasonable is a waste of time and can be dangerous. Hello, again, Third Reich.

So that's my answer to the L.A. Times, which would not provide a spokesperson this evening. I hope you compare my "Talking Points" with the paper's editorial. And please let me know what you think.

And that's "The Memo."

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