Friday, February 8, 2008

Terrorists in Jail

One area of argument in the ‘war on terror’ is that terrorists should be prosecuted as common criminals. To do otherwise is to give them a status that they do not deserve. (POW) Not to mention the risk incurred by placing them in facilities outside of the law. Theoretically, this precedent could be expanded to include U.S. citizens, or the citizens of other countries. A valid, long term concern.

The other side of the argument is that prison is a breeding ground for rebellion in all cultures. To place terrorists into the prison population is to run the risk of spreading the ‘religion’ that they believe so strongly in. Terrorists don’t carry their arms openly and do not wear uniforms. Yet terrorists use military weapons and tactics to prey upon civilians. They enjoy no official government support. This line of thinking goes on in that terrorists are similar to pirates. The difference of political objective as opposed to obtaining loot is not important because it is what you do as what defines you more than the justification of your actions. For thousands of years, it was accepted that pirates who were captured were then hung. Today, this is not really accepted, so interrogation and separation from society for the rest of their lives seems a more humane way of dealing with them. Useful information may be obtained through means that would not be available to use on ‘terrorist’ prisoners who are outside of legal boundaries. This idea can be seen as being potentially VERY dangerous.

During World War II, Japanese soldiers gave no quarter. To surrender or be captured was the height of dishonor. They expected to fight to the death, and expected the enemy to do likewise. This is why they tended to mistreat prisoners. By being captured alive, they forfeited any and all consideration. In general, Japanese soldiers would kill themselves before being captured. As a result, the United States captured few Japanese soldiers. Usually, they were captured because they had been knocked unconscious. Because they were not expected to survive, Japanese soldiers received no training in prisoner’s rights. They did not know that all they had to say was name, rank and serial number. So it was not uncommon to obtain all sorts of information. Sometimes, this information saved some of our men’s lives. Today’s terrorists probably have better education in this regard. However, have you noticed that the terrorist organizations are not screaming about their prisoners’ treatment? I suspect that at least part of the reason is that it is so dishonorable. Like the Japanese soldiers, many terrorists prefer to die fighting. Because they do not have any government support, their legal rights and position are unknown. Giving them civil protections would change this equation drastically.

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