Tsnarnaev and the Idea of the “Enemy Combatant”

We’re seeing a lot of, shall we say, heated rhetoric over the Boston bombing and Tsnarnaev, but when it comes to suggesting he be treated as an “enemy combatant” and therefore liable to be tortured, apparently, in the minds of certain bloodthirsty assholes, that’s a non-starter.

There are good reasons for this. America’s reputation during the Bush/Cheney debacle should serve as a lesson for good and always—when you break the laws you yourself allegedly support, the rest of the world judges accordingly, and this matters greatly. America is called hypocritical; would that be wrong? For each of us as well as for the nation, you have to be able to live with yourself on a moral basis. National as well as personal decisions need to be based on this, not mere self-interest.

This is the harder course, sure. However, the fact is that if we want to live up to the language of our creed, there’s only this choice.  For example, let’s say an American citizen was accused of terrorism overseas, or even in the U.S.? Enemy combatant? Should that person be tortured? We must, after all, be logically consistent, mustn’t we?

It’s clear Tsnarnaev is going to have his trial, will likely be convicted, and then either serve life-without-parole or the needle, all because he was his brother’s follower and believed what he did. Personally, I hope he’ll be sentenced to the former because I don’t like the death penalty. Still, there’s a great deal of blood-lust over the bombing, and surely many people would lose no sleep over an execution. In some ways that’s sad; would it not “send a different message” to the world about the way we treat those who harm us? Sure, this would be called mercy; that could be refreshing.

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About johnwylam1957

I'm a poet and teacher now living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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