Your Lefts and Rights: Miranda Rights

By Tyler Goodwin
On February 15, 2010

Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa and Presidents Bush and Obama alike issued an oral decree. Both communicated a declaration—a declaration of war. To clear up any confusion one may have to this point, war means you have an enemy that you engage in combat with. This is imperative to the following debate raging in the halls of the capitol.

The debate is whether terrorists should be read their Miranda rights and tried in civilian court after being detained just as a common American criminal would. After the capture of the Christmas day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, he was interrogated for 50 minutes by the FBI before they were given the order by the White House to read him his Miranda rights, which includes the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent.

Predictably, Abdulmutallab exercised those rights and stopped talking. Furthermore predictably, the firestorm that is divisive politics was set off. The aggressors on this subject were the conservatives and the original decision makers represented the left.

It is important to note that the liberal White Houses' decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab should come of no surprise. Earlier in the year it was announced by US Attorney General Eric Holder that terrorists could, and some will, be tried in civilian court as opposed to military tribunals. By allowing terrorists access to our court system, they would have to be afforded the same rights that any citizen would get when dealing with our judicial system in order for a case or trial to be considered valid. Part of that process is reading the detainee his or her rights if that is the avenue the government will choose to take in order to seek justice.

As articulated by Holder in many speeches and interviews, the decision of giving terrorists the same rights as an American citizen and trying them in civilian court is twofold. First, Holder believes that by utilizing civilian court, justice will come swifter to those who are responsible for such atrocities as Sept. 11. Some terrorists that we have captured in connection with Sept. 11 still sit in prison cells eight and a half years after the attack. It is thought by liberals that this long awaited justice will come if civilian courts are used.

Second, the left believes that if an attack is made against civilians, the attacker should be tried in civilian court. If the attack is made against the military, the attacker should be brought to justice in a military tribunal. Because Abdulmutallab is accused of an attack against civilians, he will be tried in civilian court and is therefore permitted the rights he was given.

The right sees it much differently. They believe we are at war with terrorism and need to do whatever we can to secure information vital to preventing future attacks. Given the opening paragraph, conservatives believe terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants and not subject to civilian law or the rights of American citizens. Captured terrorists should be treated as captured soldiers. Conservatives believe we may have missed the window to collect valuable information after Abdulmutallab remained silent as he was told he could.

This seems like a second-grade-level jigsaw puzzle to me, but if both groups have declared war on each other, we consider terrorists to be our enemy and both groups are in active combat against one another it seems as though you would classify a captured terrorist as an enemy combatant. Why does it matter if their fighting style isn't conventional or that sometimes they target civilians or that they don't associate themselves with one nationality? They are soldiers trained to kill us and our way of life. I'm not intending to be a fear monger here, but it's the truth. We aren't dealing with individual murders; we are dealing with a war against thousands of people who dislike us just as much as we dislike them and coordinate attacks against us.

Because they are so obviously enemy combatants, they should not be afforded the rights of the constitution the same way an American citizen is. The constitution that they hate, seek to destroy, and kill the soldiers who defend it should not turn around and protect them. That notion is simply outrageous and disrespectful. I feel that most liberals think that if terrorists are not provided with rights, every terrorist will be water boarded or otherwise treated unfairly. This is not true. We need to stay within the Geneva Convention, but that is it. The rights of the constitution belong to Americans and no one else, especially not people we are at war with. We don't need to afford the rights of the constitution to enemy combatants to shine as a beacon of hope to the world.

Tyler Goodwin is a sophomore Business Administration and Justice Studies major at UNH. With this column he hopes to show that it is possible to solve major issues without being divisive or following the doctrine of specific political groups.

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