Ununiformed Combatants

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As the Weekly Standard reports today that the Obama administration is granting Miranda rights to detainees in Afghanistan, we need to look at some of the history of nonuniformed enemy combatants.

According to the Wall Street Journal on April 11 of this year, the Somali pirates capture of the Maersk Alabama this year created a legal problem for the current administration.  The article explains the history involved in the treatment of what are referred to as latrunculi ("the common enemies of mankind").

"Though they don't often employ the term, many legal experts agree that al Qaeda fighters are latrunculi -- hardly distinguishable by their actions from pirates and the like. Robert Kogod Goldman, an American University law professor has commented: "I think under any standard, the captured al Qaeda fighters simply do not meet the minimum standards set out to be considered prisoners of war." And according to Marc Cogen, a professor of international law at Ghent University in Belgium, "no 'terrorist organization' thus far has been deemed a combatant under the laws of armed conflict." Thus al Qaeda members "can be punished for all hostile acts, including the killing of soldiers, because they have no right to participate directly in hostilities." But the Obama administration is about to extend legal rights -- intended to protect civilians -- to the very latrunculi who want to blow them up by considering the possibility of trying them in U.S. courts. Indeed, Attorney General Holder did not rule out trying the Somali pirates."

The Weekly Standard points out:

"But Republicans on Capitol Hill are not happy. "When they mirandize a suspect, the first thing they do is warn them that they have the 'right to remain silent,'" says Representative Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. "It would seem the last thing we want is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any other al-Qaeda terrorist to remain silent. Our focus should be on preventing the next attack, not giving radical jihadists a new tactic to resist interrogation--lawyering up."

According to Mike Rogers, that is precisely what some human rights organizations are advising detainees to do. "The International Red Cross, when they go into these detention facilities, has now started telling people -- 'Take the option. You want a lawyer.'"

Rogers adds: "The problem is you take that guy at three in the morning off of a compound right outside of Kabul where he's building bomb materials to kill US soldiers, and read him his rights by four, and the Red Cross is saying take the lawyer -- you have now created quite a confusion amongst the FBI, the CIA and the United States military. And confusion is the last thing you want in a combat zone.""

This is not the correct way to deal with terrorism, and I suspect the policy will be scrapped very quickly if this country is attacked.  One commentator I recenty heard pointed out that in World War II any enemy not wearing a uniform captured on or near the battlefield was immediately shot as a spy.  I think this is rather drastic (but effective), but I also think that reading terrorists their Miranda rights is rather drastic. 

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This page contains a single entry by Granny G published on June 10, 2009 6:42 PM.

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