How To Talk To A Jihadist

Watching senators and pundits huff and puff about Mirandizing terrorists when they should apparently be declared enemy combatants and tortured at length is a depressing spectacle. To see political leaders in the West have such a low view of the American judicial system and such an elevated view of the world-historical significance of these pathetic, twisted, religious nutjobs  ... well, they look like a bunch of scaredy cats to me. What the hell happened to "Live Free Or Die?" What happened to the confidence of a society that its ancient traditions are perfectly capable, indeed precisely tailored, to cut down to size these narcissistic, fundamentalist celebrity-seekers?

Which reminds me. One of the high points in the West's defense against these losers was the trial of one Richard Reid, an unspeakably ugly and deeply stupid Brit whom Dick Cheney decided should  - gasp - be treated as a terrorist under the criminal law in the months after 9/11. Not an enemy combatant to be flown to Gitmo and tortured. A terrorist brought to justice in the light of day. Eight years later, Cheneyites are drumming up panic that the Obama administration would do exactly the same thing for exactly the same reasons. But that they have lost their shit is no reason for the rest of us to lose ours.

My view is that trying Mr Undie Bomber is the truly tough guy option - to stand by our traditions against his absurd pretensions. Few people put the case better than the judge in that case, one William Young. Listen to him again. Remember what American values truly are - not the pathetic reduction to torture or cockamamie theories of presidential super-powers. Just the West's principles and values, our strongest weapons and our only hope:

We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before.

There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist.

You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist.

To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature.

Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line in this court. You're a big fellow. But you're not that big. You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense Trooper Santiago had it right when first you were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were and he said you're no big deal.

You're no big deal...

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose. Here, in this society, the very winds carry freedom. They carry it everywhere from sea to shining sea.

It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely. It is for freedom's seek that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf and have filed appeals, will go on in their, their representation of you before other judges. We care about it. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties.

Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms. Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. Day after tomorrow it will be forgotten. But this, however, will long endure. Here, in this courtroom, and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done.

The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged, and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. You know it always will. Custody, Mr. Officer. Stand him down.

How far we've come. But how deep and strong the inheritance we can still reclaim.