Friday, November 13, 2009

Off with his head! or: Neoconservative justice

Bill Kristol apparently believes that if you're a Muslim and accused of an act of terrorism then you should be executed summarily at the discretion of the President without charge or trial.*

Law enforcement officials announced yesterday that Maj. Nidal M. Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder in the brutal attacks at Fort Hood Army base. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that “the number one issue, I think right now, is that Major Hasan be brought to justice.”

Last night on Fox News, Bill Kristol called Napolitano’s comment “stupid” and stated outright that there should be no trial:

KRISTOL: I was very struck also by Janet Napolitano’s comment, I hadn’t read it before to see her say that, that the number one priority is to bring him to justice is such a knee-jerk comment and such a stupid comment. He’s going to be brought to justice. He is not going to be innocent of murder. There are a lot of eyewitnesses to that. They should just go ahead and convict him and put him to death.
Giving the Executive branch of government the power to declare a U.S. citizen guilty and have that individual killed by fiat without due process of the law was exactly why this country was founded, you know? The founders sought to break away from an oppressive, undemocratic system of government in which the most bedrock principle was that of habeus corpus: the right to not be imprisoned or punished without a fair trial. That's what our history books say, right?

I'm not sure what is worse, Kristol's open contempt for the most basic civil liberties and principles of western democracy which are enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, or the Obama administration's more subversive tiered system of justice.

So what we have here is not an announcement that all terrorism suspects are entitled to real trials in a real American court. Instead, what we have is a multi-tiered justice system, where only certain individuals are entitled to real trials: namely, those whom the Government is convinced ahead of time it can convict. Others for whom conviction is less certain will be accorded lesser due process: put in military commissions, to which most leading Democrats vehemently objected when created under Bush. Presumably, others still -- those who the Government believes cannot be convicted in either forum, will simply be held indefinitely with no charges, a power the administration recently announced it intends to preserve based on the same theories used by Bush/Cheney to claim that power.

A system of justice which accords you varying levels of due process based on the certainty that you'll get just enough to be convicted isn't a justice system at all. It's a rigged game of show trials.
At least with Kristol, you have the injustice right out in the open. With the heads I win, tails you lose system being proposed by the Obama Department of Justice, there is a facade of due process which hides the injustice.

*I'm granting for the sake of argument that Hasan is guilty of terrorism, yet I don't believe his murderous rampage is terrorism. The profile of his act that seems more appropriate is that of the disgruntled employee who "goes Postal" on his co-workers. What's more, terrorism is generally defined to be an act of violence directed towards civilian targets to make a political point ... that didn't happen with Hasan. See here for more thoughts on the subject.


We Are The 801 said...

Well, Mr. Kristol, look who's "unamerican" now. What a sorry-ass son of a bitch.

A "knee-jerk comment"? WTF?? He really doesn't get it.

Anton said...

I'm not sure that that Salon piece really proves that there's a tiered system of justice, as the author alleges.

From what's presented in the article, it seems equally possible that the Cole guy is being tried by a military commission because his target was military. (The author refers to others but gives no specifics.)

With Khalid Sheikh Mohammed & 4 other 9/11 defendants, it's obviously a different scenario.

There may well be an issue here, but I think the Salon piece is all presumption by Greenwald.