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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mr. President: If You Really Want To Emulate Abraham Lincoln...

President Obama has a keen desire to emulate Abraham Lincoln. For instance, he took the oath of office on the very same Bible that Abraham Lincoln took it on. He took a train ride that mirrored the train ride that Lincoln took in anticipation of his own inauguration. They are of course both from Illinois. No doubt, President Obama would like nothing more than to one day be revered much like Lincoln was. The comparisons between he and Lincoln are rather immense considering that President Obama has only held the office for just more than 48 hours.

Of course, I would like to suggest to President Obama one point upon which he could emulate Lincoln. It is a point that in fact President Obama has decided to take an entirely different direction. During the Civil War Lincoln set up military tribunals to try war criminals. Now, he didn't try Confederate Soldiers in these tribunals. That's because Confederate soldiers, those captured, were considered POW's and held until the end of the war. Instead, Lincoln tried civilians that were illegally helping the Confederacy.

Now, some might claim that there is a difference between what Lincoln did and today. In fact, it is quite the same. The terrorists wear no uniforms. They commit illegal acts of war. So, much like those folks that Lincoln tried, they should be tried in front of military courts as well. Lincoln understood full well that during war time illegally contributing to the enemies' war effort is an illegal act of war.

In much the same way, terrorists wear no uniforms, target civilians, and thus they too are committing illegal acts of war. In fact, Barack Obama could look to a more recent President that he also emulates for guidance. FDR, during WWII, tried seven German saboteurs in a military court as well. These seven German spies entered our waters wearing civilian clothes and their mission was to target civilians in an attempt to create terror.

In the midst of World War II, two German submarines actually put men ashore at both of those locations. The invaders did not arrive with the intent of seizing and occupying territory, however. Their mission was sabotage. Their targets were some of the crown jewels of America’s industrial might: major hydroelectric plants, important aluminum factories, critical railroad tracks, bridges and canals–and the water supply system of New York City.

FDR understood full well that these spies weren't merely criminals. Instead, they were enemies, illegal ones at that, committing illegal war crimes. As such, FDR tried the saboteurs in a military court.

Yet, Barack Obama insists on trying terrorists, many currently held at GITMO, in civilian federal court. By doing so, he lowers their deeds to crimes. They didn't merely steal something, kill someone, or con someone. They attempted to put a plan into large buildings. Such an act is not a crime but rather an act of war, and an illegal one at that.

Barack Obama has maintained that we are in fact in the middle of a war. Yet, he reduces what our enemies have perpetrated, and continue to plot, to merely crimes when he insists on trying them in civilian courts. By lumping the terrorists in with common criminals, President Obama also lumps in their deeds with common crimes. Such thinking is dangerous. Their actions weren't merely crimes. They were acts of war and illegal ones at that. The place where they should be adjudicated is in a military court where illegal acts of war can be properly adjudicated.

President Obama should look to the example of two icons of the Presidency, two folks he clearly aspires to be, for guidance on this matter. If he really wants to emulate Lincoln and FDR, I would start with keeping the trials Al Qaeda in a military court where they belong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The german spies were shot, right ?
This would upset our refined psyche of today...