A 19-year-old naturalized American citizen is accused of committing a crime of violence in the United States, and a gaggle of elected officials are urging for him to be treated as an enemy combatant and placed in the hands of the military. Not just the usual right-wing suspects but Rep. Peter King, Sen.
No definite connection between the
The only details these elected officials know for certain is that the suspect is Muslim and that his older brother,
Are we really so distrustful of our own legal system that we think it's incapable of dealing with someone who police believe helped set off the bombs at the Boston Marathon? When we already have numerous video recordings of the Tsarnaev brothers in the act? And witnesses to their other criminal behavior?
If our police, prosecutors and courts can't mete out justice in a bombing case, how can we trust the legal systems for any murder or similar crime? Are the victims of those crimes less important? If it's about the perpetrators' political motivations, then what about Oklahoma City or the Unabomber or the various
Meanwhile, others in Washington are talking about holding up
Of course, one can make just the opposite argument, as
Just as it seemed the media deserved a nod for their collective restraint in the reporting of last week's Boston bombings, the investigation and the manhunt — a New York City tabloid and certain provinces of cable news excepted — the politicians are filling the void of irresponsibility. Is it really too much to ask for them to at least find out the truth behind the attacks before allowing the Tsarnaevs' actions to redefine life in the United States?
The proper response to terrorism is never to panic. It is to react appropriately to the act, to deter similar behavior in the future and to bring those responsible to justice as swiftly as possible. Surely, we've learned this lesson enough by now. And Americans should be delighted with the timely actions of law enforcement in the Boston case — as well as President Obama's clear-eyed endorsement of the rule of law.
But what happens when a couple of psychopaths with a few hundred dollars in supplies from a hardware store elicit some over-the-top response from
We won't speculate on the exact motivations behind the bombings or whether there's a substantial overseas connection. We can wait to hear the evidence. Surely, elected officials can do the same. To act otherwise is not only to invite future acts of terrorism but to erode public faith in our founding principles and most specifically in a criminal justice system that has served this nation well. Civilian prosecutors and courts have brought innumerable murderers of every race, creed and religious faith to justice under the protections of a time-tested Constitution we should not be nearly so anxious to circumvent.