I am writing this on Memorial Day, 2015. This is a day when all of us Americans should take pause to remember those who have bravely fought for our freedom. Some of these brave individuals paid the ultimate sacrifice. I am not old enough to know anyone personally that lost their lives during WWII or Korea. My father and uncle, both WWII veterans, would reminisce about some of their lost classmates. My memories are of the young men I knew from ROTC that were killed during the Vietnam War. Young men, all educated, some with families, who will never experience the joy of being a grandfather or the aches and pains of getting older. I think of them often.
Recently, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty and received the death sentence. You don’t remember Dzhokhar? You would easily recognize him as the Boston bomber. He and his brother set off two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, thereby assuring maximum carnage. In that regard, they succeeded. While friends and families were cheering for the runners at the finish line, their bomb killed three people and injured 264 more. Many of the surviving injured have two prosthetic limbs. One of the killed was an 8 year old boy.
After a lengthy and costly civil trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was appropriately given a death sentence. What I find absolutely appalling is that it has been determined that this sentence may not be carried out for at least 10 years because of the appeal process. Appeal process? On what grounds? Are the three murdered victims going to miraculously reappear on planet Earth? Are the 264 victims going to be miraculously healed? I am pretty sure neither of these events will occur. What new information could possibly be presented by the defense to change the sentence? ‘Your honor, my client is not guilty because he was in Iran attending a bomb-making seminar at the time of the explosions in Boston.’ Why is this terrorist and blatant murderer allowed to live more than 60 days, at government expense, after receiving a unanimous death penalty? Do you know why? Well, Mr Tsarnaev became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America on ………..ready for this…… on September 11, 2012! Yup. On the anniversary of 9/11. How befitting.
We need to rethink as to how we should treat these terrorists. That applies to the foreign bred and the home-grown variety. But wait! There is a procedure that has been used from the infancy of the United States, and reconfigured in 2001 to address just this situation. It is called the military tribunal.
On November 13, 2001, President George W. Bush issued a new military order in the war against terrorism. The order called for the secretary of defense to detain non-citizens accused of international terrorism. The order includes all organizations that have engaged in, aided, or conspired to commit international terrorist acts against the United States of America or its citizens. Those who knowingly harbor such individuals are also subject to the order. Under the order, the secretary is charged with establishing military tribunals (also called military commissions) to conduct trials of non-citizens accused of terrorism either in the US or in other parts of the world.
A military tribunal, or commission, is different from a regular civilian criminal court. In a tribunal, military officers act as both judge and jury. After a hearing, guilt is determined by a vote of the commissioners. Unlike a criminal jury, the decision does not have to be unanimous. The order requires a ‘full and fair trial.’
On March 21, 2002, the Department of Defense issued its procedures for the commissions. The commission would consist of three to seven members appointed by the secretary of defense or by an appointed committee. All members would be officers in the US military. A presiding officer would be chosen and must be a military lawyer. The presiding officer will have authority to admit or exclude evidence. The officer may conduct the trial in closed session if this is necessary to protect classified information or to assure the safety of defendants, witnesses, or commission members.
Under the procedures, a defendant would receive many, but not all, of the due process protections guaranteed to a defendant in a US civilian criminal court. The tribunal procedures guarantee the following due process protections:
1. An accused will be provided with defense counsel and can also have a lawyer of his or her own choosing, either a military or civilian attorney.
2. The accused will be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
3. An accused may refuse to testify during trial. The accused will have the right to obtain witnesses and documents necessary for the defense.
4. A person accused may not be tried twice before a military commission for the same offense.
5. An accused will be allowed to negotiate and enter into a plea agreement.
Under the procedures, however, a person can be convicted in a commission trial by a two-thirds majority of the commissioners. Unanimous verdicts are not required. Evidence, including previous trial testimony and written statements will be admissible if it tends to prove or disprove the case at hand. The exclusionary rule, which keeps illegally seized evidence out of a civilian criminal trial, does not apply. The procedures do not provide for appeals from a guilty verdict to civilian judges. They do, however, call for ‘reviews’ of a verdict by a three-member panel selected by the secretary of defense. No verdict will be final until approved by the POTUS or the secretary of defense.
The first time a military tribunal was used was when a commission was empaneled by George Washington to try Major John Andre, a British officer, for the crime of spying. Andre was the ‘go-between’ guy between the British and Benedict Arnold. Andre was hanged.
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that all rebels arrested with the United States would be subject to martial law. Military commissions tried an estimated 4,000 people. There were eight abettors arrested after the assassination of President Lincoln. All were found guilty by military tribunal. Four were hanged and the other four received lengthy sentences.
President Roosevelt authorized a military tribunal in 1942, when eight Nazi saboteurs were delivered to Long Island by U-boat. They were dressed as civilians and were to target American industry. Two of the eight defected and contacted the FBI. The two defectors received prison sentences. The six remaining saboteurs were electrocuted.
Most people have heard of the Nuremburg trials in Germany at the end of WWII. This military commission was to try the Nazis for war crimes. A lesser known, but just as effective military tribunal took place in the Philippines at the end of WWII to try for Japanese war crimes. Both tribunals resulted in death sentences for the guilty.
Another big difference between a military tribunal and a civilian military court? In a military tribunal court, the sentences are carried out in a timely manner. Don’t you think Tsarnaev should have been before a military tribunal?
But Grandpa T. You can’t do that. After all, Tsarnaev is an American citizen.
Let’s discuss that further. Some months ago, the head of the FBI appeared on 60 minutes. He was there to discuss terrorism. He was asked a very direct question, “Do you know how many Americans are fighting for terroristic groups?” His answer? “We know all the Americans that are fighting for terroristic groups and we think there are about a dozen of them.” If this was not so blatantly stupid, I would have laughed. Here is why. There are almost 100,000 Somalis living in Minnesota. Not that long ago, there was an article saying that over 200 Somali teenagers were currently unaccounted for in Minnesota. Well, I don’t know where all of them have gone, but I can tell you that many of them are now associated with terrorist groups that are enemies of the US. Security agencies have apprehended many of these teenagers/young adults during their travel. But they haven’t caught all of them, as two high school classmates and friends were both recently killed while fighting for ISIS. Somali girls have fled to marry terrorist members. These Somalis are being actively recruited because they speak English and know America and American ways. Many of these Somalis were born in the US!
Now follow me during my ‘leap of logic.’ If an individual joins/supports and organization that is an enemy of the United States, didn’t that individual just declare war on the United States? I wholeheartedly believe that is exactly what they did. And as such, I do not believe they should be granted the liberties and rights associated with being an American citizen and its judicial system. As far as I am concerned, Tsarnaev should have been tried by military tribunal, with a sentence to be carried out in a timely manner. I believe anyone we capture fighting/supporting a terroristic organization is denied the privileges provided American citizens. And… this is a big and… did you notice the highlighted line in the military tribunal procedures stating that not only the terrorist is subject to military tribunal, but those who knowingly harbor such individuals. Do you really think that Tsarnaev’s parents did not know what the brothers were going to do? Do you really believe that the parents of the missing Somali teenagers don’t know what they are doing or where they are?
I’m pissed! This country is the land of opportunity and privilege. Yet, we get these people who use our liberalism against us, becoming US citizens and then murdering their fellow Americans. Tsarnaev should be hanged. Becoming a US citizen and then setting off bombs 6 months later was not a part of his naturalization process. His ranting parents and the parents of Somali teens fighting against the US should be deported back to the third world crap holes from which they came.
Wake up America! I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day.