Lindsey Graham’s terrible idea to try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combattant

Ever since the Boston Marathon bombing, GOP Senator Lindsay Graham has been working non-stop to exploit the tragedy for his political career, just like he did with Benghazi.

Wherever there was a TV camera to be found, Graham was in front of it to say the first thing that popped into his head, regardless of whether it was true, made sense or was even consistent with what he had said earlier.

Graham contradicts self on “enemy combattants”

Kos points out that Graham’s demand that Boston Marathon bombing suspect #2, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, be tried as an enemy combatant, is the exact opposite of what Graham stated when defending re-authorization of the National Defense Authorization Act:


Here’s Graham in the video:

“No-one can be held as an enemy combatant under the law that we have constructed unless they have their day in federal court… The only people who can be held under military custody are one that have been found to have associated with Al Qaeda in an overt way and the government has to prove that to a federal judge.”

According to what we know publicly, there is no evidence that Tsarnaev was in contact with Al Qaeda at all – he denies it as well – and no evidence of ‘overt’ association with any Islamic radical group, which he also denies. So as Graham himself declared during passage of the bill, there is no legal authority for holding Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant.

Lindsay Graham chick-fil-a

Wrong about chicken, wrong about terrorism.

The FBI and local police have together built a case that looks all but certain to result in a state murder conviction, and a nearly certain Federal conviction. Declaring Tsarnaev an enemy combatant, and putting him on trial in a military tribunal, has no advantages and numerous disadvantages. Not least, the fact that the US federal courts are much more likely to find the entire system of military tribunals unconstitutional (as they have already done once), than they are to permit the execution of the surviving Tsarnaev.

How to create more terrorists?  Listen to Graham.

In 1970, the Heath government in the UK adopted a Graham-type strategy. Terrorist suspects were interned, torture was used in interrogations. The number of deaths due to terrorism leapt from 17 in 1970 to 89 in 1971, and 249 in 1972. Internment created the Provisional IRA. Deaths in the province remained in the hundreds until 1977, when they suddenly dropped to 49 from 207 the year before. The deaths dropped when the UK authorities abandoned the Heath/Graham model of treating terrorists as military foes, and instead adopted the successful West German model of treating terrorists as ordinary criminals.

To paraphrase a discussion on the topic with Joseph Nye, the essence of terrorism is to amplify the effect of a very limited quantity of ‘hard power’ (bullets, bombs, etc.) with the ‘soft power’ of fear and panic. We don’t call people with significant hard power like tanks and planes ‘terrorists’, we call them armies.

Since 9/11, the GOP has used ‘terrorism’ as a pretext for increasing the already vast hard power of the US ,while abandoning its chief soft power assets. Carter and Reagan demolished Soviet soft power by focusing on the contrast between freedom of speech in the US and communist abuses of human rights.

Islamic fundamentalists turn the same tactic against the US contrasting the ‘purity’ of shariah law against the lawless US practice of internment, torture and drone strikes.

Graham’s demands won’t help us win the war on terrorism because they are the reason we are losing it.

The Tsarnaev brothers are more Columbine than 9/11

The Tsarnaev brothers bear little resemblance to earlier terrorist groups. They were “Islamic fanatics” who were rarely seen at the mosque. Their mother was a “devout Muslim,” currently facing charges for shoplifting. The target of their attack bears no particular connection to their presumed political motive. Far from being the new Bin Laden, the Tsarnaev brothers are akin to the new Harris and Klebold (the 17 and 18 year olds behind the Columbine massacre).

It appears that Tsarnaev’s primary motive was to kill people for the sake of killing people, with some odd generic “defense of Islam” excuse thrown in for good measure. Treating the surviving brother as a political prisoner, rather than as a suspect charged as a common criminal, only encourages others to follow their example.  It almost elevates the pair, treats them like some kind of criminal masterminds, and it’s something neither deserves.

It is important to remember that the Boston Marathon bombing was not the only explosion or terrorist act that week. If the prime suspect in the ricin attacks had been treated according to Graham’s demands, Paul Kevin Curtis would be in a military brig right now being waterboarded to reveal the names of his co-conspirators. Instead the FBI has concluded that the evidence linking Curtis to the crime might well be fake, intended to frame him and is considering other suspects.  (Curtis, poor dupe that he is, thought the police were accusing him of sending “rice” to the President, and told the police – I’m not making this up – “I don’t even eat rice.”  Sadly, our errors in apprehending terror suspects have not yet fully abated.)

The US didn’t create military tribunals because military tribunals are somehow more effective than civilian courts – they are not. The only reason that the kangaroo courts exist is the consequences of the Bush administration torture policy. If the inmates were put on trial in a civilian court, the government would be obliged to allow the copious evidence of torture to be admitted as evidence, which would in turn break open the hatches on the festering sewer of Bush administration crimes (and quite possible lead to the “evidence” being thrown out).

Do you really want to exonerate the Bush torture policy?

Declaring the surviving Tsarnaev to be an enemy combatant would put a bipartisan stamp on the military tribunal coverup of the Bush/Cheney torture regime, and delay the day of reckoning even further. But it is also possible that there is another motive, besides party loyalty – and his never-ending quest to use any tragedy for his own personal political benefit – behind Lindsey Graham’s attempt to bounce the administration on this. Besides being a member of the Congress, Graham served in the JAG corps working on ‘detainee issues’ during the Iraq war.

Perhaps Graham knows that if there is ever a full investigation into the Bush administration sewer, some of the excrement that will be uncovered will be his own.

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