Saturday, July 7, 2007

Michael Ledeen draws the wrong conclusion from a horrific crime

I think it's very important to respond to the argument Michael Ledeen makes here, in a post about a horriffic crime committed by al-Qaeda in Iraq:

The horror of the terrorist onslaught rarely is brought home to the American public. Indeed, it is sometimes so grisly that not even American troops in the field can even talk about it without swallowing hard. Listen to Michael Yon, in his latest update from Diyala Province. This is really something:

Speaking through an American interpreter, Lieutenant David Wallach who is a native Arabic speaker, the Iraqi official related how al Qaeda united these gangs who then became absorbed into “al Qaeda.” They recruited boys born during the years 1991, 92 and 93 who were each given weapons, including pistols, a bicycle and a phone (with phone cards paid) and a salary of $100 per month, all courtesy of al Qaeda. These boys were used for kidnapping, torturing and murdering people.

At first, he said, they would only target Shia, but over time the new al Qaeda directed attacks against Sunni, and then anyone who thought differently. The official reported that on a couple of occasions in Baqubah, al Qaeda invited to lunch families they wanted to convert to their way of thinking. In each instance, the family had a boy, he said, who was about 11 years old. As LT David Wallach interpreted the man’s words, I saw Wallach go blank and silent. He stopped interpreting for a moment. I asked Wallach, “What did he say?” Wallach said that at these luncheons, the families were sat down to eat. And then their boy was brought in with his mouth stuffed. The boy had been baked. Al Qaeda served the boy to his family.

No doubt it works, terror does work. It just seems to me that anyone involved in such activity isn't really entitled to high-priced legal defense in American courts. Guantanamo is way too good for such animals. Or have I missed something? Anybody feel like asking Andrew Sullivan?

Yes, Mr. Ledeen, you have missed something. I understand perfectly your revulsion at this this terrible act. But the conclusion you draw from it is wrong. If I understand your reasoning correctly, people who commit horrific crimes do not deserve legal representation. But how can we determine who has committed the horrific crime? That's the job of the legal system. The main reason people receive legal representation is that there is a need to figure out who is guilty and who is not guilty before delving out punishment.

Child molestation is a sickening, stomach-churning crime. But we don't say toss everyone who is accused of child molestation into a prison without legal representation (or fly them off to a secret prison and torture them). If we did that, we'd sweep up a lot of innocent people with the guilty. The same holds with terrorism. I don't think accused terrorists deserve legal representation because terrorism isn't a terrible thing. Rather, I think accused terrorists deserve representation and access to the legal system because we still need to figure out who is a terrorist and who isn't. Once we have that figured out, then we can break out the righteous punishment.

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