As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the unexpected extent of the damage Americans have done to themselves and their institutions is coming into better focus. The event that "changed everything" did turn out to change Washington in ways more startling than most people realize. On terrorism and national security, to take an obvious (if seldom commented upon) example, the confidence of the U.S. government seems to have been severely, perhaps irreparably, shaken when it comes to that basic and essential American institution: the courts.What don't liberals understand? Non-citizen belligerents captured abroad largely are not covered under the Constitution, and terrorists aren't protected by the Geneva conventions on POWs or civilians--they're like pirates, beyond the law:
If, in fact, we are a "nation of laws," you wouldn't know it from Washington's actions over the past few years. Nothing spoke more strikingly to that loss of faith, to our country's increasing incapacity for meeting violence with the law, than the widely hailed decision to kill rather than capture Osama bin Laden.
Clearly, a key factor in that decision was a growing belief, widely shared within the national-security establishment, that none of our traditional or even newly created tribunals, civilian or military, could have handled a bin Laden trial. Washington's faith went solely to Navy SEALs zooming into another country's sovereign airspace on a moonless night on a mission to assassinate bin Laden, whether he offered the slightest resistance or not. It evidently seemed so much easier to the top officials overseeing the operation -- and so much less messy -- than bringing a confessed mass murderer into a courtroom in, or even anywhere near, the United States.
The decision to kill bin Laden on sight rather than capture him and bring him to trial followed hard on the heels of an ignominious Obama administration climb-down on its plan to try the "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or KSM, in a federal court in New York City. Captured in Pakistan in May 2003 and transferred to Guantanamo in 2006, his proposed trial was, under political pressure, returned to a military venue earlier this year.
Pirates are common enemies, and they are attacked with impunity by all, because they are without the pale of the law. They are scorners of the law of nations; hence they find no protection in that law.As Greenberg recognizes, between the impasse over Git'mo and Administration's abandonment of civilian trials, killing terrorists in situ is nearly the only option left. The wonder is she can't understand that she has only her fellow leftists to blame.