Monday, January 02, 2006

Pearls before Swine

Danny Pearl, and the Case Against Jose Padilla...

An editorial, in The Washington Post today, examines the absurdity of how posturing has changed in the case of "enemy combatant," and detainee, Jose Padilla, and how the government now wants his release from military detention to stand trial as a civilian while his defense team, after years of legal finagling, wants him to stay in custody so that his case can be a challenge to the illegal detention of hundreds, maybe thousands. Remanding Padilla to civilian custody, where he rightly belongs as a U.S. citizen, will enable him to face criminal charges instead of being held in a military limbo without access to evidence brought against him, and the due process, to which he is entitled not only as a citizen, but as a prisoner of war (according to the Geneva Conventions.)

Ironically, Padilla's defense team is arguing that he remain in detention so as to have a stronger case against the government, and the linguistic chicanery of the term "enemy combatant," or "unlawful combatant," a phrase dubbed by Donald Rumsfeld. The Post rightly asserts that to hold a man, even at his own request, so that he has a better shot at not merely vindicating himself, but challenging the illogic this administration uses in its "bogey man" war is equally ludicrous.

As the editorial asserts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled last year that the president has the right to detain enemy combatants even if they're captured on American soil, thereby upholding Padilla's detention, and trial by a military tribunal. In essence, this ruling reduces someone who is, arguably, a breathing, thinking, feeling human being to an icon or symbol. The government, by way of the Justice Department, has had a change of heart, and decided to release Padilla, and allow him to stand trial in a civilian court and, ironically, his defense team is opposed, and wants Padilla to remain in detention, so instead of being an "unlawful combatant," he may be a poster boy for those who have been unlawfully detained.

The hubris, on all sides of the equation, is truly remarkable. All sides appear to have lost sight of the fact that Padilla is a human being, and not an icon of terror, or governmental inequity. Moreover, that Liberty itself has been placed at several removes from freedom is a concept which should be as odious to those who contend that we are fighting to preserve justice, and the American way of life, as the haunting image of another man who was used as a symbol, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl whose throat was slit from back to front by Muslim extremists in Pakistan, more than three years ago, and whose assassins made four demands, the first being the release of all prisoners held by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay. Tragically, after the senseless, and brutal capture and slaughter of Daniel Pearl, we are no closer to an understanding of why we're holding "terrorists" like Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, and letting Bin Ladens hang out in caves, most likely in Pakistan. We're no closer today, more than three years after Danny Pearl's murder, to understanding who the butchers are, or why we're hunting "terrorists" in Iraq, not Pakistan, and why the courts want another charade, another kangaroo court, another effront to the system of justiceWestern Civilization has enjoyed for more than 500 years.

By affirming this government's right to detain a prisoner of war as an "enemy combatant" by the military even if they are captured in our own country, this court has opened the door for the Supreme Court to consider just who the enemy is, who are the terrorists, and what price we, as a nation, are prepared to pay in this so-called "war on terror."

By turning Mr. Padilla into a symbol, and icon, for all those detainees who are unlawfully held, in violation of due process, the Geneva Conventions, and international law, in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and "secret cells" throughout the continent of Europe., his defense team is, in essence, using Padilla as a pawn in their game in much the same way that those Muslim extremists used Danny Pearl. To prop up a man, dead or alive, as a symbol for the injustices of others is to engage in a miserable, inhuman, and egregious crime. In his last moments, Danny Pearl served at the pleasure of his Pakistani captors just as Jose Padilla now serves at the pleasure of his American captors. Clearly, while there are pearls and there are pearls, the concept of swine remains constant.