Republican outrage over the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith in New York is misplaced (“CIA nabs Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law; federal court date Friday,” Web, Thursday). Universal resentment should arise instead from legislator disparagement of the Constitution because neither party shows reverence for the mandated requirement for the political departments to provide for national defense.
The legislative and executive branches hold all defense powers because they are sensitive to citizen accountability for this supreme issue concerning national viability. Congress has the power to declare war. The president directs military operations, including armed-forces actions, intelligence-gathering and disposition of captured enemies. The unelected judiciary has no defense powers and civil courts have no jurisdiction.
Bin Laden’s son-in-law not only lacks status of citizen or prisoner of war, he resides beyond the pale of any definition found within the Geneva Conventions. Article 13 of the First and Second Conventions and Article 3 of the Fourth Convention declare terrorists to be alienated from the armed forces, militias, volunteer corps, insurgents or freedom fighters of any country or authority. Terrorists represent no organized resistance movement and have no distinctive identifier.
Their campaigns focus on the murder, mutilation and torture of people defined as “protected persons” by all conventions. Terrorists were to be isolated, provided few protections and subjected to any overwhelming furies military forces needed to crush their abominations.
For the United States, military tribunals provide the constitutional means for dealing with these peculiar combatants. Since the American Revolution, tribunals have buttressed a national defense behind which access to civil judicial process can flourish among the many citizen liberties.