There's a saying I once heard: "You can't talk a hog into slaughtering itself." I am not sure I believe that anymore, after the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision to give detained enemy war combatants the ability to sue us in our own judicial system. Captured terrorists from foreign lands, or so the ruling suggests, have U.S. constitutional rights, just like you and me. Members of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and various other rogue cells committed to our destruction are now granted legal privileges previously enjoyed only by U.S. citizens.
The decision is what it is. And we must respect it. However, the 5-4 ruling raises many chilling concerns about the future of America's ability to fight and defend itself in a time of war.
The ruling punches a hole in the president's wartime decision-making authority and subordinates Congress in order to give suspected terrorists their day in our courts. To extend the argument, the split-second battlefield decisions of U.S. officers and troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan may soon be - or may now be - influenced by the odds of winning in court, should it come to that. That's a lot to ask of a soldier caught in a firefight against an enemy without insignia, flag, military uniform or any respect for the Geneva Conventions. To shoot or not to shoot? To detain or let go? U.S. combat troops have to trust their training, instincts and morals, which are already far superior to those of any foe on the planet.
As the high court's decision was reported, I thought of Matt Maupin and his family. In 2004, the 20-year-old private first class from Ohio was captured by insurgents in Iraq. He was riding in a fuel tanker as part of a 26-vehicle convoy between Balad and Baghdad International Airport when the ambush came. The last time the young Army reservist was seen alive, he was surrounded by masked gunmen in a video aired by Al Jazeera. Another video was later released depicting the execution of a U.S. soldier who may have been him. His parents spent four years in anguish, without word, not knowing, until their son's remains were identified using DNA testing last spring.
Such is the courtroom of our enemies.
Maupin's terrorist captors, who stormed out of private homes and roadside ditches in their ambush on the convoy, scoff at justice. They simply attack, capture, murder and make a public spectacle of it. That's Terrorism 101.
We need to remember who the enemy is. The enemy hijacked four U.S. jetliners on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and killed thousands of innocent people. The enemy seized journalist Daniel Pearl and executed him in a cowardly act of public bravado in Pakistan; a terrorist at Guantanamo Bay took credit for that beheading in 2007. The enemy is not a soldier but a fanatical thug who, at Guantanamo Bay, is fed well, treated by doctors and dentists, given religious freedoms and recreational activities. Those who are not dangerous are returned to their countries of origin. Those who remain devoted to our destruction, or are seriously suspected of it, remain in U.S. detention. It's pretty simple, really. At least it was until the ruling in June.