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Bad signs

I find it deeply disturbing that members of a mainstream American political movement are arguing that the 5th Amendment should be suspended when dealing with certain kinds of criminals. Says some knucklehead over at National Review‘s Corner blog:

A terrorist like Abdulmutallab is not a common criminal who should be told he has the “right to remain silent.” He is an enemy combatant, who tried to commit an act of war against the United States of America. He possesses vital intelligence about the terrorist network that deployed him to attack America, and may be planning still more attacks. The Obama administration has a responsibility to make him give up that information. Treating him like a criminal is an abdication of that responsibility, and puts our nation at risk.

Noted conservative luminary Sarah Palin also stated that:

It simply makes no sense to treat an al Qaeda-trained operative willing to die in the course of massacring hundreds of people as a common criminal. Reports indicate that Abdulmutallab stated there were many more like him in Yemen but that he stopped talking once he was read his Miranda rights. President Obama’s advisers lamely claim Abdulmutallab might be willing to agree to a plea bargain – pretty doubtful you can cut a deal with a suicide bomber.

Lest you assume these opinions are limited to the right wing’s intellectual elite, small-town newspaper publisher and Browntown City, Minnesota, Councilman Chuck Warner had this to say:

“…perhaps action should be taken to reverse the decision to charge the alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in a civilian court, rather than a military tribunal. His is an act of war against this nation. It is asinine to give these terrorists the benefits reserved for American citizens.

The time has come to remove the silk gloves and treat international terrorists for what they are.

I laughed when Bush declared war on an abstraction. Now it’s not so funny. It appears people believe we are at war, and that therefore our enemies in the War on Terror (even suspected enemies) do not have rights under the U.S. Constitution.

This is quite the slippery slope. What about the War on Drugs? Can the U.S. government suspend habeas corpus for drug traffickers, just because the executive has declared “war”? What about the soon-to-be-announced War on Irresponsible Journalism? War on Sexual Predators?

I’m being facetious, but only slightly. Spooked by a few ounces of explosives that threatened a couple hundred lives, a large segment of American society is willing – clamoring, even – to tear at our most fundamental civil rights. I take this as an early warning sign that the United States is one major terrorist event away from becoming a very ugly, very dark place.