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June 22, 2005
Why Detain Terrorists? Maybe This Will Explain It

According to a Congressional study on the proliferation of WMD and the threats posed by state and non-state actors, the likelihood of an attack on a civilian population using WMD runs between 50-70% over the next ten years. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee surveyed a group of 85 security analysts from around the world to reach this gloomy prediction:

The study was commissioned by committee Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., whose nonproliferation efforts in Congress have been credited with helping the states of the former Soviet Union lessen their stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

"The bottom line is this: For the foreseeable future, the United States and other nations will face an existential threat from the intersection of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction," Lugar said in a statement.

Committee aides sent out surveys asking respondents the percentage probability that a biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological attack would occur over the next five and 10 years.

"If one compounds these answers, the odds of some type of WMD attack occurring during the next decade are extremely high," the report said, using the acronym for weapons of mass destruction.

These same analysts agreed that the most likely of all scenarios would be a radiological attack by terrorists, rather than a state-on-state attack. This differs from a nuclear attack in that the weapon would not necessarily produce a fission reaction but instead spread radiological waste in a densely populated area to kill or injure as many people as possible. The probability for this kind of attack was described as "significantly higher" than any other kind of WMD attack scenario.

Given these predictions, how would people propose handling those terrorists captured in open combat or operating active networks to plan and stage attacks on the US and elsewhere? Releasing them will only allow them to return to their planning. Creating public trials for such unlawful combatants will necessarily draw the resources needed to catch their co-conspirators and fellow terrorists into civilian courts designed for criminals, not for foreign saboteurs and terrorists in time of war. This will also create massive legal headaches for the soldiers who capture the lunatics, imposing civil requirements for arrest rather than the flexibility needed to capture those who shoot and bomb them in the field.

We tried the civil-court system in the 1990s, and it didn't work. That's why we need a Gitmo, regardless of wherever we put it or what we call it. We have to understand that this is a war -- and it has been since the first attack on the World Trade Center, at least. It isn't an organized crime family with Osama bin Laden as a Muslim capo di tutti capi. The only way to get those odds reduced is to capture and keep as many terrorists away from the opportunities to attack us. Once we've identified who they are, then we need to keep them locked up. And even though we haven't addressed this specifically, the most secure option is to throw away the key.

This bothers civil-rights advocates who believe that everyone deserves due process. As Michelle Malkin notes, however, under the rules of war as defined by the Geneva Convention and US regulations, they get the due process to which they're entitled. Nothing requires us to go beyond this, and given the existential nature of the threat, nothing should compel us to do so with these murderous thugs.

If life imprisonment at Gitmo seems like a harsh punishment for unlawful combatants captured during a time of war, keep in mind that we could have just lined them up against the wall and had them shot instead, after their tribunal. Keep in mind that big hole in lower Manhattan where their comrades slaughtered 3,000 Americans on 9/11. And keep in mind that unless we start taking this seriously, those probabilities mean that they will succeed in doing the same, or worse, and possibly in your community.

Personally, I think life at Gitmo is too good for them.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 22, 2005 3:04 PM

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» Those Poor Detainees At Gitmo from Common Folk Using Common Sense
Time and time again the Liberals seem to forget that the Geneva Convention does not apply to anyone in Gitmo. The US could have every one of them shot on sight. That we keep them alive, fed, clothed, and sheltered says that the US cares for the individ... [Read More]

Tracked on June 22, 2005 3:59 PM

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