We have redefined a word and based on this new definition our president has given an extra-judicial order to kill a citizen of the United States in a foreign country. How has our new definition of war brought us to the point that our president has essentially nullified the 5th and 14th Amendments to our constitution? This action not only serves to provide fuel to our critics, but threatens each and everyone of us. All because we have allowed our government to redefine one word, war.
We need to stop calling this attempt to bring to justice those conspiring to commit murder a war. We are not at war. We are threatened by common criminals. Obviously, these are not your typical common criminals, but I prefer to deny them any status above common criminal. These are murderers, plain and simple. Their reasons, while important to them and their followers, do not change the fact that they are nothing more than criminals and should be treated as such. Meaning they should be arrested and tried in court, and, if convicted, sentenced accordingly. This is called due process, and without it we erase 210 years of constitutional protection.
Think about this in others terms. In this country there are far more criminal groups, with far more members, than there are terrorist groups threatening our country. These criminals are a far greater threat to our security than any foreign terrorist group, yet so far they are still granted constitutional protection. These criminals cost our society billions of dollars every year, more than terrorists will ever cost us had we had not redefined what it means to be at war, eroding our constitution in the process.
The 5th Amendment states that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Please notice that this amendment does not make a distinction between U.S. citizen or foreign national. The amendment clearly states “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
This was eventually followed by the 14th Amendment, adopted on July 9, 1868, as part of the Reconstruction after the Civil War, which states in Section 1 that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
A president convinced us that we are in a state of war, an opinion with which many disagree. The president and congress declared common criminals to be equal to internationally recognized state governments; congress then gave the president the authorization to use military force to destroy this threat. And now, when it is convenient, even those who would see the United Nations dissolved find sanctuary in Security Council Resolutions authorizing the use of military force. Once we define our actions as war, constitutional rights are set aside for those who are found to be enemy combatants, citizenship notwithstanding. Granting these criminals the status of a state and then saying we are at war stretches the law beyond its limits.
This is all a grand abuse of language and law. Redefining what constitutes an enemy of the state and redefining war to include common criminals, we distort the law beyond recognition. This does not mean we can not use military force to hunt down and bring international criminals to justice in accordance with international law. It means we must remember that that is what we are doing. We must carefully choose our words to make the distinction that we are not fighting a war, but hunting down common criminals. By doing this we no longer allow our government to treat its citizens as enemy combatants, and we restore the rule of law.
Only by restoring and extending the rule of law to everyone do we show our true strength and set ourselves above those that would wish us destroy our country from within. Only by restoring and extending the rule of law to everyone, especially the worst among us and those least able to defend themselves, can we hope to protect ourselves and our children from the real threats to freedom, ignorance, hatred, and fear.