Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Alien American

I'd like to supplement my past comments about the treatment of detainees accused of being enemy combatants, and the recent SCOTUS decision regarding this issue. I think it's an important topic, deserving of further discussion.

After having read articles and blog posts on this subject, and participated in online conversations, I've reached the conclusion that most people adhere to one of two positions:

Position 1: These detainees act like animals, and therefore should be treated like animals. They have no intrinsic rights of any kind. Locking them up, throwing away the key, and letting them rot into perpetuity fosters no moral qualms in our hearts. If you don't agree with our take on the treatment of these rabid dogs, you're unpatriotic.

Position 2: These detainees aren't just human beings with God-given rights; we're going further than that. These people deserve to be treated indistinguishably from American citizens. The U.S. Constitution applies to them as much as it applied to Teddy Roosevelt. They are entitled to American trials on American soil, in front of American judges, with American juries of their "peers" (as if American citizens are peers of non-resident aliens), with American representation (up to and including ACLU representation, if that illustrious organization is so inclined); this includes the nigh inexhaustible post-trial appeals process. If you don't agree with indulging the fantasy that these folks are Americans, you're an enemy of liberty.

Make no mistake: I see both of these positions as extreme and morally questionable.The first ignores the biblical description of human beings as creatures made in God's image; the second shows contempt for the concepts of nationhood and citizenship. I'm not advocating a centrist viewpoint; I'm interested in what is right. That may sound quaint to some, but it's the focus of my thoughts on this matter.

I take a Third Position, and I believe it is a minority stance: I think incarcerated aliens deserve recognition and protection of the inborn rights derived from their Creator, that one of these rights is an entitlement to a form of due process. Simultaneously, non-citizens have no justification for expecting treatment equal to that of citizens; they are not empowered to the same measures of privilege or forbearance as those of Americans.

I see this as the proper course, because it respects the importance and dignity of Man, while preserving the singular characteristics of American citizenship and nationhood.

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