Blinded by fear and reactionary partisanship

BLINDED BY FEAR AND REACTIONARY PARTISANSHIP…. When one cuts through the nonsense and poll-tested soundbites, the right’s opposition to fair trials comes down to fear — fear that our principles are aren’t worth honoring, fear that our rule of law is somehow flawed, fear that radical thugs have acquired supernatural powers. It’s just blinding, irrational fear.

But in the larger context, as Glenn Greenwald explained, there’s an insulting pretext to conservatives’ criticism.

[T]he Right’s reaction to yesterday’s announcement — we’re too afraid to allow trials and due process in our country — is the textbook definition of “surrendering to terrorists.” It’s the same fear they’ve been spewing for years. As always, the Right’s tough-guy leaders wallow in a combination of pitiful fear and cynical manipulation of the fear of their followers. Indeed, it’s hard to find any group of people on the globe who exude this sort of weakness and fear more than the American Right.

People in capitals all over the world have hosted trials of high-level terrorist suspects using their normal justice system. They didn’t allow fear to drive them to build island-prisons or create special commissions to depart from their rules of justice. Spain held an open trial in Madrid for the individuals accused of that country’s 2004 train bombings. The British put those accused of perpetrating the London subway bombings on trial right in their normal courthouse in London. Indonesia gave public trials using standard court procedures to the individuals who bombed a nightclub in Bali. India used a Mumbai courtroom to try the sole surviving terrorist who participated in the 2008 massacre of hundreds of residents. In Argentina, the Israelis captured Adolf Eichmann, one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals, and brought him to Jerusalem to stand trial for his crimes.

It’s only America’s Right that is too scared of the Terrorists — or which exploits the fears of their followers — to insist that no regular trials can be held and that “the safety and security of the American people” mean that we cannot even have them in our country to give them trials. As usual, it’s the weakest and most frightened among us who rely on the most flamboyant, theatrical displays of “strength” and “courage” to hide what they really are. Then again, this is the same political movement whose “leaders” — people like John Cornyn and Pat Roberts — cowardly insisted that we must ignore the Constitution in order to stay alive: the exact antithesis of the core value on which the nation was founded. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that they exude a level of fear of Terrorists that is unmatched virtually anywhere in the world. It is, however, noteworthy that the position they advocate — it’s too scary to have normal trials in our country of Terrorists — is as pure a surrender to the Terrorists as it gets.

I’m also struck by the remarks of Jim Riches, whose son, a New York firefighter, died on 9/11. “Let them come to New York,” said Riches, himself a retired deputy chief with the NYFD. “Let them get on trial. Let’s do it the right way, for all the world to see what they’re like. Let’s go. It’s been too long. Let’s get some justice.”

That this is even considered controversial is a dispiriting setback.

There is, of course, the ongoing debate to consider — do conservatives believe their own rhetoric? It’s occasionally difficult to tell. One could probably make a compelling argument that the same far-right voices throwing tantrums yesterday at the thought of fair trials know full well that the American system of justice is well equipped for legal proceedings like these. They’re whining incessantly, the argument goes, because they hate the president. Yesterday had nothing to do with national security policy and everything to do with reactionary partisanship.

Alas, it’s a scarier prospect, but it seems just as likely that the right accepts these attacks as true, and has rationalized their irrational fears as legitimate.