Mr. Al-Qaeda, Meet Mr. American Inmate
There are numerous philosophical, legal, and moral reasons to keep foreign enemy combatants off American soil, away from civilian courts, and out of our prison system. Maintaining wartime precedent is a big issue, for instance. Keeping checks on judicial overreach is another problem. Where is it written that judges are supposed to dictate or execute war strategy? Then there's the dilemma of extending rights reserved for citizens to non-citizens, a legal action that is constitutionality questionable at best. You get the point.
But there are some practical issues that often go overlooked or allow themselves to become ripe for caricature. For example, the realization that some detainees will slip through the cracks and be set free is a real and pressing worry. Yet many of those who favor bringing al-Qaeda detainees to the United States mock this concern as being "easily frightened" and "wimpy." As per usual, false bravado is used to downplay the threat from al-Qaeda -- "Who's afraid of the terrorists? Not me!" -- and professional seriousness about terrorism is mischaracterized as irrational fear of terrorism.
This is not the case. It should be acknowledged that not every Guantanamo Bay detainee would be brought to the United States. Some would be let go and, of those let go, some would end up killing American soldiers on the very same battlefield they were apprehended on years prior. This is all but certain. A recent Pentagon report confirms this suspicion, concluding that approximately one in seven of the 534 prisoners released from Gitmo have returned to terrorism and anti-U.S. militancy. This report has not yet been fully released to the public. One can only guess why.
Another problem is sheer sequence. This is not World War II, where captured soldiers can be imprisoned until the end of hostilities and then released and used to help stabilize postwar Germany. No, with al-Qaeda, the "soldiers" themselves represent the origination of hostilities. Nobody can tell al-Qaeda that the war is over and have them act accordingly.
Needless to say, terrorists commit terrorism. This is a classic chicken-and-the-egg scenario. For what is the point of countering terrorism -- which is merely a tactic, after all -- if the imprisoned terrorists will be released the moment terrorism subsides? The only reason terrorism would have subsided is that a plurality of terrorists would have been captured and imprisoned. Releasing them would immediately recommence the violence, thus reconfirming the need for their incarceration. Think about it: if a war were declared over because all enemies were imprisoned, wouldn't freeing those enemies reconstitute the continuation of the war?
By bringing the al-Qaedists to civilian courts in the United States, most of these punks will not get the death penalty and some likely may not even receive lifetime imprisonment. This is nothing short of scandalous. Mere membership in al-Qaeda ought to necessitate an entire life behind bars. Anything less prolongs their war on us for perpetuity.