"What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet." -Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, (II, ii, 1-2)
I always enjoy reading Leonard Pitts' thoughtful and insightful columns in the Cape Cod Times every Thursday. This week was no exception, but for the fact that he did not go quite far enough in making an important point.
Mr. Pitts hit the nail on the head by saying that we play right into the hands of terrorists, effectively empowering a rag tag gaggle of impotent malcontents, ideologues and religious extremists, through the sheer intensity of the fear and loathing we express through mass media and on-line commentary in response to their essentially criminal acts. That folly, however, is only compounded by the government's labeling such base criminality as being somehow an "act of war" and thereby elevating such craven murderers to the status of "enemy combatants."
We have just paraded, praised and prayed through another Memorial Day, rightfully honoring the memory of too many brave young Americans who have died in uniform under the American flag. That is as it should be, not just for Americans but for any nation whose young soldiers have died in combat while serving their country, and it is something that all peoples have done from time immemorial.
So, then, what about the Muslim Jihadists? How should we expect them to view their brothers in arms who die while committing mass murder as on 9/11 any differently? How do we expect they will view the thugs who just recently hacked a young British soldier to death in England, or the two young Muslims who killed three and maimed many more innocent civilians in Boston on Patriot's Day this year -as heroic soldiers or as the craven murderers they in fact really are?
The answer is obvious, but if our government officially refers to such criminals as "enemy combatants" that only serves to lend credence to the Jihadists who call them "heroes," to be accorded the same honor and reverence we bestow on our soldiers. That plays right into the Jihadists efforts to justify their terrorist attacks on America and other western nations, with our government helping them to define their cowardly murderers as soldiers in heroic service of the Islamist cause
The Jihadists would be hard pressed to come up with a more effective recruiting tool for young Islamist radicals than that. In fact, the younger Tsarnaev brother has stated that the Patriot's Day attack on innocent civilians at the Boston Marathon was in retaliation for American armed interventions in Muslim nations throughout the mid-East, including the American oil industry's expropriation of resources and the collateral damage targeting by our military in places like Basra and Fallujah.
President Obama is therefore on the right track when he talks about ending the Bush era "war on terror." It is inane on its face to speak of making war against such an abstraction, while those who commit terrorist acts on our soil, be they Islamists or home-grown right wing "patriots," should be treated as the base murderers they really are, subject to the strongest criminal penalties the law allows, and not be granted the more honorable status of "enemy combatants.".
And yes, they must be given the same due process rights that apply to anyone charged with murder on our soil, as most notably today in Florida for George Zimmerman going to trial for murdering an unarmed Trayvon Martin. To do anything less not only helps the Jihadists make their case for recruiting more young terrorists to fight against American corporate imperialism by bombing and crashing planes into civilian targets here in the U.S., it also helps them win Bush's so-called "war' by eroding the basic Constitutional rights that make America a free nation, a nation worth defending in the first place.
Shakespeare had Juliet ask "what's in a name?" -adding that a rose would smell just as sweet if it had a different name. She was trying to reconcile a family feud between the Montagues and Capulets in the name of love. That doesn't really work, however, when our government, for the purpose of starting an unwinnable, endless "war" against an abstraction like terrorism, descends to equating cowardly murderers with brave soldiers by labeling them "enemy combatants," doing so in order to erode the Constitutional framework of civil and human rights on which our country is based.