The decider is not a dictator. He can follow already existing rules, or he can go to Congress and convince them to make new rules. But he does not get to make up his own rules. He has to learn to place nice with others. That is basically what the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan V. Rumsfeld. The rightly decide that the best way to keep Americans safe in the War on Terror was for the three branches of government to work together to find the solution. The Bush administration has never been much of a team player.
Salim Ahmed Hamdam is suspected of being a terrorist. He probably is a terrorist. He was driver for bin Laden. As the driver, even if he didn’t directly commit any terrorist attacks, he probably was an accessory to terrorist acts, probably had knowledge of terrorist attacks before they occurred and did nothing to prevent them. His lawyer says he is very polite. He probably is. I would think knowing how to be polite would be an important skill if you want to live long as bin Laden’s driver. They say Hamdan only had a fourth grade education and was just trying to support his family. This is probably true too. He may not have had many choices in how to support his family but Mr. Hamdam chose terrorism as a way to support his family. That fact that he was doing it as a way to support his family does not make him any less a terrorist.
Now it is the government’s job to prove he is a terrorist. And they must do it in a court that gives Mr. Hamdan “all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people.” He must be permitted to be present at the trial, and to hear the evidence against him. We know Hamdan is a terrorist, just like we know the world is round. But if I had to prove the world was round, I would have to go do some homework. I would gather the evidence and structure my argument. I would have to prepare for the flat earth people to challenge my arguments and point out the flaws in my reasoning. But in the end, if I have done my homework and the evidence is on my side, I will win. But in the process of proving the world was round, I will have learned a lot about how the world works. This is probably one of the strongest reasons for holding our selves to a high standard of proof, it forces us to learn all we can about terrorism, which in the long run will make us safer, from all terrorist, not just Mr. Hamdan.
No matter how many terrorists we kill on the battlefield, no matter how many terrorists we execute in our prisons, we cannot win the war on terror. As long as al-Qaeda can continue to recruit replacements we will always be fighting this war. We have to win this war by eliminating al-Qaeda’s ability to recruit. This is done by convincing the world that bin Laden is wrong. We are not the bad guys. We are the good guys. We offer a better, fairer, more just world than the one they live in. This can only be achieved by holding tight to the constitutional values that our soldiers are over there fighting and dying for. Do you remember your grade-school social studies view of America? We were the good guys, better than the rest. We believed in freedom, equality, and justice. America was place where you could be anything you wanted if you worked hard. That is the America our soldiers are fighting and dying for. And that is the America we need to strive to be. That is the America we need to show the world we are. That is the way to win the war of terror.
The Supreme Court has put us back on that path. Now it is time for Congress to do their part: to do their job with eye on the constitution, and not the next election. The World is watching and the decision they make will determine how many terrorists we have to fight in the future.