Lindsey Graham: Tsarnaev an ‘Enemy Combatant,’ Demands Escalation of War on Terror

If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had somehow managed to evade capture and had traveled to a gun show in, say, neighboring Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine, he would’ve been able to easily purchase one or more military-style assault weapons without a background check thanks in part to the efforts of people like Lindsey Graham, who voted to filibuster the Toomey/Manchin amendment at the behest of the NRA. 45 senators, mostly law-and-order security state Republicans, with the support of the extremists in the gun lobby made certain that it will remain intact, allowing for criminals and terrorists to purchase unlimited stockpiles of firearms on the internet or from private sellers at gun shows irrespective of their history or status.

After voting against the amendment, Graham said, “No matter how well-intentioned, the Manchin-Toomey amendment expanded background checks in an unwise way. The Internet provisions would have been burdensome and difficult for citizens to comply with.”

Lindsey Graham wouldn’t dare to admit that he’s been entirely assimilated and, thus, puppeteered by the NRA and will do whatever they ask him to do (he enjoys an ‘A’ rating from the NRA). Rather, he’ll tell you that he voted against the amendment because of constitutional liberty — specifically, the right to own a firearm without government interference of any kind.

But Tsarnaev and any other American citizen accused of terrorism for any reason whatsoever should be considered an enemy combatant in the war on terrorism, according to Graham, Liz Cheney and Rep. Pete King (R-NY). I hasten to note that I’m not here to defend Tsarnaev. As near as I can tell from the information I’ve observed throughout the last week, he and his brother are guilty. Fortunately, however, I’m not responsible for dispensing justice. We have a system for that, and the system mandates that all suspects are innocent until proven guilty.

Nevertheless, from the moment Tsarnaev was captured, the usual suspects resumed their efforts to undermine American civil liberties and the judicial system with the familiar refrains of post-9/11 fear-mongering, with Lindsey Graham leading the charge. Even while authorities were engaged in the manhunt for Tsarnaev, Graham tweeted about the suspect as an enemy combatant in the war on terrorism:

The Law of War allows us to hold individual in this scenario as potential enemy combatant w/o Miranda warnings or appointment of counsel.

Under the Law of War we can hold #Boston suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or appointment of counsel.

American citizens who take up arms against our nation or collaborate with our enemies HAVE been held as enemy combatants.

By this reasoning, any terrorist regardless of origin ought to be grouped under the tenets of the war on terrorism and can be hunted per the mandates of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. The AUMF is explicit about the “nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” By any logical implication: al-Qaida. But to somehow connect the Tsarnaev brothers with al-Qaida or an al-Qaida affiliate and, thus, to 9/11 is a ludicrous bastardization of the AUMF and a phenomenal example of both overreach and drift. There’s simply no logical way to connect these dots to suggest that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is an enemy combatant whose status and rights are determined by the Laws of War — in this case the war on terrorism as declared and empowered by the AUMF.

In effect, Graham has demanded an escalation and expansion of the war on terrorism. If we include all terrorism, and not just al-Qaida et al, and couple it with the reality that there will always been terrorism, then clearly Graham and the rest are pushing us toward an endless military conflict, allowing the president and the federal government to retain endless war powers under the AUMF. And they’re using fear of terrorism as the passe-partout enabling that goal.

Do I really need to explain how dangerous this is?

Any suspected terrorist (Tsarnaev has yet to be charged, indicted or convicted) regardless of affiliation or motive can not only be held and questioned without the rights typical of an arrested criminal suspect, but prior to being apprehended he or she can be preemptively killed on American soil by the U.S. intelligence community or the military per the preference of Lindsey Graham who toldThe Washington Post, “It sure would be nice to have a drone up there.” Graham, in a shocking departure from the hyperpatriotic “support the president” fever following 9/11, criticized the president barely after the smoke on Boylston Street had cleared, saying Obama was “leading from behind and criminalizing war.”

By using “criminalizing” in the pejorative sense, Graham was obviously dissatisfied with traditional law enforcement and its ineffective pursuit of terrorists — the men and women who not only tracked down the Tsarnaev brothers, but who detained Dzhokhar in a matter of a few days. Graham evidently thinks this sucks. Also, shortly after Dzhokhar was caught, Liz Cheney tweeted, “NBC reporting Obama admin will treat terrorist as a “criminal” and not enemy combatant. Will Obama allow him to lawyer up?” I wonder how Ms. Cheney would feel if a foreign government targeted her father, arguably a war criminal, with the same disregard. It turns out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is just as much a citizen as both Cheneys.

Ironically, though, the next Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, or the next Ryan Lanza, is free to buy a few AR-15s and a box of extended magazines online or at a gun show because Lindsey Graham and Liz Cheney are worried about the Constitution.

I’ve written about drones, civil liberties and the AUMF a lot recently, not to mention my 2008 book about the Bush era exploitation of fear. And it’s Lindsey Graham’s twisted, militaristic, authoritarian mindset that must be vigorously opposed. This is precisely why the AUMF must be repealed and the “war” on terrorism must come to an end. In the case of the Boston marathon bombing, the Obama administration has rightfully opted to engage law enforcement and a criminal prosecution in pursuit of justice. But with the AUMF in place and fear/war-mongers like Lindsey Graham attempting to escalate the so-called war, who knows what the next president will do when presented with similar circumstances.

And terrorists will still be able to buy an unlimited arsenal of firearms without a background check.

Bob Cesca is the host of the Bob Cesca Show podcast, a twice weekly political talk show. He’s also a contributor to Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.