What Is So Patriotic About Hysteria?

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hysteria_150By Joe Conason Truthdig

The loudest voices on the right never tire of telling us that they are the truest patriots. They claim to be the deepest believers in our system, the strongest defenders of our Constitution, the most upbeat, bold and courageous Americans anywhere. But now that the government is finally prepared to put the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on trial, these same patriots are the first to spread doubt, instigate anxiety and abandon constitutional principles.

When did fear-mongering in a time of war become an act of patriotism?

     

Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try al-Qaida strategist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other residents of the Guantanamo prison in American civilian courts has provoked angry criticism from all the usual sources, from the Wall Street Journal editorial page to the Fox News airwaves. While some of the complaints are thoughtful, many are nothing more than demagogic appeals that seek to undermine the foundations of justice in a democratic society.

When Holder’s critics say that Mohammed doesn’t “deserve” an open and adversarial trial, they are misunderstanding the spirit of our laws. The right to a trial—indeed, all the rights afforded to criminal defendants under the Constitution—is not apportioned according to what the defendants supposedly deserve. What they deserve is, in fact, precisely what a fair trial is designed to determine.

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