One can't suppose a broad public desire to throw a noose around the neck of each captured terrorist, not least because a prime reason for taking them alive is the extraction of lifesaving information. Still, isn't there a moral disconnect here? During a war -- didn't you know there was one going on? -- one doesn't conventionally get carried away by concern for the enemy. Yes, there is the need always for civilized restraint, sometimes for going further than necessary on behalf of decency, so as "not to become like the enemy." But it is odd this week to talk of such things.
The New York Times performed a public service on 9/11 by running two pages of telling thumbnail interviews with those who lost loved ones on the fatal day.
"It's a total weight over me," says the mother of artist Robert A. Campbell. "It's an effort to get up in the morning."
"These last five years have been horrendous," says the widow of fireman Joseph E. Maloney.
"People say, 'Oh, it's five years, get over it,'" says the mother of Maria Ramirez. "But how can I get over it when there's so many reminders out there? I wish I could take a pill and go to sleep and wake up Oct. 1."
"Some days I feel like a dead man," says the father of Robert G. McIlvaine.
"I'm still grieving, and my life will never be the same," says the former companion of Karen Hawley Juday.
There's your answer, or part of it, to complaints that we don't bend over far enough for the Guantanamo 700, and that we're just not fair enough, not decent enough, not civilized enough.
Not civilized enough? Tell that to all whose lives have been extinguished or wrenched out of place by unearned -- I said unearned -- cruelty, cunning and malice -- and see how the Bush proposals look then.