Jonah Goldberg

But here's where I am confused. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the administration is committed to treating captured terrorists as criminals, entitled to all of the rights and privileges of a civilian criminal trial.

It seems the Defense Department disagrees, given that some lesser-known prisoners are allegedly kept on ships -- call them floating Gitmos -- without trials.

Meanwhile, President Obama keeps ordering that the more famous terrorists be killed on sight. That's fine with me. But as far as I can tell, he's never disagreed with Holder's view about the need for civilian trials for terrorists we don't kill, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Hence my confusion. If you believe that even non-American terrorists should be treated like American criminals, with all of the Fifth Amendment rights we grant to our own accused, how can you sanction killing an American without so much as a hearing?

The Fifth Amendment says that no person shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." A Predator drone strike seems to deprive all three.

Which would you prefer: to be arrested, possibly waterboarded and then tried by a U.S. military court in Cuba, or to be disintegrated by a Hellfire missile? What's worse, to be executed after a less-than-perfect military trial, or to be executed with no trial at all?

And let's not forget, these missiles aren't that surgical. They kill the people around the target too. In this case Samir Khan, a U.S.-born editor of al-Qaeda's magazine, Inspire, was killed -- not to mention a number of others. Where was their day in court?

And that's the point, really. If captured alive, terrorists pose political problems for Obama. Where do we put them? How do we interrogate them? And, most pressingly, how do we try them?

I don't think those are tough questions. But Obama does. So he prefers to kill these people outright, avoiding the questions altogether.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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