The Boston Bombing and the Real Threats to Our Liberty
by Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
Immediately upon Boston bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s capture, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.)was demanding that the suspect’s Miranda Rights be waived. The bomber, Graham contended, must be treated as an “enemy combatant.” He tweeted that the “The Law of War” permits the United States government to withhold “Miranda warnings” and legal “counsel” from those suspected of being “potential enemy combatant[s].”
Unfortunately, Graham’s position is no anomaly. Within short order, many a Republican, both his Congressional colleagues as well as “conservative” media personalities, came to side with him. To be fair, their reasoning is understandable: If Tsarnaev is given Miranda Rights, he will then have the right to remain silent, and if he exercises this right, he will then refrain from revealing whatever he may know about future terrorist attacks, thus exposing innocent Americans to injury and death.
Yet while “the Graham” reasoning is understandable, it can’t but send shivers down the spine of any liberty-loving American. The sort of utilitarian logic on which it’s based is precisely what the Constitution was designed to guard against. Unlike their posterity, those who ratified the Constitution knew that liberty is no mean feat. In fact, it is beyond manly, approximating the divine, because means-end reasoning like that which Graham exemplifies is vastly more common, and vastly easier, than the resolutely non-utilitarian, and even anti-utilitarian, considerations that the love for liberty demands.
Let’s be clear: Though an immigrant, the Boston bomber is a naturalized American citizen. Most Americans, yours truly included, believe that he is indeed guilty of the crime of which he’s accused. But our beliefs on this score are utterly irrelevant: No one is guilty of any crime in America, regardless of how heinous it may be, until after the government, upon meticulously subscribing to every detail of established procedure, proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
That every criminal defendant in America is presumed innocent before the government proves otherwise is elementary stuff. But, sadly, the Lindsey Grahams of the world remind us that this elementary stuff bears repeating.