One could be forgiven for concluding that we've lost our collective mind. This untenable situation has been caused by ideological divides within our country. Extremists of the far right would prefer to see them interrogated thoroughly, however it has to be done, then shot. Extremists of the far left would prefer for them to be treated like American citizens who are suspected of having broken a law, entitled to the rights all Americans enjoy. Presumably, if acquitted they would be re-settled in the U.S. at taxpayer expense and put on welfare.
We can't go on like this. We have to ignore extremists on both sides of the question, decide how we're going to proceed, and follow that path consistently. Here's what we should do:
• Continue fighting and killing terrorists in the field. Every effort should be made, as is already the case, to avoid innocent casualties.
• Non-U.S. citizen terrorists captured overseas or apprehended in the U.S. should be declared to be unlawful enemy combatants under the legal and consitutional authority of the President. They are entitled to treatment under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and should be tried by military commissions. They should be interrogated in a lawful manner without Miranda warnings or the right to counsel.
• U.S. citizens, wherever captured or apprehended, should be handled on a case-by-case basis and either tried by a civilian court or declared to be enemy combatants and tried by a military commission.
• Prisoners who are found not guilty or determined not to be terrorists and not to be a threat otherwise should be returned to the country of their citizenship.
• All of these procedures should be carried out in a predictable and timely manner.
• Finally, the Guantanamo prison should remain open. It already provides prisoners better and more humane treatment than most federal and state prisoners receive in the U.S., and moving the operation to a Guantanamo-like prison in the U.S. makes no substantive difference and simply wastes taxpayer dollars.
All of this may seem obvious, and it is, but during the past two administrations the government hasn't seemed capable of getting its act together. Perhaps I'm just an old soldier with an overly simple view of the world, but here's the way I see it: My country and its citizens are under sustained, long-term attack by a group of people who have declared war against us and sworn to destroy us. That's a war. Those who are attacking us are enemies and combatants, and they're acting unlawfully, given that they aren't part of a duly constituted military force of a legitimate nation. When we capture those who aren't killed, they should be treated as the unlawful enemy combatants they are. Once we wrap our collective mind around those facts, the rest is easy.