Archive for April, 2013


Boston Bomber To Use Civilian Court

Since the Boston Marathon Bombings, some have advocated processing the surviving defendant in a Military Tribunal, but since he is a U.S. Citizen, and a civilian, he will be indicted and tried in the ordinary American criminal court system.

Whether someone is to be tried as a civilian, or as a combatant, depends on the circumstances. The following is a review of the various categories.

Civilian U.S. Citizens, who are not combatants, alleged to have committed a crime in the United States, are given access to the civilian courts, with all the rights of the accused, provided in routine jury trials. If they are found “guilty,” they can be sentenced to prison or to death if the offense and the jurisdiction allows it, but if the verdict is “not guilty,” they must be released. An example in this category is the domestic terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, who was convicted in our civilian court system, sentenced to death, and executed.

Combatant U.S. Citizens, enlisted in the U.S. military, and charged with an offense, would be entitled to Courts-Martial proceedings, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, again with all the due process rights and privileges provided by our Constitution. An example would be U.S. Lt. William Calley, who was charged with massacring hundreds of defenseless Vietnamese women and children, and convicted by U.S. combat officers, who served as a jury of his peers.

Enemy Alien Combatants, captured in the field, who may have killed our soldiers, but who did not violate any of the Laws of War, would be entitled to Prisoners-of-War status, and can held for the duration of the conflict, provided they are granted prisoner rights, under the Geneva Conventions. For example, thousands of ordinary German soldiers, taken prisoner by the U.S. in WWII, were entitled to this status, as they were held and later released to go home.

Unlawful Enemy Alien Combatants, captured in the field, would initially be treated as prisoners-of-war, but if evidence surfaced they had committed illegal acts in violation of the Laws of War, they could be subjected to a trial by a Military Commission to answer for their illegal acts. For example, many Japanese commanders in WWII, who had executed defenseless civilians in the Philippines and elsewhere, were tried in Military Commissions, convicted, and executed.

The Boston Marathon Bomber is not a member of the armed forces of another nation. He was not for example an Afghan Taliban captured in the field or a member of the Iraqi Army. He has no status as a enemy combatant, and cannot be tried in a Military Commission. Moreover, he is not an alien, but rather a naturalized American citizen. His status as an American guarantees him all of the Constitutional rights allowed under our civilian judicial system.


Roots of Chechnya Separatism

Towards the end of the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1980-88), Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew troops from what was Russia’s Vietnam. He proceeded in 1988 to advocate reform from within, as he promoted glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding). Open elections in the Soviet Union followed in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. 200,000 marched in 1990 before the Kremlin, calling for an end to the central Soviet government.

Independent satellite states, like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and others that had been occupied since the end of World War II, insisted on freedom and demanded that the Russians get out.

More significantly, the Soviet Union itself, comprised of 14 Republics, forged together in the 1920s after the Russian Revolution, also demanded independence from centralized Soviet control. The USSR soon imploded from within, as states like the Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia, and 11 others gained independence. A reactionary coup tried to reassert control, but the Soviet egg had been broken, and it couldn’t be put back together again.

After Russia lost control over the states occupied since 1945, and the 14 Republics that formed the Soviet Union, all that remained was the Russian land that predated the Russian Revolution. The problem was the separatist spirit was alive and longstanding religious or ethnic forces sought to break up Russia. This is where the Russians drew the line and fought to hold their territories.

After Boris Yeltsin replaced Gorbachev in 1991, as President of the new Russian Republic, he presided over the 1st Chechen War (1994-96). He tried to stop a secessionist revolt in Chechnya, which borders North Ossetia to the west, and the Republic of Georgia to the south. When a 2nd Chechen War (1999-09) erupted, Islamic forces invaded Dagestan, and the Russia people turned to former KBG Chief Vladimir Putin to replace Yeltsin. Putin promptly took a hard line to subdue the separatists, as he bombed the Chechnya capital at Grozny. The war later migrated into Ingushetia in 2007, located between Chechnya and North Ossetia.

Although Chechnya is a part of Russia, its people differ ethnically and have beliefs at odds with the Russians in Moscow. While they say they are freedom fighters, Russia calls them terrorists.

After the World Trade Center attack in 2001, the U.S. and Russia became allies against their respective terrorist enemies. Since Chechnya is opposed to the Russian government, and the U.S. is allied with Russia, the U.S. is now a target of some Chechnyans.