One of the consequences of abandoning a standard by which right and wrong can be judged is our increasing inability to mete out punishment that fits the crime. In fact, too often we weigh extenuating circumstances rather than guilty actions.
In the case of the Boston bombers, observers search for reasons why the attacks occurred. But the failure to view the attackers as anything other than simply guilty and judge them accordingly is similar to the U.S. government's attitude toward the Middle East, which often sees Israel as the major impediment to peace. There is little expectation that Israel's enemies be held accountable, much less punished for terrorist acts, hateful rhetoric against Jews and their refusal to reciprocate Israel's peace offerings. The irrational reasoning goes that we must work to understand why they hate and kill, not hold them accountable for hating and killing. The Tsarnaev brothers are killers. They should be punished as killers.
The surviving bomber, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been charged with using a "weapon of mass destruction." The U.S. government could have charged him with a lot more. Why didn't it? Does not charging Mr. Tsarnaev with more lessen the severity of what happened in Boston? The Obama administration could have and should have included treason among the charges and designated Mr. Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant in this "war on terror" we are supposed to be fighting, or were fighting, until the administration started softening the language under the false belief that not calling acts of terror acts of terror somehow transforms them into something less lethal.
This administration has been reluctant to try terrorists in military courts. Instead, in 2010, it attempted to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in the Manhattan federal courthouse, not Guantanamo. Faced with widespread opposition, the U.S. government quickly abandoned its plans. Mr. Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and therefore entitled to all the rights of citizenship, will be tried in U.S. federal court. He should be tried by military tribunal.
Mr. Tsarnaev, if he is indeed guilty, is a traitor to his adopted country. When he took the oath of citizenship last September 11, of all dates, he swore allegiance to America. Whether he lied about his intentions at the time, or became "radicalized" since then, the acts he and his brother are alleged to have committed are treasonous. He is an enemy combatant.
Refusing to label Mr. Tsarnaev's actions for what they are -- traitorous -- does not change the nature of the act, or the intentions behind it. But that's what President Obama seems to be doing elsewhere.
Foxnews.com reported in 2010 that, according to counterterrorism officials, there was a proposal by the Obama administration to remove religious terms such as "Islamic extremism" from the National Security Strategy document, a radical shift in language from previous documents. That year, the Washington Times reported, the Department of Homeland Security's Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, "...does not use the words 'Islam' or 'Islamist' a single time."
How will erasing a few words from the National Security Strategy lead to Muslim nations making nice? The president's 2009 "outreach" speech in Cairo did nothing to change the dynamic between many Muslim nations and the West, and there appears little or no evidence that similar efforts have changed anything since.
Here is what the National Security Strategy document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventative war said: "The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the greatest ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century." Is this not true? If it is true, how will massaging the language reduce the likelihood of future terrorist acts? How will not fitting the punishment to the crime make us any safer?
Having removed many of the boundaries of right and wrong and forgetting what makes an American an American, we are finding it difficult now to redraw boundaries that will keep us safe at a time when we need it most.
Call terror by its rightful name. Judge Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by the crimes he has committed and let his punishment fit them.
Readers may e-mail Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun