Nary a single flag-humping horse’s ass, badge-licking fraud, or smarmy nostalgic thinkfluencer in the Western Hemisphere passed up the chance to display performative patriotism in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s ongoing national anthem protest. Here in 2016, national fabrics both figurative and literal evidently have become frail enough, the relationship between citizen and country flimsy enough, that a backup NFL quarterback can endanger all of the above by sitting out a group sing-along, I guess. “Maybe he should find a country that works better for him,” said Donald Trump. Steve King, a conservative congressman from Iowa, called Kaepernick an ISIS sympathizer.
Today in New Jersey, after a shootout, police arrested a 28-year-old man named Ahmad Khan Rahami on suspicion of having carried out bombings (and bombing attempts) in New York City and New Jersey over the weekend. Rahami was born in Afghanistan, but reportedly has been living in the United States since at least 2000; he works in his family’s fried-chicken joint. According to CNN, he became a U.S. citizen in 2011, meaning he is entitled to all the same civil rights and liberties as Colin Kaepernick or Chelsea Clinton or Wilford Brimley or me.
This afternoon, Lindsey Graham, a Republican member of the U.S. Senate and a sitting member of the Senate judiciary committee, issued a statement calling on the Obama administration to hold Rahami—who has not yet been proven guilty of any wrongdoing associated with the bombing—as an “enemy combatant.”
Now, I hope the Obama Administration will consider holding Rahami as an enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes. The suspect, based upon his currently reported actions, clearly is a candidate for enemy combatant status.
Right now, we should be focused on gathering intelligence from this suspect that can help our nation understand how these attacks were planned and carried out. Holding Rahami as an enemy combatant also allows us to question him about what attacks may follow in the future. That should be our focus, not a future domestic criminal trial that may take years to complete.
“Enemy combatant,” in case you’ve forgotten, is a term of art invented by the George W. Bush administration as an end-run around national and international laws and rules governing the treatment of captives; an “enemy combatant” is neither a suspect in a criminal proceeding nor a prisoner of war, and therefore has none of the protections afforded to either. In effect, holding him as an “enemy combatant” would mean that Rahami would be denied the due process that is his right as a U.S. citizen: he would be remanded to military custody, rather than to the criminal justice system; he would not be read the Miranda warning notifying him of his right to silence and to legal representation; he would be interrogated without a lawyer present; he would be denied access to the civil justice system, a jury of his peers, and so forth, indefinitely.
This is to say, Lindsey Graham is calling for an American citizen to be exempted from the U.S. Constitution, merely because that citizen is suspected of committing a certain type of crime. In effect, he is calling for the judicial branch of the government—one of the pillars of American society, established in Article Three of the Constitution a full century before the adoption of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as our national theme song—to be switched off, and replaced by military rule. He is calling for rule of law—the core tenet of democratic society—to be suspended. He thinks a single dipshit with some half-functioning suitcase bombs is sufficient reason to end the United States of America as we know it.
Lindsey Graham is not a TV entertainer symbolically gesturing at a colored swatch of fabric or an annoying song; he is not quietly and unobtrusively opting out of an empty show of national pride. He is a powerful member of the U.S. Senate, openly agitating against the Constitution itself.
If you are waiting for a forceful rebuke from all those passionate lovers of America out there, the ones who rushed into the breach to defend their homeland against a mediocre quarterback’s bent knee, fine. Probably don’t hold your breath, though.