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Words from Winterbilt

The Boston Bombing

Shannon Bohrer

(6/2013) As everyone in America is aware, two bombs were detonated in Boston on April 15, 2013. This terrorist attack occurred during the Boston Marathon and the bombs were intentionally set near the finish line. The bombs killed three people and injured over 260 people. A large number of the injured have had amputations and many are still in the hospital. This event shocked our consciouses, as it should have, and was reported on non-stop for several weeks.

While the bombings were horrific, the spectators, runners and people of Boston jumped in and aided the injured. According to many reports, without this immediate aid, the death toll would have been significantly higher. Even in tragedy, the American spirit of helping strangers and comforting victims was a very positive message. Similar positive messages occurred around the country, many at sporting events, including other marathons.

While the tragedy was horrific and shocked us all, the spirit of those directly and indirectly involved was emotionally uplifting– that is, until the second suspect was arrested and the talking head started influencing the conversations. Before the second suspect could speak, there were experts telling us that he should be tried as a terrorist, he should not be given his Miranda rights and if needed, and we should use enhanced interrogation techniques. When the suspect was well enough to communicate, he was not given his rights for 16 hours and did communicate with the authorities. Then he was given his rights and charged with the crime. This of course only intensified the conversations. As stated by some, why should we not use the enhanced interrogation techniques to determine if there are other terrorists ready to strike?

While we are a country of laws and our constitution gives us rights, we are also a divided country when it comes to dealing with individuals/groups that commit terrorist acts. Arguments can and have been made on both sides of this issue, including the U.S. Justice System, Military Tribunals, and enhanced interrogations (like torture, for example). The argument for the latter is we were attacked, we were at war and we needed to keep the country safe. According to a recent report by the Constitution Project, a non-partisan Washington think tank, the enhanced interrogation techniques used during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars did not work.

When I was a small child, I was taught that communist countries and countries with dictators had secret prisons and the citizens had no rights, no habeas corpus, and citizens could be tortured. It could not occur in the United States; we had a Constitution and a Bill of Rights and we were a country of laws. According to the Constitution Project, it is "indisputable" that we engaged in torture. The Constitution Project "surveyed the ways in which prisoners were held and interrogated at Guantanamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq" and secret CIA black prisons. Yes Virginia, the United States has secret black prisons. What was found was that the harsh interrogation techniques did not provide us with information. Of course this is refuted by former senior government officials, who state that the interrogation techniques worked – but, because of secrecy – they cannot go into details. It worked, but because it was secret, we can’t tell you about it. Hmmm...?

Let’s not forget that during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq our government offered rewards for "terrorists." The rewards were very popular; you could turn in your neighbor, your competitor, or anyone you really did not like. After all, no evidence was needed and you were paid. As a result, over 700 individuals were arrested and they were transported to Guantanamo, where they were to be held, without the benefit of constitutional rights. After all, they were terrorists and prisoners of war.

Fast forward to 2013, and there are 166 prisoners left in Guantanamo! What happened to the other 500 plus prisoners, the worst of the worst, the ones that would chew the hydraulic lines on an airline to bring it down? Of the 166 left, 86 have been found innocent and were cleared for release – but we have no place to send them? Why would a country not want their citizen(s) back? It might have something to do with the repatriate looking for revenge? It could also be that the congress has made it clear that if any released individuals would attack us, the President would be held responsible. Who has been held responsible for creating a reward system that created so many of the prisoners, the indefinite detention of individuals without evidence and the torture, I mean the enhanced interrogation system?

Some have said that as long as we hold them we know they won’t be attacking us. However, the known terrorist internet web sites use Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prison as recruiting tools. That’s right; our policy of dealing with terrorist continues to recruit new ones. Have we become the kind of country that I was taught about in school? Now that is scary… What is strange about our situation is that torture does not work and we know this from a long line of experts, which includes our own previous prisoners of wars. Then why did we go down this path and why do we even continue? This argument has divided us and continues to do so. For those on the side of side of the U.S. Justice System, what we have done has helped the terrorist group recruit new members and in doing so we have wasted valuable resources.

If, and it’s a big if, the investigation of the recent fire and explosion in West Texas is found to be a criminal act, would the same talking heads and politicians want to charge the offender in a military tribunal? How far should we go to be safe? Are we letting the terrorist define us by giving up our freedoms? The terrorist did not change us – we did. How does the rest of the world see us, a country based on freedom that detains people without evidence, without trial, that has secret prisons and uses torture?

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer