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Opinion: “Enemy combatant” should be redefined in wake of Boston

Tyler Spaugh
Paul Heckert

Tyler SpaughThe trial and treatment of Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev has become the subject of a somewhat contentious debate. The debate hinges on whether or not to try Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant, with senators such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain arguing for this approach.

But the Obama administration has decided to try Tsarnaev as a civillian, according to USA Today.

There are several important issues to consider here.

Tsarnaev is an American citizen, and the fact that he and his brother appear to have acted alone, without a connection to any organized terrorist groups, means that he cannot be defined as an enemy combatant under the law, according to an article from slate.com.

Tsarnaev’s case gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate how we understand the idea of enemy combatant. While he may not be a part of an official terrorist group, he is a small part of a movement that has actively waged war on the United States.

Dzokhar and his brother are now widely reported to have had a religious motivation for their actions.

All members of Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban and even supposed lone wolves such as the Tsarnaev brothers, are all fighting for the same ideological side: religious extremism, as many reports suggest.

Whether they have access to the funding or training of Al-Qaeda, they’re still fighting the same opponent with possibility of achieving the same end goal.

In order to effectively try and interrogate such lone wolves, we should label all members of a political or religious movement that is actively at war with the United States as enemy combatants.
Failure to do so could protect terror groups by allowing them to decentralize and disown radicals such as Tsarnaev, who potentially learned how to build his bombs from Al-Qaeda’s publication “Inspire magazine.”

Trying Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant would allow authorities to use more leverage than they would for an average citizen.

We need to realize that there are a wide variety of people trying to harm our nation and its citizens, and we should expand our law to reflect this reality.

Spaugh, a freshman accounting major from Winston-Salem, is an opinion writer.

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