Death Penalty for Terrorists

Essay by NeelumHigh School, 10th gradeA+, April 2002

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Much intelligent discussion of the current security crisis that the United States, and not just the United States, faces has centered on to what extent we and other civilized countries now find ourselves at war -- and if indeed we are at war what constraints precepts of natural justice and sound international jurisprudence impose on the retributive military actions that our government, perhaps aided by its allies, is currently contemplating.

This much seems clear and uncontroversial: our immediate enemy (I prescind here from considering those states who, directly or indirectly, sponsor terrorism) is not a sovereign political state, existing within defined territorial boundaries and composed of combatants and non-combatants. It is an international terrorist network, a private army, that has already declared war on the United States, and not merely the United States -- and that has already, by all the evidence, demonstrated its determination to wage war, not merely on the US political regime, but on American citizens and civil servants, at home and abroad.

Any lingering doubt, especially in the Islamic world, that the Al Qaeda network and its acknowledged leader, Osama bin Laden, was directly responsible for the atrocities of Sept. 11 should have been removed by now with the concurrence of the government of Pakistan in this judgment.

Al Qaeda is not a political state, but it is certainly a band of pathological outlaws; and, it must be noted, Al Qaeda is not strictly speaking waging war: for its direct, deliberate, and intentional taking of the lives of non-combatants, it is engaging rather in a systematic campaign of wanton homicide against, at least, anyone who happens to hold an American passport. The US government therefore, as any legitimate political regime in similar circumstances, has the grave duty of protecting her citizens at...