For over two hundred years we were careful to keep a firewall between civil and martial law. We did so because civil and martial law are polar opposites. Civil law is focused on protecting the rights of the accused against the overwhelming power of the state. When there is doubt, the accused walks free. Martial law is focused on imposing a minimal order on bloody chaos. It was focused on allowing the military to complete its mission and win wars. When there is doubt, the accused is presumed guilty.
Now, Obama wants to bring martial law into a civil court room in Manhattan. In order to let a civil conviction of KSM stand, the higher courts will have to overturn almost all the current constitutional protections of the accused.
Our system of justice relies on precedent and equality of procedure. The same rules apply to every civil trail. We can’t say that it’s okay to deny the right against self-incrimination in one person’s trial while saying it’s okay in another. If the courts overturn the rights of one individual accused, it must overturn the rights of all of them.
Obama has unleashed something in America far, far more dangerous than any excesses Bush might have committed. He has taken all the horrible compromises we must make in war and driven them into the heart of the civil legal system.