Senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham did not hold back when it came to his comments about convicted Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. In fact, he asked President Obama’s administration to consider Tsarnaev an “enemy combatant“:
This man, in my view, should be designated as a potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of, and that evidence cannot be used against him in trial. That evidence is used to protect us as a nation. Any time we question him about his guilt or innocence, he’s entitled to his Miranda rights and a lawyer, but we have the right under our law I’ve been a military lawyer for 30 years to gather intelligence from enemy combatants. And a citizen can be an enemy combatant.
Graham’s proposal involved potentially holding Tsarnaev prisoner without ever having a trial. He believed this was necessary because Tsarnaev’s actions were likely part of a pattern and that he may have had knowledge of other planned terrorist attacks.
Interestingly, though, his feelings on Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old being charged with the murder of nine Black individuals in a South Carolina church, were articulated very differently.
Graham has stated that his niece went to middle school with Roof. He described the suspect in the same vague way many people have come to describe the perpetrators in these scenarios, not casting much blame on Roof himself: “[Roof] was quiet, strange, very unsocial and everyone thought he was on drugs.”
It’s unsettling that he was quick to denounce Tsarnaev as a terrorist yet sees Roof as simply the “quiet” kid. And as far as whether or not Roof should be considered a potential threat in the future, like Tsarnaev, Graham believes the answer is no: “I just think he was one of these whacked out kids. I don’t think it’s anything broader than that. It’s about a young man who is obviously twisted.”
Graham’s fairly relaxed attitude toward Roof is even more alarming since people who know the shooter have come forward and admitted that his behavior is part of what was a building pattern.
John Mullins, one of Roof’s former classmates, said that he recalled Roof making some racist comments. “I never took it seriously,” he said, “but now that he shed his other side maybe they should have been taken more seriously.”
Joey Meek, another friend of the shooter, admitted that Roof had drunkenly talked about a plan “to do something crazy” and “start a race war.” Meek also agreed with Mullins that someone should have paid more attention to these warning signs: “Dylann wasn’t a serious person; no one took him serious. But if someone had taken him serious, this all would all have been avoided.”
Despite the mounting evidence showing Roof’s true colors, Graham is not the only one making bizarre comments. Judge James Gosnell Jr. spent a good portion of Friday’s hearing urging citizens not to judge Roof’s family or hold them accountable, stressing their identities as victims.
“We have victims nine of them. But we also have victims on the other side,” the judge said. “There are victims on this young man’s side of the family We must find it in our heart at some point in time not only to help those that are victims but to also help his family as well.”
People on social media were shocked by the comments, citing the statement with the hashtag #RacismInAmerica.
While people have found Graham and Judge Gosnell’s comments shocking, it is important to note that this is not the first time the media has portrayed stories such as these in such opposite ways. The Waco, Texas, biker shootout that occurred on May 17th was described by media outlets in a far less menacing way than the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore.