There Is No Plan

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed plays New York City

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Attorney General Eric Holder made the sobering announcement today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (henceforth KSM) would be tried in New York for masterminding the 9/11 attacks.

It’s a bold move that’s been well received by progresssives as an opporunity for America to show that no matter what the crime, justice and due process will always be served.

Even though There is No Plan is a card-carrying member of the American left, it takes a very different view.There are no upsides in bringing KSM to America to face trial. Not one.

But let’s examine why many people think there are.

The argument put forward is that America will be able to show the world and in particular the Islamic street that we’re giving this guy a fair shake, so they won’t think he’s being martyred if and when he’s executed.

Think again. We can’t buy a break with Islam, literally. We build them roads, schools and institutions and they hate us. We buy their oil and accept their undemocratic and they hate us. The idea that they’re suddenly going to say, “You know America gave this guy a fair trial so if they say he’s guilty, he deserves to be executed” is total delusion. It doesn’t matter whether we drive the guy to the death house in a limo, or sentence him to death in the brig at Gitmo, he’s gonna be a martyr to Islamists and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. And as for the rest of the world, whether we try KSM at Gitmo or in downtown Manhattan will not change anybody’s opinion of us a jot, apart from the Europeans who are sure to whine about the death penalty.

Another argument is that the crime that KSM committed took place in New York so that’s the jurisdiction that should try him. Legally correct. Let’s give this guy due process. But sadly, this is no ordinary case. Firstly, we waterboarded the guy nearly two hundred times so admissibility of evidence is going to be in doubt. Secondly, KSM will make sure that it’s a show trial, and you can be pretty sure that torture will get the headlines in this case, not American justice. Thirdly, it will take forever, draining, dragging us all down with it, and finally, we might not even get a conviction. Think about that for a second. The guy who was behind 9/11 could walk free or do jail time? That’s a risk we’re prepared to take? To say that notion is red meat to the Republicans is the understatement of the year.

There’s also the issue of timing. If the Bush team had brought KSM back to NYC to face trial in 2002 when he was captured, I’d have been all in favor. Of course, the Neo-cons had other ideas, and the result was years of built up resentment because of the Iraq war, the exposure of unauthorized waterboarding, highly radicalized Islamists, and the plenty of time for the KSM legal team to build a rearguard defence. KSM has already made clear that he wants to be martyred for his role in 9/11. His only goal is to maximize the damage to us at this trial. His goal is simple. To look like a victim of an American conspiracy. To make us look bad. Propaganda is a powerful tool, and this guy has had plenty of time to figure out how to use it.

And what about the much maligned military tribunals. They’ve been standard practice in the US for decades. There are two reasons they’re frowned upon now. Firstly, Bush and his team totally botched the use of military tribunals, discrediting them badly, and secondly, we’re not certain whether KSM or any other terrorist is a criminal or an enemy combatant. There’s no way Bush should ever have started the “War on Terror”. Labelling Islamic terrorists as enemy combatants at war with the US was the best piece of advertising they ever had.  But that boat has sailed. It’s too late to go back.  We’re right in the middle of deliberations as to whether to escalate a war that was started to expel Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, and remove the Taliban who gave them safe haven. This war is not being fought by SWAT teams from the NYPD chasing down the hoods that hit the World Trade Center. It’s being fought by the United States Armed Forces, as authorized by Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. And the reason we’re fighting this war is partly because of the guy we want to put on trial on NYC – as a common criminal. That doesn’t quite compute.

Finally let’s consider the political expediency of bringing KSM over to the US to be tried. Obama is a principled man, but this goes too far. The American people have been roughed up pretty bad over the last couple of years. The last thing they’re going to want to see is more shame about America’s embracing of waterboarding, and other borderline interrogation techniques.  Sure, the torture rationale was formulated and carried out by the Bush team, but it’s Obama who will be airing our dirty laundry when we’ve got pink-slips to worry about. And because the trial will go on for ever, the timing is guaranteed to be terrible for the White House too. And when the grumbling reaches fever pitch – Obama is going to have to tell us “it’s okay, because it’s the principled thing to do.” Rather him then me. Ouch.

Perhaps the Gitmo approach is less “principled”, but wouldn’t it be better for America, and for Obama to put KSM in front of a closed door military tribunal. The American people don’t care how KSM gets his come-uppance just as long as he does. Yes, they’re flawed, but the process would be fast, and politically far less painful. And while there would be complaints from the left, most people, perhaps even all but the most radical Islamists, would quickly forget KSM, who would not have had his months or perhaps even years to try and score propaganda points against us. America’s standing in the world would not go down, and nor would the President’s poll numbers just as his party is fighting mid-term elections.

Obama is playing with fire.  And right now, he’s got bigger fish to fry.


Written by coolrebel

November 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm

4 Responses

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  1. and the result was years of built up resentment because of the Iraq war, the exposure of unauthorized waterboarding, highly radicalized Islamists,

    The radicalized Islamists pre-existed this admin and the Bush admin. It is easy to make a case that this war began in '79 with the Iranian hostage crisis.

    That was under Carter, a democrat.

    We had more issues during Reagan's tenure, a la the bombing of the Beirut Marine Barracks. Reagan of course being a republican.

    The timeline includes the first attack on the WTC during the Clinton administration.

    The point here is that there is ample evidence that this is not something that is based upon which party is in power.

    It is a war of ideologies that started quite some time ago. And though I dislike labels, it really is us against them.

    That meaning the radical Islamists who see all non-Muslims as infidels who must convert or submit.


    November 16, 2009 at 6:34 am

  2. we shall see. Like so many Bush administration piles, this is another mess they left for this administration to clean up. When I sit down and truly think through everything those idiots did to completely pull this nation down, it makes me mad enough to…well. just mad, I guess.


    November 13, 2009 at 2:15 pm

  3. In this case i'd say that we should just stay away from the airing of torture by not trying this guy in NYC. Whether it's introduced in court or not – it's going to be all over the place again. I just think it's bad for this country to be obsessively dwelling on its mistakes. Move on. We're not going to try Bush and Cheney so why bother discussing it. Ironically, this is one case where listening to the left is a bad idea!

    As for KSM being able to argue that he couldn't be tried by a military tribunal, I don't buy it. We make the rules. We decide. All this stuff about American justice is a little self-serving. We fry innocent people in this country all the time.

    I think of everything in terms of political up or downsides, kind of like a trainee left wing rove (i'd love that job!), and this KSM in NY thing does not pass the smell test. Bad move.


    November 13, 2009 at 2:07 pm

  4. On the other hand, progressives have been complaining for a long time about torture photos, etc. being suppressed, not released, not available to the public. It seems to me that reserving them for motion defense in a trial is one way to satisfy the shouting rabble.

    I don't think legally there was really an option, given that the rules surrounding tribunals are such that KSM's defense could successfully have argued jurisdictional issues. These crimes were committed before there was a war.

    Also, (and again, maybe I'm wrong since I'm not a lawyer) by trying the case in Federal court in NY, they may foreclose introduction of the waterboarding altogether, since it took place after the fact and was related to the subsequently-declared war, no matter how tenuous that connection may be.


    November 13, 2009 at 1:45 pm

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