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

Turns Out We’re Not Leaving Iraq After All

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It was a reminder of the bad old days.  But it was today in Baghdad. Big suicide bomb, coordinated attacks on rescuers, dozens dead and wounded, and the customary “bears all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda operation designed to ferment sectarian strife”.  It’s doubtful whether it had any effect on the tone of Robert Gates‘ interview on NPR this evening, but I’m sure the bombing was on the Secretary’s mind.

We’re not sure whether his boss is on board with this, although it seems likely, but Gates might have given us a little glimpse of reality during the interview. In response to a question about differences between him and the President on a final departure date for our troops from Iraq, Gates was less than convincing about the finality of that. From the NPR report. (My italics)

With regard to Iraq, Gates noted that under the Status of Forces agreement, all U.S. troops will be out by the end of 2011. Gates says he’s on the same page as Obama with the withdrawal and, barring a new agreement with the Iraqis, there will be zero troops in Iraq by that time. But he also speculates that the Iraqis could ask for logistical and intelligence support.

“The president’s statement is absolutely clear and it conforms to our current commitments, that is, according to the agreements we have signed, we will have everyone out of Iraq by the end of 2011,” Gates said. “And unless something changes, that is exactly what will happen. …[A change] would have to be at the Iraqis’ initiative. And the president will have to determine whether or not he wants to do that.”

“Logistical and Intelligence” support might well be a good cover-phrase for something a little more, shall we say, effective. In other words a new agreement ‘at the Iraqis initiative’ to guarantee some “we need your firepower because we’re getting our asses kicked” type support. Obama suspects that Al Qaeda is just waiting for us to shut the door after us before going all out again, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the President could make a judgment that keeping a few brigades on base for selective “logistical and intelligence support” might just be the insurance policy we need.

There’s been an awful lot of talk about the President’s philosophy. Nobody seems to know what it is. The reason is simple. His philosophy is the absence of a philosophy. Pragmatism.

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Written by coolrebel

March 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm

12k US Troops Leaving Iraq. 28 killed in Baghdad Bomb.

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Two headlines side by side on the same day. Sometime in the next two years, we’ll stop seeing versions of the first headline. Will the second headline be gone too? I doubt it.  Because it’s highly likely that not long after the troops are gone, we’ll be reporting on the new and endless rash of daily carnage.

And then what will we do? Send the boys back to Iraq?

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Written by coolrebel

March 8, 2009 at 7:25 am

Whither Gitmo – What Are the Risks of Closing Guantanamo?

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Among the many black marks on the Bush Administration will be the following; they sure were talented at getting us into jams we couldn’t get out of. Iraq, and Afghanistan are top of the list, but just below them is Gitmo. Opened at a time when Bush and the neo-cons really did think that the War on Terror was going to be a real live war with stacks of POWs, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was to put it mildly a total and utter disaster. Bush is clearing Cedar brush back in Crawford, but like a bad dream, Gitmo is still there, yet another piece of heavy luggage that the new President’s got to haul around with him.

Obama is rightly dedicated to totally overhauling America’s image abroad, especially in the Muslim world. And a big blot on relations with Arab countries is Guantanamo. So it would seem to be a no brainer to shut the damn place as quickly as possible. The President wants the doors closed on that particular PR nightmare within a year. Nice idea. Very nice idea.

There’s only one slight problem. It’s not going to work.

The issue isn’t all the serious Al Qaeda terrorists. They’re Supermax bound and so they should be, regardless of the whines of those states that may end up housing them for decades to come. The problem is the guys that are innocent or those whose cases will be incredibly hard to prove in court – which is just about everyone who’s been holed up in the damn place for the last few years. Of course, the right PR move is to let these guys go with a big “sorry for the inconvenience” check and consign the Gitmo experiment to history. The wrong PR move would be, well anything short of that. Unfortunately, what we do with Gitmo should not be dictated by Public Relations, even though that’s the clear intent of shutting the place.

The reason for not being so hasty on Gitmo is simple. Most of the guys we locked up in there may have been innocent when they went in, but they sure won’t be feeling too innocent when they get out. Each of these men, even if they were just peasants, taxi drivers or rag-tag recruits when they got swept up in Afghanistan or Yemen, are now living martyrs to the Al Qaeda cause, and will be feted and lauded as heroes. Add to that the fact that they’re going to be very, very pissed off, and if we release them we might just be handing Al Qaeda the best source of new leadership and inspiration they’ve had for years. That infusion of morale and cohesion for Al Qaeda would simply not be worth the PR benefits of shutting our little Cuban motel.

If he’d kept silent on Gitmo, Obama would have been under tremendous pressure to shut the place, but despite the barrage it would have been wiser to stall rather than set such an onerous deadline which many in the International Community will use as a club to beat us with. The clock is now ticking on what to with the radicalized cadre that we could be setting loose. The choices are not pretty. Weaken our push for the rejuvenation of our International reputation and our adherence to constitutional principles and international law on the one hand, or hand the bad guys a gift on the other.

Bush handed Obama an impossible situation, but he let his principles get the better of him, and called for shutting down Gitmo, without really considering the consequences. The President is a principled man who’s loathe to go back on his promises. We can only hope that delaying closure of Gitmo until a solution is found to releasing innocent prisoners is the exception that proves the rule.

Written by coolrebel

February 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm