Wednesday, November 18, 2009
There's been railing from the right about criminal charges brought against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but I think Attorney General Eric Holder did the right thing, for the following reasons:
1. The Bush Administration had 7 years to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Military Courts or Commissions
For whatever reasons--fear, incompetence, indecision, legal questions--President Bush did not put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial, despite waterboarding, detention, and general warehousing. He didn't know what to do with him, it's pretty obvious. At least Holder is doing something to resolve the situation.
2. Islamists currently exploit Guantanamo and waterboarding for propaganda purposes
A criminal trial might provide a platform for Islamists, but also provides a platform to discredit Islamists in public--something indefinite detention at Guantanamo does not do.
3. Facts will come out in court to confound conspiracy theorists
Conspiracy theories thrive under conditions of coverup and silence. Bringing a public case in a public court allows the evidence to be examined by the public, in a way that undermines conspiracy theories. The failure to bring Lee Harvey Oswald to trial -- as opposed to Sirhan Sirhan -- undermined faith in the US government for years, and may have led to defeat in Vietnam.
4. The People of the United States v. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
One of the important facts about a criminal trial is that it is the People of the United States who are prosecuting the defendant, not a privatized, contracted-out, politically compromised, possibly fifth-column infiltrated US Military. The crime was against the people of the United States, not just the 3000 or so victims in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That is the strongest charge that we have.
5. If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walks, he deserves to get off
One of the important things about a trial is that it is a genuine test for both the defendant the prosecution. The prosecution must prove the defendant guilty in open court. Justice results precisely because the result is not 100 percent certain beforehand.
IMHO, If our criminal justice system can't convict Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, it might not be worth fighting for. If the Attorney General can't convict an alleged mastermind of the attack on the World Trade Center, then something is wrong that better be fixed. This is one way for the public to find out what went wrong.
6. Opponents of a criminal trial are cowards
They are obviously and declaredly afraid of terrorist attacks on NYC, of terrorist propaganda, of media circuses, of a failure to convict, and so on... Such cowardice sends a signal of weakness even stronger than a failure to convict would send... Critics are too afraid to even try.
In this case, I agree with Attorney General Holder and President Obama. In answer to the question, "Can we try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, prove the case against him, and convict him in open court?" I answer, "YES, WE CAN!...and yes, we must."