In a manner fitting of the Obama administration, a bombshell was dropped on the American people last Friday afternoon. Eric Holder, the US Attorney General announced that he will be sending Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (self-proclaimed mastermind of 9-11) and 4 other Gitmo detainees to Manhattan to be tried for their crimes in CIVILIAN court as opposed to Military Tribunal. These Military Commissions have a long history going all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Having been most famously reinstituted back in 2001 by President George W. Bush, these commissions were upheld by the Supreme Court and Congress as recently as 2006 and 2009. Upon entering office, President Obama halted all Military Tribunals and now, dripping with twisted irony, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and his cohorts will be tried only blocks away from the location of the worst terror attack in US History, Ground Zero.
The announcement came barely a week after the deadly Fort Hood massacre in which 13 US Military personnel were gunned down by Maj Nidal Hasan, a radical Islamist who was stationed there. In the 8 days after the attack, with hearts still weighing heavy, motives allegedly unclear, and arguments only heightening, Eric Holder and President Obama decided this was a good opportunity to show the American people, especially their political base, exactly where they stand in the debate.
In analyzing the stated and potential motives for bringing these captured terrorists into our civilian courts, a few major themes become clearly evident. First and foremost is the Obama Administration’s attempt to distance them from the so-called War on Terror. Compared to the prior administration, they patently disagree not only with the tactics George Bush employed, but also with the threat level and enemy we face. To put it simply, they do not believe we are at war with Radical Islam and believe these terrorists to be simple criminals, deserving of all the rights our country affords its citizens. These terrorists, who don’t fight in uniform or for any legitimate nation, by definition are war criminals, and do not even deserve Geneva Convention protections, let alone US citizenship rights.
Secondly and of no less importance, the Obama Administration made these decisions to pander not only to their base, but also to world opinion. It is quite clear that Obama shares ideological beliefs with many of our allies across the pond. He has worked hard to reach out to other nations, allies and enemies alike. Having already garnered a Nobel Peace Prize for pure potential, President Obama, Eric Holder, much of Europe, and our progressive left, simply view evil through a different prism. They view evil, not as fascist’s hell bent on destroying other races or people’s way of life, but as poverty, inequality and global warming. This decision is representative of his desire to show his base and our European friends that they are on the same page. Even if that same page is the glaring inability to see evil for what it is.
A third important motive behind choosing to put captured terrorists into our civilian system is possibly the most cynical. It is to put the Bush Administration on trial and potentially soil his legacy forever. The hatred of George Bush over the last 8 years has been palpable and unprecedented, and putting these terrorists on trial on the largest stage in the world will underhandedly work to discredit and demean the Bush Administration every step of the way. Holder himself said that we have the evidence, and convictions are all but guaranteed, having multiple confessions from KSM and others. So why put KSM into our civilian system, affording him legal counsel and all of the benefits of American jurisprudence? Why put him into a system that rightly limits prosecutorial ability, giving the defendant access to any amounts of information to avoid wrongful conviction? Because doing so in their minds will prove they are above the herd, and stand for the rule of law, regardless of the risks and potential consequences.
The risks of moving these men to lower Manhattan are obvious and extremely dangerous. Remember the trial of the so-called 20th 9-11 hijacker who was captured just prior to September 11th, 2001? The trial of Zacarias Moussaoui took over 4 years and can at best be labeled a circus. Given a platform to represent himself and engage in anti-US tirades, the trial only ended when Moussaoui decided to plead guilty in 2006. If not for his guilty plea, an untold amount of US Intelligence files would have been released to the defense. A similar dilemma happened after the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Although largely different circumstances, the proceedings allowed for large amounts of sensitive intelligence information to be sent to Al-Qaeda operatives, including Osama Bin Laden, just days after the intel was reported.
Fast forward to today, inject KSM, knowing full well he was captured and interrogated under the now suspect Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT’s) employed by the Bush Administration, and you have a recipe for disaster. If the defendants choose to fight their charges, there is no telling as to how much sensitive information will be turned over and made public. It’s as though Eric Holder is handing over all of our secrets on a silver platter, practically daring the defendants to “put the Government on trial.”
This decision also makes the citizens of New York less safe. We can all but guarantee these trials will take years, and in the meantime assure that the courthouse in lower Manhattan will be the virtual epicenter of radical Islamist’s targets. To couple with the overt threat to local citizens of New York, the Holder decision also affirms the belief that if you attack the American Military overseas you will have fewer protections than if you attack American civilians on American soil. The backward nature of that argument is egregious but true.
Then there is the off chance that one of these terrorists gets acquitted, or somehow escapes with a minimal prison sentence. This sounds far fetched given the fact that even Obama and Holder have all but convicted them, but the chance still exists. Especially given the left’s egalitarian tendencies, and the liberal leanings of the area, a jury of their peers could easily end up with a few terrorist sympathizers, or even with a jihadist leaning Muslim. Let’s not forget it is the American left that cringes at the phrase “War on Terror.”
So let’s give Holder, Obama and our legal system the benefit of the doubt. Say the trials come to a speedy and thunderous ending, sentencing KSM and his counterparts to death. Say that they all plead guilty and we are not forced to reveal numerous intelligence secrets, compromising our ability to protect ourselves. Say that tension levels remain low and we thwart off all future attacks during these trials. Then what? What will it be for? For a better feeling that we gave war criminals who think nothing of killing women and children the same rights as US citizens? So our European allies can know that we distance ourselves from Bush era policies? So we can exalt our legal system as the envy of the world? I think it’s more likely that swift convictions in a court of law will only work to enflame terrorists around the world, showing weakness instead of resolve. I believe it would embolden our enemies who would think the trial to be prestigious, yet unfair no matter how we handle them. I believe it will work as a recruitment tool to show the levels of accomplishment the young terrorists can attain, a world stage, US rights, 3 square meals a day, and praise from the over 100+ million world-wide radical Islamists. To me these trials are simply a lose-lose situation.
On a side-note I wanted to show a little bit about where the two sides in this issue fall. Most conservatives out there believe these trials are un-needed, and should be handled with Military Tribunals. Especially considering KSM and the 4 others who have all admitted to their crimes, the additional risk to our people and system, along with the millions of dollars that will be spent are simply not worth it. On the other hand, the Democrats have taken a different view of the trials. They believe they are just and the right thing to do. They believe they show that we act out of strength not fear, and fear is what is driving much of the right. Many liberals out there are actually expressing what I believe to be misguided indignation towards conservatives. They say that by disagreeing with the show trials, we are showing great weakness, fear, cowardice, and even un-American demagoguery. These tactics mirror what was already going on with the left’s response to the Ft. Hood incident. While conservatives were looking for answers, liberals were busy placing blame and demonizing our military actions. Whether you agree of disagree with either side is not the important part. The important part is recognizing the risky nature of Obama and Holders decision, and understanding the lasting ramifications that that Friday afternoon decision has on our country’s current and future ability to recognize and combat the real evils we face in the world.
Just in case you thought my ideas were unfounded or inflammatory, here is support from the Associated Press. Also, a poll on O’Reilly Tuesday showed that the public overwhelmingly disagrees with the terror trials in New York, but some other polls show more of a partisan divide.