Overdue Process

The right wing fury over the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the (alleged) mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is comical.  

Oh no, we can’t try him in New York; we’re inviting another terror attack there.  Oh no, if we try him in civil courts we’ll be giving him a propaganda platform.  Oh no, some slick lawyer might get him off scot-free.  

New York can handle the security issues.  Our internal security is significantly enhanced from the sloppy structure we had on 9/11.  The 19 attackers should have been rounded up long before they ever stepped on an airplane.  Now that countering terrorism is a career-enhancing pursuit in the FBI and NORAD and the FAA and the CIA and the rest of the alphabet soup that’s supposed to protect us from domestic attacks, another 9/11 is unlikely to occur.  (That recent business with the wacky Army Psychiatrist was an aberration.  The Army dropped the ball on that one.  That guy should have been transferred to a rubber fort long before he became a danger to anyone.)  

Terrorism is not an act of war.  It’s crime.  It should be combated as crime, through policing and political actions.  That doesn’t feed the military-industrial-congressional ATM, of course, which is why we continue to pursue futile military solutions to a problem that even our military leaders admit has no military solution.   

Ghoulish Rudy Guiliani, the former mayor of New York who made a spectacle of himself during 9/11 and who has been making hay of our national travesty ever since, thinks we would be better off having Mohammed tried by military tribunal. That would be a travesty.  Military justice is for people in the military.   

Justice occurs in the light of day, not in back rooms where the people making judgment are coerced into making the judgment their superiors want them to make, which is what military justice often boils down to.   

If Mohammed rants and raves, so be it.  If he says something that strikes home, that makes us reflect that maybe our foreign policy, especially the one we’ve take toward the Islamic world, has been foolish, well fine.  Our foreign policy toward the Islamic world has been foolish.  Why should we be afraid of hearing it from Mohammed?   

There’s little chance that Mohammed will skate away from this trial. "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z," he has confessed.  He has also confessed to the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl.  "I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan," he has said.  

Problem: he confessed to that at a military hearing at Guantánamo Bay.  Anything a prisoner confessed to at Gitmo, a clever lawyer can probably get thrown out of court.  That, fellow citizens, is the precise problem with the kind of extra-legal shenanigans the Bush administration pulled.   

I sense that the overwhelming majority of Americans still don’t understand the overwhelming degree of tyranny that the Bush/Cheney administration hurled upon them.  They lied their way into a war with Iraq that had been decreed by the neoconservative cabal that put them in power, a warmongering coven that still steers our foreign policy and threatens to do so for the foreseeable future.  (Neocon magnates like Max Boot and Zalmay Khalilzad are regular gab guests on supposedly "liberal" news outlets like NPR.  NPR hosts are too polite, or too worried about appearing fair and balanced, to push back at them.) 

The business of allowing a U.S. president to declare people like Mohammed an "unlawful combatant" was, well, unlawful.  The Bush/Cheney administration and its Shemps in the Justice Department used the designation as an excuse to put the executive branch above all U.S. and international law.  The cheap trick of keeping prisoners in Guantánamo, Cuba, a political and legal limbo, was the product of sick legal minds that Bush and Cheney placed in Justice to tell them whatever they wanted to do was legal.  

The business of putting people away in Guantánamo with no recourse to justice and the malignant practice of extraordinary rendition, in which the CIA shuffled foreign nationals off to countries where federal and international safeguards don’t apply, made us as bad as or worse than the "evil ones" we were supposedly fighting.    

Our kneejerk reactions to the 9/11 attacks were not worthy of us.  We have wrought havoc in two countries we had no business breaking into, and in the process of doing so we lost the sympathy of the entire world, ruined our economy and shipwrecked our military on a sand dunes and mountain tops.    

Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican from South Carolina, has, as usual, his head up his fundament.  "The big problem I have is you’re criminalizing the war," he says.   

No, Opie.  The problem is that we’ve turned crime into war.  Nobody outside the Pentagon jerk circle seriously thinks that military power is an effective counter to terrorism.  Terrorists are not warriors, they are criminals, and that’s the way they need to be treated.  

So thank goodness Khalid Sheik Mohammed will face justice in our civilian judicial system.  Subjecting him to a military tribunal would be a travesty.  Military justice is to justice what Fanny Hurst is to Tolstoy.  Mentally challenged Lynndie England spent years in jail over prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.  Geoffrey Miller, who oversaw the torture policies at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and in Afghanistan, was allowed to retire as a two-star general.  Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who approved the torture policies and is singularly responsible for the debacle in Iraq and who was fired in disgrace, lives a life of pampered luxury.  

If we can’t trust our judicial system to properly deal with Mohammed, then we are a truly dysfunctional society.  We should have brought him and the rest of our "illegal" prisoners into the system a long time ago.   

Neocon jackdaw Bill Kristol says holding an open trial of Mohammed "won’t help the cause of victory."  The only victory to be had in our so-called war on terror is a return to rule of law, which flew out the skylight during the Bush administration.  

Good on the Obama administration for bringing Mohammed into the legal system.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.