Friday, November 13, 2009

Mr. Mohammed Comes to New York

The news is all over the wire services and the networks that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11th attacks, will be brought to New York for trial.

Well, better late than never.

I'm sure the trial will be a three ring media circus with Mohammed himself chewing up the scenery in the center ring. So was the last big terrorist trial in New York for the first attack on the World Trade Center back in 1993. The defendants put on melodramatic shows of defiance in that trial. The first World Trade Center attack trial ended in convictions for all of the conspirators, and last I heard, they are all still languishing in federal prisons.

The big difference now is that the accused in this new trial was tortured by our government. Mohammed was water-boarded about 180 times in 2003 after his arrest. That will certainly be a factor in his trial, and will complicate every effort by the prosecution to submit evidence. The conspirators in the first attack in 1993 were handed over to the court system almost immediately after they were captured. The issue then was the circumstances of their arrest. However, the conspirators were all tried in open court under the rule of law and duly convicted and sentenced.
I wonder what will happen in this trial.

I thought about that first trial when the Bush administration began capturing some of the people responsible for these and other attacks. The first trials were a success. The conspirators were all convicted on all counts. And yet, the Bush administration went out of its way to avoid the courts and the legal process. They set up secret prisons, all kinds of extralegal processes, subcontracted torture out to other countries, and set up the prison at Guantanamo, all to avoid the American legal system. I was struck by the very open contempt and distrust for our own legal system. When the Bush administration, represented by its viceroy in Iraq, L Paul Bremmer, put all operations by Americans under contract with the government outside legal accountability, I just knew something crooked was going on, or about to happen. And now with the Blackwater scandals, and scandals with other American contractors involving everything from corruption to murder coming out (some of these scandals cost the lives of American soldiers), a lot of crime was taking place there, and I suspect we've only heard the beginning of it.

If it was only up to me, I'd wring Mohammed's neck like a chicken. He can roast on a spit for all I care. His suffering waterboarding doesn't move me in the least. I know that's not very Christian of me, but I must be honest. The man is an evil bastard and I'm very reluctant to waste sympathy on him. My sympathy is for the rule of law, so wickedly abused in the pursuit of this man and whatever evidence he might have. He should have been tried in open court from the beginning, convicted, and locked up with key discarded. Justice would have been served, and our system of serving justice would have been secured.

It has always struck me that 19 guys armed only with box cutters succeeded where Hitler, Stalin, and Tojo failed. They sent this country into a mad panicked tailspin from which we are only now just beginning to emerge. In our rage and fear, we forgot who we were and trashed our own laws, which were more than adequate to meet a challenge from a group of mad pipsqueeks like Al Qaida. After all, those same laws survived bigger threats from much bigger foreign enemies (Hitler, Stalin, and Tojo for example).

I give credit to Attorney General Holder who seems more intent on doing the right thing than the expedient thing in cleaning up the War On Terror mess. I strongly suspect he's the prime mover behind this decision. I just hope it works out, and that there's enough untainted evidence to bring a legal conviction against Mohammed.

"Outside the law is tyranny," said Montesquieu in an epigram inscribed over a door of the Justice Department in Washington DC.


June Butler said...

Excellent post, Doug. Why didn't more people care about the havoc the Bush administration wreaked on the justice system, as well as other institutions of the US government?

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

"In our rage and fear, we forgot who we were and trashed our own laws..."

Amen Brother! And, indeed, with Mr de La Brède et de Montesquieu Outside law is tyrrany.