November 18th, 2009 23:31 EST
The Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four "associates" are coming to America. To New York, no less. Attorney General Eric Holder has spoken.
There have been criticisms of this decision from all over the spectrum. Some have questioned the decision to hold the trial in New York, in fact, some 1000 meters from Ground Zero. Will this not reopen old wounds and stir up bad memories?
Others have questioned the decision to try Mohammed in civilian courts as opposed to military ones, where the rules of permissibility of evidence are much stricter. Still others (or maybe some of them are the same people), have pointed out that this may be an opportunity for Khalid and company to propagandize in open court and spread their invective, to rejoice in their "triumph" (9/11), and recruit for the jihadist cause on the world news.
Responding to this concern, President Obama and Attorney General Holder in separate comments on opposite sides of the globe have promised the satisfaction of conviction and execution in accordance with the US legal system. They claim to have the evidence and furthermore, that Khalid and his "henchmen" are "cowards."
Personally, my concern is less about those mentioned above, while they are surely legitimate issues. I am more concerned about the Obama Administration pushing for the death penalty. First off, I expected the Obama Administration to be much more careful about calling for the death penalty than was the former Bush Administration. I may have been wrong. It seems a little peculiar for a Democratic President to be calling for blood, if you will.
Beyond that, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has made very clear that he desires to be executed on many occasions. This will make him a "martyr" is his own eyes and in those of fellow extremists all over the globe. It may well increase the chance of a revenge attack on New York. Even if it does not, he will surely become a "poster boy" for terrorist recruiting and his image will become iconic in the Arab street we so often hear about. Why are AG Holder and President Obama so keen on giving Khalid, Al Qaeda, and terrorists and extremists everywhere, exactly what they want?
Worse still, I wonder if Khalid can get a fair trial in American civilian court, especially in New York. He should apply for a change of venue, at the very least. Wasn`t the point of removing him/them from Guantanamo and bring them to civilian court the restoration of the rule of law? How does that work if President Obama is trying him in the media, promising conviction and execution? Doesn`t "innocent until proven guilty" apply in this case?
On CNN`s Anderson Cooper 360, I saw a report on some American soldiers who received life sentences for murdering Iraqi detainees rather than bringing them to detention centers where they would likely be released. During the panel discussion, one commentator pointed out that some 85% of detainees were released "not because they were innocent, but because of a lack of evidence." Excuse me, but isn`t that called "innocent until proven guilty?" Did somebody cancel that principal of law when I wasn`t looking? Lack of evidence means innocent, does it not? Or should we keep detainees whether we have evidence or not? I`m afraid we are doing a lot of that already.
Don`t get me wrong. I detest Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and I am convinced that he is guilty and deserves severe punishment. But he is in the civilian court system and he must receive the same protections that any other accused person would. If we can`t do that, we`d better send him back to Guantanamo. And admit that "innocent until proven guilty" while a quaint sentiment, no longer applies in the age of terrorism.