Sunday, November 22, 2009

No Surrender

Latest Newspaper Column:

Boy, there sure are a lot of people these days who want to give in to the terrorists.

I remember back in those dark days after 9/11 when people were affirming that America was going to stand tall, that we weren't going to let ourselves be intimidated by maniacs who were trying to kill us.

But lately, it seems like there are a lot of politicians, on both sides of the aisle, who want to let fear of terrorist attack, or even terrorist's words, ­dictate how we run our ­country and how we bring the people responsible for the attacks to account.

Recently, the Obama administration announced that some terror suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged "mastermind" behind the 9/11 attacks, were going to be brought to New York to face trial (and possibly the death penalty) for their crimes. Predictably, the protests against the move took the form of dire and occasionally hysterical warnings about what the terrorists might do.

Even Rudy Giuliani, who distinguished ­himself by his coolness under pressure as mayor of New York in the days after 9/11, proved disappointingly craven. "It gives an unnecessary advantage to the terrorists," he said, " and it poses risks for New York."

This is in marked contrast to Rudy's pronouncement in 1994 that the conviction of the people who tried to bring down the Twin Towers the first time "shows you put terrorism on one side, you put our legal system on the other, and our legal system comes out ahead." But hey, he's a former Republican presidential candidate. No one expects consistency from them.

Rudy's hand-wringing was also in marked contrast to the current Republican mayor of New York, who appeared with his police chief to assert that the city of New York wasn't afraid of trying terrorists there. "It is fitting," Bloomberg said, "that 9/11 suspects face justice near the World Trade Center site where so many New Yorkers were murdered."

Perhaps the silliest objection to the trial of the terrorists is that -- horror of horrors -- they might actually say stuff in public. Rep. Peter Hoekstra claimed that a civilian trial will allow the accused terrorists to turn such proceedings into a "circus" and "use them as platforms to promote their ideology."

Yeah, because without a courtroom, they've been as quiet as church mice. And so what if they start babbling jihadist nonsense in court? How do you think that'll play to a jury of New Yorkers sitting in judgment a few blocks from where the Towers fell?

And while we're at it, is anyone other than Sarah Palin delusional enough to think there's even a small chance that these people are going to be acquitted? If you really think there's a possibility that a New York judge or jury is going to let them walk, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

(Actually, I did have this fantasy of the judge saying: "The Court has decided that the case against the defendants must be thrown out because the evidence is irrevocably tainted. You're free to go. Now let's see you make it to the corner, you [really bad word]." )

Some people, including Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, say the suspects should be tried by military tribunals despite the fact that their acts occurred in the United States, because the 9/11 attacks were an "act of war." An attractive definition, to be sure, and one I myself used back in 2001.

In fact, I hear Khalid Sheikh Mohammed asked to admit guilt in front of a military tribunal and to be executed. (Tell you what, Bubba, we'll meet you halfway on that.)

But as Attorney General Eric Holder pointed out, we don't let them define the rules or pick where they get tried. They don't get to puff themselves up to the status of "warriors." They're mass murderers, and they deserve to be treated like murderers.

No one has yet come up with a universally accepted definition of terrorism. But most definitions of the term have one thing in common: Terrorism is the use of violence or the threat of violence by a small group to intimidate a larger one. And right now it seems that people like Giuliani, Hoekstra and their ilk are pretty intimidated by worries of what KSM and his buddies might do.

Prudence is one thing. But compromising American ideals like the rule of law isn't prudence; it's surrender. It's giving the terrorists exactly what they want. Don't give in.


Celine said...

And so what if they start babbling jihadist nonsense in court? How do you think that'll play to a jury of New Yorkers sitting in judgment a few blocks from where the Towers fell?

That's actually the one thing that concerns me about all this. OTOH, I don't think there's any place in America where you could request a change of venue and get a jury not already tainted by news reports, so you might as well let it go to the most-injured parties.

Ideally, these people would be tried for crimes against humanity in front of the World Court. But I don't see that happening.

Fran said...

I'd love to see them treated more like common thugs and murderers than potential martyrs and heroes-to-a-cause. Take all the romance out of it -- and that's what Guiliani, et al, are doing, is making these guys into romantic heroes -- and treat them like the pieces of trash they are.

Toronto houses said...

For me this is just an unnecessary media circus. I mean it's a nice ideology to re-qualify the crimes they committed in order to take away their illusions about being martyrs but I think the cost of this might be pretty high. I don't want to sound like a "scared ass" but I think it will endanger NY more than it already is, not to speak about the people participating at the trial. And I sense there might really be some subsequent regrets after this happening. Elli

JD Rhoades said...

Plenty of trials have become "media circuses", Elli. That's no reason not to have them. And I don't think they'd taken NYC off the target list before this.

David Terrenoire said...

It's the living in fear thing I don't get. The angry right claim to be patriots, willing to do anything (short of enlisting) to defend our freedoms, and yet they so quickly abandon our core principles out of fear.

I don't get it.

JD Rhoades said...

Fear kept them in power. They think it can bring them back. That's why they're hoping for a terror attack on Obama's watch.

Jerry House said...

President Bush did us no favors by terming this a "war on terror", rather than just saying that we're after this gang of criminal thugs. The terminology legitimized these jerks among their radical brethren, allowing them to gain converts and additional financial backing, as well as propelling Bush into the role of a "war president". The media and Congress were just as culpable in promoting this phrase.

And don't get me started on the use of the term "homeland".

So, yes, let's treat them as the thugs they are and try them in New York. And for those who worry about this: grow a spine.

Anonymous said...

"grow a spine"

what a man. do you shave your back?

Anonymous said...

great read. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did any one know that some chinese hacker had busted twitter yesterday again.