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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.