Monday, February 1, 2010

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and anyone else apprehended and suspected of terrorism should be openly tried in a civilian court. Forget all the legal arguments and debates – this is about national security. The best way to ensure the safety of the U.S. is to give these men their day in court, in public, and allow the legal system to run its course.

You’re all familiar with the arguments against allowing suspected terrorists in court – it will turn into jihadi propaganda, it will compromise intelligence sources, and it limits our ability to interrogate terrorists. Steven Simon does a thorough job demolishing those falsehoods, but even without his well-reasoned defense of the judiciary a higher priority should compel the Obama Administration to send all detainees directly to court.

Despite what some pundits and politicians may tell you, we are not fighting a Global War on Terror. Terrorism is a tactic – how can you declare war on a tactic? Osama bin Laden and his ilk use terrorism, but they are not defined by it. They seek to destroy the U.S., or at the very least curb its power and influence. This is their goal, not terrorism. They cannot do this alone – a few ideologues, no matter how dedicated, are incapable of bringing down a superpower. And they know this. To succeed, they must convince the rest of the world that America is not the benevolent leader it claims to be, but rather another imperialist hegemon bent on conquest and power. In other words, bin Laden and others are fighting a battle of ideas, and terrorism is only one of their many tools to win that battle. If we fail to acknowledge that we are in a war of ideas, not a War Against Terror, we are destined to lose. By detaining and denying people the right to trial, we give undermine our position make ourselves more vulnerable.

When we abandon our ideals – democracy, freedom, and basic human rights – we help Al Qaeda make their case. The best recruiting tools extremists have ever possessed were the photos and stories that emerged from the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. If we want to win this war of ideas, we need to demonstrate that what happened at Abu Ghraib was a tragic mistake, not an indicative behavior. Keeping prisoners locked in military detention without charge or trial reinforces the negative image of the U.S. that bin Laden cultivates and strengthens his position. Fair and open trials send the exact opposite message – America is a just nation of laws and respect, not an imperialist power, and that it is bin Laden who is ideologically bankrupt.

If the Obama Administration is serious about protecting America, then they need to ensure that all detainees receive their day in court. It’s not about the legal minutia; it’s about national security.


Jeff Schneider said...


You make a good argument here, but I have one question: its the topic of my previous post. Is it possible to give KSM or the UndieBomber a fair trail? Where? When? With what Jury, and with what evidence? If we are at war with AQ, and they are avowed members of AQ, wouldn't they be held as prisoner's of war -- not enemy combatants, but actual POW's? Jason Burke has put it well, "you are a member of AQ if you say you are" -- thus, even though KSM is an ABC Man member of AQ Core and the UndieBomber is a radicalized actor for AQAP -- aren't they entitled to the same status? Obama himself has said "we are at war with Al Qaeda" -- sure, Just War doctrine and International Law say that a non-state actor cannot enter into "War", but if they declare war as Bin Laden did in 1998, and we respond in kind with Operation Infinite Reach, the GWOT, and Obama's recent declarations, are we not bound to treat those combatants as if they were the soldiers of an enemy army? Placing them into a "show trial" would be no different than the actions taken by Soviets in Lubyanka with CIA assets they captured... what do you think?


Post a Comment

Share This! (the gift that keeps on giving)

Latest Analysis

Search This Blog