Thursday, February 11, 2010
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor
The KSM trials will not be held in New York.
This much is not news, it was inevitable. Even if the trial had started in the city, a change of venue request would have been considered and resolved before the opening arguments were given, and the process for finding another county in New York in which to hold the trial would have taken place. So the recent decision not to have the trials in New York city saves 'We the Taxpayers' a few weeks and a few dollars. Huzzah.
The real issue is whether or not KSM (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), the alleged but obvious mastermind behind the 2001 terrorist attack should be tried by a civilian court or by a military tribunal.
I believe that the main reason that many people assume that KSM should be tried by tribunal is that he is not an American citizen, and therefore not a civilian. This is erroneous because it assumes that the status of “civilian” is reserved only for Americans. I’m sure there are plenty of Europeans (to name a few) that consider themselves civilians. [Tomorrow’s headline: ROMAN POLANSKI TO FACE MILITARY TRIBUNAL.] KSM is a civilian, if not an American. But this does not preclude a military tribunal. After all, civilians can also be soldiers. Anyone who is a prisoner of war is subject to military tribunal. KSM is most definitely a prisoner, but prisoner of war?
Five men do not an army make.
What are the grounds by which these terrorists are considered military? They are not soldiers. They are not generals. They are evil mass murdering madmen.
That is not to say that we are not at war.
We declared war against Iraq. They were not affiliated with Iraq. We declared war on the Taliban. They were not affiliated with the Taliban.
If a handful of Canadians took down the Sears tower [or whatever they call it these days: money well spent, Whoever Owns the Old Sears Tower] they would not be tried as soldiers, they’d be tried as civilians.
You could argue that they are war criminals because we are fighting a “war on terror”. But we are also fighting a “war on drugs.” When we catch drug dealers and smugglers, we don’t open up tribunals. If that were the case MPs and tanks would be patrolling the corners in Baltimore and Washington.
Conservatives like to lob accusations at Democrats of being fascist, of using the government to oppress the people. What they are asking is for the military to be given powers over civilian matters. I do not personally put a lot of faith in slippery slope arguments, but conspiracy theorist conservatives should be concerned that such a move will eventually lead to martial law. I just want to point out that in the historical pattern of fascism the government does not take over the private sector until the military takes over the government. So people that accuse liberalism as fascism should keep their eye on the military more so than the White House.
Many conservatives equivocate in their translation of “jihad” as a holy war. The terrorists declared their attack as an act of jihad, and conservative America is all too anxious to embrace both aspects of that claim, “holy” and “war.” It makes us feel so very special when God and Country are on the line. We want to believe that our loved ones died for God and the U.S.A., not for Being In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time and the Borough of Manhattan. The unwilling sacrifice made by the victims of 9/11, including the families, friends, and loved ones of those lost is no less grave or meaningful if you call it a war or an attack. Trying KSM in civilian court will not change the fact that New Yorkers died for their country.
Surprisingly most opposition to a civilian trial for KSM seems to be that it will somehow lead to his acquittal (e.g. Congressman Peter King). Personally I find the opinion that 12 New Yorkers will unanimously find KSM innocent is downright laughable. Even if the defense manages to get 12 Muslim Arab-Americans on the jury, I hardly think they will be falling over themselves to thank KSM for the treatment they’ve been getting in their own country over the last ten years. I think it would be appropriate to give New York City the pleasure of convicting the man that attacked their city, and I wish they would have had the chance.
Of course, realistically speaking, a change of venue would have been inevitable anyway. Even if it wasn’t, there were still the complaints of the added security and its affect on local businesses. This takes us from the debate over whether or not KSM should get a civilian or military trial to the discussion of where the trial should be held and this discussion comes down to one thing.
The mayor of Newburgh, NY is begging to have the trials in his town... presuming that someone else will foot the bill and bring business to his town. Bloomberg and other city politicians were itching to have the trial in their city, but wanted the White House to foot the bill. Local business people were all in favor of having the trials downtown until they realized that it's not the sort of circus that sells popcorn, it could stretch out over a matter of years, and that the security measures would drive away business.
That this was even a political debate demonstrates nothing else than the state of bipartisanship in America today. When Holder announced his decision, anyone with a political affiliation was itching to find out what side of the fence they were supposed to be on. The blogosphere lit up with various concoctions of how the matter had far more at stake than money, to herd everyone to their designated political seating arrangements. Now that the Big Apple has been eliminated from contention as a location, the bipartisan buzz has died off revealing the real matter: a fight among Democrats about money.
So who should foot the bill?
If I had to venture a prediction, I would expect the same game of musical cities that was inevitable as soon as the closing of Guantanamo was announced. The Feds who are best equipped, will handle the trial in a smaller town which will cut down costs. It will probably be a once notable suburb that wants back on the map for something. And the collection plate will be passed from city to county to state before making the Federal rounds to pay for everything.
If it were up to me?
If the concern is strictly financial I'd set up a military tribunal. It would still cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, but government could bury it under discretionary spending which would keep the general public from further politicizing something that's completely out of their hands anyway.