Monday, April 4, 2011

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to be Tried at Gitmo After All ***UPDATE***

So after all of the debates back and forth, and the Obama Administration (by way of Attorney General Eric Holder) looking as if it had finally taken a stand against the Bush policies of old, at the end of the day the progressive base has been dealt another blow; Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, will now be tried in a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay.

Now I can understand why the Right-Wing Bush-ites like Karl Rove and his ilk feel vindicated by the Administration's choice to double-down on Gitmo.  Not only does it serve to keep them out of jail for committing war crimes against humanity, but they also get the added bonus of being able to say "I told you so." But for the life of me, I still can't quite get my head around why people in this country, especially the families of 9/11 victims, feel that trying these terrorist suspects in military tribunals - as opposed to federal courts - is the "right" thing to do.

Per Fox News:

Debra Burlingame, head of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, said the group is "relieved" Obama "abandoned his plan" to bring the conspirators to U.S. soil. 
"We are grateful to the president for reversing his decision, conveyed to the families just last month, to go forward with civilian trials and seek repeal of congressional legislation that stripped funding for that effort," said Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which was forced into the Pentagon on Sept. 11.
"We have great confidence in the military commissions legal framework which is fair, lawful, effective and consistent with our tradition and values as a nation," she said. 

We have blogged extensively on this topic, providing the back up for why federal courts - and not military tribunals - are more successful at putting terrorists away for life behind bars.  These are verifiable facts.  Federal Courts are approaching 200 terrorist convictions.  Military tribunals, on the other hand, only 4.  So we know that the facts strongly favor federal courts over military tribunals when it comes to putting terrorists away.  So the question remains, why do people like Debra Burlingame and the families of 9/11 victims feel that we should continue the Bush policies of military trials in Cuba as opposed to bringing these terrorists to justice in our own back yard as we have been doing for the past decade?  I ask because I honestly don't know.  There's an intangible here that's just not adding up, like people who choose to smoke cigarettes despite the mountains of evidence available that choosing to do so can kill them.  It seems that no matter how many ways we show the American public that federal courts here in America are better at fighting terrorism than military tribunals in Cuba, they keep leaning towards military tribunals anyway.  

If I had to speculate, I'd say the answer has something to do with fear.  Many Americans are simply afraid of the terrorists.  9/11 united a country around a common sense of pride and camaraderie for our nation, but it also served to expose an ugly side that we don't like to talk about; we are afraid of our enemies and we will do almost anything to keep ourselves safe.  In fact, some (but to be fair, not all) Americans are so afraid of these terrorists that they didn't even mind that we disregarded our own Constitution to torture them.  Just so long as we tortured them "over there" away from us where we didn't have to see it or get our own hands dirty, many Americans had absolutely no problem with what was going on in Gitmo. So when the Department of Justice announced last year that it would try these terrorists in federal court, it was, at last, a triumph of American courage over fear.  Thus, this latest decision to cave in to those fears is, to say the least, just a tad bit disappointing.

Holder had this to say about it, per ABC:

Attorney General Eric Holder today placed the blame squarely on Congress for creating conditions where the Department of Justice cannot try them in a federal court, saying their decision would gravely impact U.S. national security and counterterrorism efforts.
They "tied our hands in a away that could have serious ramifications," he said today. "In reality, I know this case in a way that members of Congress do not. Do I know better than them? Yes."...Holder said he stands by his decision to try the terror suspects in U.S. federal courts, but was forced to resume the military commission because realistically, "those restrictions are unlikely to be overturned in the near future." He added that the Obama administration still intends to eventually close the detainee center altogether, as the president had announced after becoming president.

“We were prepared to bring a powerful case against Mohammed and his four conspirators,” Holder told reporters at a Justice Department press conference. “Had this case proceeded in Manhattan or in an alternative venue in the U.S. as I seriously explored… I’m confident that our justice system could have performed with the same distinction as has been its hallmark in the last 200 years.
The attorney general also fired back at Congress, declaring that they have encroached upon a “unique executive branch function” to decide how to handle cases against terrorist suspects. Holder noted that he considered the prosecution’s case against Mohammed one of the best he’s seen in his career.
Do I know better than them? Yes,” Holder said, referring to lawmakers who voted for the restrictions on Guantanamo transfers. “They should respect the fact that this is an executive branch function—a unique executive branch function.

Did Holder flip-flop here due to public/political pressure?
Assuming he did, why are Americans too afraid to try terrorists "in their own backyard"?
At what point of catering to the Right do you completely lose the Left?
Did Congress incorrectly intervene here against the Department of Justice?

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