Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Trouble with the 9/11 Trial

The attacks brought Americans together briefly, but the aftermath is still sowing division--as the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to try five of the 9/11 terrorists in lower Manhattan brings conflict and confusion.

On the surface, it's hard to argue with Holder's logic: "After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York--to New York--to answer for their alleged crimes, in a courthouse just blocks away from where the twin towers once stood."

A New York Times editorial calls the decision "an enormous victory for the rule of law, a major milestone in Mr. Obama’s efforts to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and an important departure from Mr. Bush’s disregard for American courts and their proven ability to competently handle high-profile terror cases."

But the Wall Street Journal focuses on the fear of terrorist reprisal: "Coming soon to a civilian courtroom blocks from Ground Zero: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other al Qaeda planners of 9/11. Be sure to get your tickets early, and don't forget to watch out for the truck-bomb barricades and rooftop snipers."

Beyond this conflict of idealistic symbolism and realistic fears, there are other uneasy questions:

How can such a trial possibly find an impartial jury?

How can it not be fairly called "a show trial" when the verdict is predetermined or, in the extremely unlikely event of acquittal, the defendants will face a backlog of other charges?

In an event designed to show American fairness and rule of law, how can it not also be a huge media showcase for the defendants' countercharges of torture and brutality?

In its way, the uproar over this trial may be a reflection of the larger conflict between Obama's hopes and his political antagonists' fears, but there is a case to be made for both sides.

In this instance, it's hard not to feel that there is something robotically correct about Eric Holder's decision that overrides legitimate doubts and fears.

He may feel he is using the Nuremberg trials of Nazis after World War II as a model, but there is a difference. They were held in a defeated country under secure military rule, and even then there was some American and Allied criticism of them as show trials.

The forthright Attorney General acknowledges he was influenced by his wife and "my brother, who's a retired Port Authority police officer...who lost friends and colleagues on 9/11 in the towers" and talked to survivors "about the symbolic significance of it."

Eric Holder wants to show the world that the rule of law can deal with those who kill innocent people for ideology, but he may be inviting another kind of symbolism--how the 9/11 attacks are still causing conflict and fear in America.


jf said...

There's something wrong with everything. This, too, will pass.

Holder made the right decision. The trial will be conducted above board - with all the inconveniences that go with our constitutional government.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

Fantastic post. And I very much agree that there is some sort of cold logic involved in Holder's decision, but the problems are manifold. Not the least of which you point out perfectly is that all this does is reinforce to the terrorists that we are still, to this day, off-kilter, terrorized.

Another thing that is problematic would seem to be the way he was arrested, where he was arrested, who arrested him, what happened after his arrest . . . in other words, NYPD didn't arrest him strolling through Central Park holding up a confession on a sign. He was rooted out by the feds, brought in by our military, and subject to military, not civilian, law. Now, they want to put it in civilian courts, but I don't really understand how that's even possible. It's not like he was picked up and extradited. I just don't see how the whole case can't be thrown out by civilian law, but then, I'm not a lawyer.

I'm also uneasy knowing that this is exactly what he wanted. He wants to be tried in NYC and was prepared to plead guilty if he couldn't be. That's not because he wouldn't get a "fair" trial by the military but because he's thriving on the spotlight that will be on him for years. And years.

Furthermore, I think it's incredibly naive of anyone to imagine in their wildest dreams that he'll feel an ounce of remorse to be tried so close to the Twin Towers. Are you kidding me? To him, that's the symbol of all that is good and right in his ideology. Remember how they sang and danced in the streets over there after 9/11? Remember how they cheered their "heroes" for the wonderful deed they'd done and the fabulous rewards they'd receive. Imagining that Ground Zero means the same to him as it does to us is . . . beyond words stupid. To him, it's practically a shrine to his genius and servitude to Allah. And we want to bring him here to smile and laugh and cheer and jeer? To drag our military, our former President, the 9/11 families, and our entire country through the mud in public like this? It's ten kinds of stupid, and ten kinds of wrong.

And frankly, just one more misstep by the heartless ideologue in the WH. A little heart, a little forethought would go a long way here, but then, what do you expect from a WH that stages a "photo op" of Air Force One, accompanied by fighter jets!, over NYC without notifying anyone, anyone at all? It's typical of his complete isolation from and separation from (to his mind ABOVE) the people of this country. He's a sham and brings shame to this country on a near-daily basis.