OVBIAGELE: Trial of 9/11 terrorists tests American principles
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Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, gave Americans an early Christmas freebie on Friday when he announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (self-confessed mastermind of 9/11) and four other men accused of the attacks will be moved to New York to face trial in federal court.
And guess where the first terrorist trial of the 21st century will be? A courthouse situated less than a mile from ground zero.
Mohammed and his counterparts have admitted to plotting the Sept. 11 attacks and have boasted of their success in killing 3,000 people. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Case closed.
But the public has to realize that underneath all the fanfare surrounding the trial, something much bigger is about to take place: American principles are about to be put on trial.
The American ideologies of fairness and respect for due process, among other human philosophies, are going to be tested. What’s a better way to score some global points?
But critics don’t see it this way.
They worry about the consequences of having a civil trial, the significance of the location, torture and the spread of extremist views.
Although these concerns bear some elements of significance, they are a little far fetched. When it comes down to it, we all know how the story is going to end: Mohammed and his counterparts are probably going to face the death penalty.
Here are some of the critics’ petty concerns that don’t matter when put against the bigger picture:
Civil trial over military tribunal
A lot of people are finding it hard to stomach the fact that foreign terrorists would be afforded the rights of civil procedures — innocent until proven guilty. This does sound a little absurd.
But President Obama has said that only civilian courts can assure “the most exacting demands of justice.”
While it is indeed bold to put up the facade of a trial, in most other countries Mohammed and his mates wouldn’t even make it to court before life gets snuffed out of them.
Significance of location
Families of victims and some New Yorkers are furious because they feel the trials should have stayed in Guantanamo Bay before military commissions. Bringing these scoundrels to Manhattan would be emotionally traumatic.
If I was going to write a poem, the fact that he might be sent to the hangman a few blocks away from where he felled others makes for a perfect vendetta.
New Yorkers and Americans should see this as a way of aiding their healing process in an ethical way.
Issue of torture
Another concern some have stems from a ghost of the past: the Bush administration’s decision to subject some terror suspects to enhanced interrogation techniques.
Because of Mohammed’s 183 waterboarding sessions, some feel the focus of the trial might shift to issues of torture.
But trying Mohammed before a federal court should be enough redemption for America’s previous ethical hypocrisy of torturing suspects.
Trial might serve as platform for spreading radicalism
This should be the least of anyone’s concern. The radical culture and extreme religious views cannot get any worse.
This is a situation of crying wolf. I mean if you want to know the newest tool for spreading jihadist views, check out the Taliban channel on YouTube — I kid you not.
Even if this does happen, it will be a situation of good vs. bad. It would create an avenue for America to win a war that can’t be won by guns — the ideology of jihad against the West.
Moreover, I don’t think Mohammed would make a good rhetorician. American lawyers do it best.
Overall, Americans should not fail to the see the larger picture. By taking such a bold step, America is about to show that it can uphold its moral standards even in the most difficult circumstances, and it has also placed trust in its criminal justice system.
This would put America on a fast track to repairing its tarnished image and ultimately becoming the world’s beloved superpower — one worthy of the title in all regards.
Food For Thought: It is in the deserts of pain and hurt that the mettle of our principles are tested, not in the gardens of normalcy and bliss.