Be Not Afraid

17 Nov

The decision to try some of the “masterminds”, as they’re being called, behind the 9/11 attacks is being met with a lot less controversy than I thought it would. I think that trying these people in a civilian criminal court re-establishes the fact that we are a place governed, above all, by laws.

These trials will not be any more of a circus than the blind sheikh’s trial was in the 90s. These trials will not be any more of a circus than that of Timothy McVeigh.


What they will do is do justice. What they will do is remind ourselves, and the world, that our system is stronger than a madman; that our system is too resilient to be destroyed by their bombs, or brought to its knees in fear of them. We are not afraid of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and his brand of lunatic nihilist radical islamist terrorists. We remain vigilant against it, we punish it, we do what we can to prevent it, but we cannot cower at the mere sight of a bearded mass murderer.

I can certainly understand how and why someone might disagree with me on this.

What I cannot understand is idiocy such as that displayed by John Shadegg, (R-AZ), who said this:

“I saw the mayor of New York said today, ‘We’re tough. We can do it.’ Well, Mayor, how are you going to feel when it’s your daughter that’s kidnapped at school by a terrorist?” Shadegg said.

“How are you going to feel when it’s some clerk — some innocent clerk of the court — whose daughter or son is kidnapped? Or the judge’s wife? Or the jailer’s little brother or little sister? This is political correctness run amok.

Well, there’s point, counterpoint, and fucking stupid. Representative Shadegg went directly for fucking stupid.

This particular line of opposition, which posits that the trial of these people in NYC makes NYC a target for more terrorism is so obviously silly. Isn’t NYC a big enough target for terrorism as it is? You could try these guys in Guantanamo, you could try them in Zanzibar or Timbuktu, and Qaeda would still come after New York City because it is a place that symbolizes everything that America stands for or aspires to. Bigger than life. Commerce. Entertainment. Multicultural melting pot. Immigrant magnet. Cosmopolitan.

You know, Shadegg forgets that Bloomberg was a Manhattan resident when 9/11 happened. He didn’t see specific individuals get “kidnapped”, but he did see airplanes fly into the tallest buildings in town. We don’t have to make up paranoid kidnap fantasies when New York has already lived through the terrorists’ worst.

Our response to Qaeda nihilism has so often made us jettison our principles, our laws, our courage, and our resolve over the past 8 years. It’s nice to reclaim those things by having the fortitude to expose these bastards to the law of our land, which will treat them with fairness and due process as their past words and deeds damn them to imprisonment or death, whereby justice will be served.

20 Responses to “Be Not Afraid”

  1. Brian Castner at 9:40 pm #

    Hate to bring you down to earth, but this isn’t as nearly principled or legally pure as the left would like to make it out to be. Remember, when out of one side of his mouth Holder said KSM would be put on trial in NY, out of the other side he said five other detainees would have military tribunals:

    Either this is about principles or its not. Do we have a policy to use civilian courts, or not? Why 5 on trial in NY and 5 on trial infront of the military at Gitmo? If the Obama Admin thinks its important to put the “masterminds” on trial in NYC for symbolisms sake, then whatever, have fun. But lets not pretend some principled stand has been taken, or some line drawn between one admin and the other. I assume Obama thinks military tribunals are perfectly within the law (just like Bush) or he wouldn’t be using them. STEEL – you said a couple days ago you couldn’t think of a single thing Bush did that was right. I have one for you now – military tribunals. Obama thinks they’re great!

    • Alan Bedenko at 10:19 pm #

      The point of my post isn’t about the legalities and propriety of all of this, rather that the right wing meme of pants-pissing fear is pretty stale. Some asshole in Arizona is afeared for Bloomberg’s daughter, but Bloomberg’s fine with it. Life won’t imitate a bad storyline from 24, and as Giuliani brings up in the Daily Show clip I just added, the 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui (not to mention shoe bomber Richard Reid) both went to trial in a civilian federal criminal proceeding.

      IOW, recitation of a Glenn Greenwald argument doesn’t make me tremble and isn’t per se persuasive.

      • Brian Castner at 10:49 pm #

        The second half of your post was certainly about some idiot congressmen I don’t feel compelled to comment on (as you avoid Dems from other states that say stupid things). The first part was about the legal WIN of this, and how great out system is, as were previous posts of yours on this subject (which I didn’t have a chance to post on).

        But to continue your point, I don’t think your comparrisons are fair. McVeigh’s militia had no radical overseas counterpart. There is good evidence Moussaoui was a hanger-on, the kid you ditched, the younger brother who was always bothering you while you wanted to hang with your friends. In other words, an outcast, and not the dreaded 20th hijacker. Even Reid was just a failed recruit. KSM was the former #3 in Al Qaeda. I expect many AQ videotapes and at least one sympathetic attacks somewhere in the world. AQ has shown a propensity for symbolism: dates, anniversaries, events, etc. Should that stop us? No. But don’t confuse fear with preparedness.

    • Christopher Smith at 12:57 am #

      Brian, it appears that the reason we’re using military tribunals for some, but not all, has a lot to do with the manner in which the evidence against them was generated. Also the structure of the tribunals has changed significantly in the last year.

      If we’re talking about coerced confessions, the rules of evidence and the burden of proof are different in the tribunals. So, evaluating on a case by case basis is fine with me. It’s not Obama’s fault that the Bush Administration rendered these guys and tortured them to obtain evidence or confessions. Have you seen the dossiers on some of these people we’ve kept?

      Much of what the Bush Administration deemed as evidence was based on coerced information from other tortured detainees and is inadmissible or without a lot of merit. It’s a helluva mess he’s got to clean up.

      • Brian Castner at 9:14 am #

        Of course that’s the reason we’re using military tribunals. I’m involved now in trying to train soldiers to provide civilian court approved chain of custody standards to evidence collected on the battlefield. Its a huge paradigm shift, and not always for the better (IMHO). So you provide the nuanced, thoughtful answer. The adminsitration and lefty echo chambers provide the Our-Courts-Are-The Envy-Of-The-World and We-Aren’t-Scared-To-Stand-Up-For-Our-American-Values and other assorted bullshit answers.

      • Alan Bedenko at 10:00 am #

        You mean military tribunals need chain of custody standards in order to guarantee fairness and ensure that evidence hasn’t been tampered with? Gee, you made it seem as if they were places for people to go to get railroaded. So, I guess even our military courts are fair and stand up for American values. How quaint.

        I didn’t know you were looking for the “Obama has to fucking clean up the detestable, extraconstitutional, illegal mess left by Bush, Cheney, Yoo, Rumsfeld, and their ilk” answer. I’d have been happy to oblige.

        One could also make the point that the 9/11 planners are common criminals; mass murderers. On the other hand, irregular combatants found on the battlefields of Afghanistan ought be treated as the military detainees they are. 9/11 was an act of terrorism where civilian objects were commandeered to murder civilians in civilian targets. It wasn’t a military action.

      • Brian Castner at 2:09 pm #

        Actually, I said civilian courts. In this case, Iraqi civilian courts. You want to see quaint – photographs are considered indisputable truth in Iraqi courts. Its like the entire country has never heard of Photoshop. And yes, of course military tribunals are a place to be railroaded. These aren’t UCMJ trials of US military. They are stripped down, no chain of custody, anything goes, full on water board, throw you in a noose courts. Which is why Bush and Obama want to use them.

      • Alan Bedenko at 2:45 pm #

        Sorry, I misunderstood – “I’m involved now in trying to train soldiers to provide civilian court approved chain of custody standards to evidence collected on the battlefield” I read that as meaning you were training soldiers to provide civilian court-approved standards, in a military setting.

        If the commissions are as you say they are, I wonder what you suggest the Obama administration do? I mean, the larger question has to do with just how stupid and counterproductive it was for us to torture people in the first place. Now, we’re stuck with bad people who did bad things whom we can’t properly try because the evidence is too tainted and we may have to release them so they can hurtle planes into buildings again.

        It’s not Obama you should be pissed at – he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

      • Ethan at 1:18 pm #

        Just because “someone else” made the mistakes doesn’t mean that the right thing to do moving forward is unclear. The Obama administration needs to stop playing by the Bush admin’s rules, it’s fairly simple. WTF is up with threatening Britain with “withholding intelligence” over the case of Binyam Mohamed? Sorry, but Glen (and Brian) are right. Yippie-skippie on KSM, but really, this isn’t about principle at all.

  2. al l at 10:14 pm #

    I recommend checking out a little piece on politico on the subject by a cofounder of the Federalist Society:

  3. mike hudson at 10:51 pm #

    um, there’s also an argument that says this is going to pretty much shut down lower manhattan for, what, a year? due to security concerns. it will cost the people of the state of new york millions and millions of dollars, as gov. paterson has pointed out. some asshole in washington decided this would be a great idea. fuck obama and fuck eric holder. have it in chicago.

    • Alan Bedenko at 11:05 pm #


  4. mike hudson at 12:11 am #

    that is the singularly most stupid reply yet, alan.

    • Alan Bedenko at 6:59 am #

      It was infinitely more intelligent, thoughtful, and insightful than the thing it was responding to. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Ethan at 3:18 pm #

    “Now, we’re stuck with bad people who did bad things whom we can’t properly try because the evidence is too tainted and we may have to release them so they can hurtle planes into buildings again. ”
    Wait: if they haven’t been tried, how do you know they’re “bad people” who’ve “done bad things?” On who’s say-so do you draw that conclusion?

    • Alan Bedenko at 3:30 pm #

      Because there’s reality, and there’s a conviction in court. An investigation may have proven the former, but the means used to do so may have obviated the latter. This is why your Greenwaldian ire at Obama is only partly valid.

  6. Brian Castner at 4:15 pm #

    Yeah, reply strings lose their usefulness after about 3 takes. . .

    @ Alan: Sorry, I wasn’t clear. Today, when a US soldier goes on a raid, or disarms an IED, or captures an Iraqi, they have to collect evidence that is processed and transmitted via a real chain of custody (we use modified US forms) so it eventually ends up in an Iraqi court. That didn’t used to happen. The problem with a lot of these detainees is not that we tortured them, but that when we caught them in their bomb making factory we just grabbed them and blew up their house. No evidence, no pictures, no finger prints taken, nothing. Now you are going to try them in a civilian court in the US? With what evidence? Its taken the US military 5 years to get to the point where soldiers can both take offense action, and be a cop when need be. This is where the US-Has-Legal-Standards ideal hits reality. I’m not pissed at Obama for doing the tribunals. Its the only pragmatic realistic thing to do. I’m pissed they are selling a principled change in policy that doesn’t exist. As usualy, I’m pissed at the hypocrisy, not the policy.

  7. Ethan at 4:40 pm #

    “we’re stuck with bad people who did bad things ” How do you know they’re bad, without a trial, without a jury, without evidence, without a conviction? Who’s say-so are you trusting when you make that assertion?

  8. mike hudson at 12:03 am #

    sen schumer has estimated the trial will cost the taxpayers of new york $75 million.

    • Alan Bedenko at 7:11 am #

      Thanks, Mike. You can go to your peach-colored website and agitate for KSM to continue to be held in Guantanamo. Oh, wait, you continually criticize Obama for keeping Camp X-Ray open. So, you can agitate for KSM to – what, exactly? Be deported? Be tried in Kansas?

      Frankly, I don’t really give a shit what you think should happen to him, and luckily you edit a genuine newspaper so you can regale the people of Niagara County there with your thoughts about it. Of course, remember that the NYC annual budget is approximately $60 billion, so $75MM is .125% of the city’s annual budget. (I.e., I think the people of the city and state of New York, and the federal government, can swing it).

      This particular post is about Republicans being scared little pussies and concern-trolling about New York hosting this trial. You’re talking about how much it would cost. That’s off-topic.

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