by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado

In a decision with dire implications for the war on terrorism, Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four other terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon would be tried in a civilian courtroom in, of all places, Manhattan. This move is consistent with President Barack Obama’s equally irresponsible and ill-considered decision to close the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay which houses, in modern, air-conditioned comfort, some of the most dangerous men in the world.

All this is designed to impress the ruling elites in Europe’s social democracies and Mr. Obama’s ultra-liberal left, anti-military base for whom “Close Gitmo” has become a cause celebre and a rallying cry. It was a salute to the Bush-bashers and the Cheney-haters that form much of his fan base who portray Guantanamo as a symbol of American distain for law and who were so vehemently opposed to “Bush’s War” that they tried to demonize everything associated with it including military tribunals, intelligence gathering and interrogation methods.

So New York becomes ground zero again, a geographic focus point for anti-American religious fundamentalist fanatics for the duration of what promises to be a very lengthy trial that will be transformed into a circus by these terrorists and their publicity-seeking defense teams. The trial will cost hundreds of millions and will require extraordinary security. It will reopen wounds for survivors and relatives of the victims of the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor as they relive the horror of that day. I wrote in a column shortly after 9/11that it was a serious mistake to talk about bringing these terrorists to justice. “Whose justice?”  I asked. Certainly not the same justice our system provides to American citizens. This is a war, not a police action. But, as it turns out, Washington was never really serious about waging war. The terrorists were merely criminals. Well then, let’s just bring the troops home and let law enforcement agencies fight the “war”. Let them deal with terrorists captured in combat. They can read them their rights and provide them with legal counsel before interrogating them. What a way to fight a war.

The decision to criminalize this so-called war by conferring on terrorists bent on our destruction, not only the rights and protections granted by the Geneva Conventions to uniformed combatants, but the same rights as American citizens, was a colossal error which greatly impairs our chances of finally winning this fight against terrorism. But again, the political left never really took this war seriously. Our troops did, however. It was real enough to them. They deserved better from their leaders.

Mr. Holder assures us that the trials will be swift, that the safety of New Yorkers will be paramount, that classified information will not be compromised and that justice will be served, whatever that is supposed to mean. But how can he possibly be so certain of these outcomes? The defendants are presumed innocent until proved guilty. Were they read their Miranda rights before being questioned? Military tribunals allow hearsay evidence under certain circumstances. Civilian courts do not. Will the confessions be found inadmissible because they were given under duress? Now that Congress has redefined harsh interrogation methods, humiliation, intimidation and other tactics, often used by police, as torture, will any of the information obtained from the defendants be admissible? Can these defendants, who inflicted such horror and pain upon the people of New York, even get a fair trial there?

This decision will rank as one of the worst in recent American history. Mr. Holder says that trying the terrorists in our criminal courts will restore the integrity of our judicial system. I wasn’t aware that it needed restoration and I certainly question how a circus trial with the terrorists ridiculing our system from one of the most prominent venues in the world could possibly help restore it.

This decision is reflective of the ultra-liberal peace, love and justice mindset born in the 1960’s when Vietnam veterans were spat upon in places like Berkeley and Cambridge and ROTC buildings were burned. It still permeates the liberal establishment and especially the faculties and campuses of many of our universities. Real wars, however, are not won by merely seeking peace and justice. They are won by settling for nothing less than victory. The greatest generation knew how to win wars but we forgot, somehow, soon after World War II.

Many supporters of this fumbling administration will crow that  bringing terrorists to justice by conferring upon them all the legal protections enjoyed by our citizens and paid for by the blood and sacrifices of brave Americans will demonstrate that America will always follow the high road. In the long struggle against terrorism that still lies ahead, however, that road may lead to eventual defeat. CRO

copyright 2009 J.F. Kelly, Jr

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

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