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Yes! Military trial for Mohammad

PREDICTABLY, many people are up in arms over Obama’s decision to have Al-Qaeda’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) tried in a military trial, and not be accorded the Sixth Amendment constitutional right of a civil trial.

KSM — who, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, was the principle architect of 9/11.

KSM — who, by his own admission, was responsible for 9/11.

KSM — a mass murderer, seized abroad in a war zone, a publicly confessed enemy of the US, will be having a military trial.

On the face of it, it is fairly obvious. I mean, he was captured in a war and so he is being tried militarily. End of story. Makes perfect sense.

I can’t understand why in this case there would even be a thought otherwise.

Forget the fact that, technically,  according to the Geneva convention, a terrorist and war criminal such as KSM is not even entitled to a trial. For the column at hand, let us maintain the discussion between military trial versus civil trial.

If Obama had stuck to his original decision (and, probably, his current desire; he waited just enough time to take  the decision out of his sole jurisdiction and put it in Congress’ hands) to have KSM tried in a civil trial in New York, he would have been opening a real Pandora’s box.

For starters, in such a trial, there is often plenty of opportunity for classified US security information to be exposed. This could seriously endanger the safety and security of Americans. Other terrorists could use the exposed information to their advantage, which, of course, means to the US’ dangerous disadvantage.

Also, a civil trial limits the evidence against KSM that would be admissible in court.

Civil cases have a more limited and restricted legal search and seizure policy, while a military trial allows for a broader opportunity to search without a warrant, to bring evidence against the accused.

Why would the US grant a war criminal — captured abroad in war — the openings that a legal civil trial allows?

A terrorist such as KSM is not your average domestic criminal. Trying him involves the security and safety of a nation. Trying him is qualitatively different from trying a random, domestic offender.

In principle, on a purely hypothetical and moral level, yes, I would say that having two standards of justice is not right. Everyone should be at the same starting line. That is the only true way to achieve justice.

But life, and not just theoretical classroom principles, come into play. I suppose in these two short years that president Obama transitioned from a law professor to President of the US, he has gotten more than a dose and taste of reality.

Sometimes decisions need to be based on safety and procedural good sense, not principle.

ARE we endangering the US legal system by giving KSM a military trial?

I don’t think so. If anything, we may have saved the face of the civil trial by withholding it from a satanic enemy likes KSM. He would only have a hay day mocking the value of a civil trial and using it opportunistically to further his cause.

A civil case, especially in context of a military capture, makes no sense to me anyway, and what seems pretty certain is that a civil trial for KSM would have most likely devolved into a circus.

Clearly, that is not a reason not to proceed with a decision if you believe it to be the right one. But I am glad KSM will be denied the platform to argue anything about his perspective on 9/11.

As much as I feel that way, there is something to be said for hearing straight from the horse’s mouth. KSM would have undoubtedly offered an unsanitized version of his hate, his desire to see the destruction of America, not to mention the creepy, warped, psychotic pride of a mass murderer.

There is a small part of me that says to myself: For all those apologists about murderous extremism, let KSM’ truth, in his own words, be out there.

Also, there is the perspective that by granting KSM a military trial, this places this mass murderer terrorist on the same footing as our devoted, noble and heroic American soldiers.

There is a subtle legitimacy that a military trial lends the terrorists that I don’t care for.

I suppose that regardless of what type of trial an evil person such as KSM is given, couldn’t come without its costs.

In the final analysis, I believe it is healthy to have a dialectical tension between the principles and the procedures. Even if on principle one could argue the merits of a civil trial for KMS, in his case it seem wise procedurally to have a military trial.

Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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