I get where President Obama and Attorney General
In principle, I agree. If upholding our values makes fighting the war on terror harder, then it should be harder.
That's why I don't care much that it will cost more money to try suspected terrorists in the Big Apple than it would in the state-of-the-art facility at
Nonetheless, I think the decision to send
Ultimately, the disagreement is one of first principles. If we are at war, then the rules of war apply. The fact that this is a war unlike others we've fought should not mean that it isn't a war at all.
Don't tell that to Obama. He's made it clear that he doesn't see the threat as an unconventional war but as a conventional law-enforcement problem. The attorney general insists that 9/11 is a matter for civilian courts. Homeland Security Secretary
Just as telling, Obama insists that the decision to move Mohammed to civilian court was entirely Holder's. This is deceptive nonsense. Even if technically true, the choice to let Holder make the decision was the real decision. The commander in chief opted to hand off jurisdiction over enemy combatants to the cops. He can't duck that responsibility by saying it wasn't his call.
But there's a more immediate problem. This won't be a show trial, strictly speaking. But it will be a trial for show.
Prominent defenders of the decision insist that this trial is at least partly to benefit America's image around the world. That's a laudable goal -- and another example of why this is not a mere law-enforcement issue. But I'm dubious that will be the result.
Throw into the equation that these men weren't read their rights, were interrogated in a manner that is illegal in civilian courts, are being tried with little if any possibility of an impartial jury -- and the fact that Holder all but insists they'll be convicted -- and it all adds up to a farce.
Moreover, the administration has not abolished military tribunals. Holder is sending the al-Qaida suspects in the attack on the destroyer Cole to one. Hence, enemies who attack us abroad are treated like enemy combatants with fewer rights, while terrorists who managed to kill civilians here at home are treated like American citizens. That is perverse.
If history is a guide, this trial will unavoidably come at a cost in terms of leaked intelligence and propaganda victories for our enemies.
Obama's defenders don't believe it. "Does anyone think," asks
Such arguments are revealing on at least two counts. First, the Nuremberg trials were military tribunals -- it was understood that the Nazis were not mere criminals.
Second, they took place after we had won the war against Nazi
Meanwhile, the war on terror lives. Just don't tell that to
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(C) 2009 Jonah Goldberg