I find it increasingly incomprehensible how the hawks panic whenever terrorism crosses paths with the U.S. justice system, as if terrorism will always prevail. Just watch how David Brooks – everyday more of an extremist – views American justice as being incapable of handling terrorists and their propaganda:
I found [Holder’s decision to try the terrorists in court] disturbing, because the terrorists not only get to attack the country and make a global statement that way. Now they’re going to have a public trial to make more statements.
And potential future terrorists will also know that, if caught, they can have a trial, sort of an international reality TV show, to make their statements.
… I mean, what is terrorism? The real targets of a terrorist attack are not the people who are killed. It’s the message that is sent to the country, the act of intimidation. It’s the message of rallying radicals in other parts of the world. And that’s what terrorism is. That’s why terrorism is a unique form of warfare.
This trial will become another act of propaganda. The future trials will become other acts of propaganda. And I think we have to understand that terrorism works through propaganda, not through simply killing. And, therefore, controlling the propaganda effects of an act of terrorism seems to me part of the process we should adapt.
They should have the rights that they’re afforded by the Supreme Court and by the Constitution, but that doesn’t mean we need to provide them with another propaganda opportunity.
Would that mean that any trial whatsoever is potentially incompatible with our justice system? Wouldn’t prosecuting any high profile suspect, according to Brooks’ logic, be considered rewarding the criminal? Do we have that little faith in our Constitution and system of justice?
People in capitals all over the world have hosted trials of high-level terrorist suspects using their normal justice system. They didn’t allow fear to drive them to build island-prisons or create special commissions to depart from their rules of justice. Spain held an open trial in Madrid for the individuals accused of that country’s 2004 train bombings. The British put those accused of perpetrating the London subway bombings on trial right in their normal courthouse in London. Indonesia gave public trials using standard court procedures to the individuals who bombed a nightclub in Bali. India used a Mumbai courtroom to try the sole surviving terrorist who participated in the 2008 massacre of hundreds of residents. In Argentina, the Israelis captured Adolf Eichmann, one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals, and brought him to Jerusalem to stand trial for his crimes.
It’s only America’s Right that is too scared of the Terrorists — or which exploits the fears of their followers — to insist that no regular trials can be held and that “the safety and security of the American people” mean that we cannot even have them in our country to give them trials. As usual, it’s the weakest and most frightened among us who rely on the most flamboyant, theatrical displays of “strength” and “courage” to hide what they really are. Then again, this is the same political movement whose “leaders” — people like John Cornyn and Pat Roberts — cowardly insisted that we must ignore the Constitution in order to stay alive: the exact antithesis of the core value on which the nation was founded. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that they exude a level of fear of Terrorists that is unmatched virtually anywhere in the world. It is, however, noteworthy that the position they advocate — it’s too scary to have normal trials in our country of Terrorists — is as pure a surrender to the Terrorists as it gets.
The real controversy here is whether these are mere show trials. We only try the cases we think we can win, while the rest of the detainees are to be kept in cages indefinitely without trial or anything resembling due process. That is the true test of our resolve to uphold the American Way.