Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is not the master of magnetism
A poll today shows that New Yorkers narrowly favor trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in their city, and this is being treated as a surprise in some quarters. New York sure is brave! More baffling were the lawmakers who cowered when faced with the prospect of holding terrorists in Supermax prisons in the continental United States, as if hatred of America gave men super strength.
These guys took down a plane with box cutters. They used crude weapons to attack a far more sophisticated and effective fighting force. The most fearsome of them was captured at home, in his pajamas. It's not like we're putting Magneto on trial and need to keep him away from metal filings.
It's one thing to be afraid of terrorism. But there's no real reason to be afraid of terrorists, and as Daphne Eviatar argues, there's good reason not to look like you're afraid of terrorists:
The contrast of seeing these ordinary-looking men on trial in an orderly U.S. courtroom — where they’re accorded the right to a lawyer, the right to speak in their own defense and the right to call witnesses — could go a long way toward publicly revealing the absurdity of their cause, as well as the justice that a fair and functioning legal system can provide.
Trying these guys publicly, as well as holding them in normal prisons like common criminals, is good public relations. Being a terrorist is a more appealing prospect if the world's sole superpower appears to cower before your might than it is if you end up trapped in the American legal system, forced to submit to endless cross-examination and consultation with attorneys and other bureaucratic humiliations. Lots of people want to be super villains. But who wants to be a henchman? Being held on a fortified military island and tortured by a country that can't seem to get you to talk is a much more glorious finish than a long and dull trial that ends with you serving time in central New Jersey.
Photo credit: 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. via Associated Press
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