Democrats & Liberals Archives

Affirming American Justice

Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other top terrorism suspects will be prosecuted in federal court on Friday. And the Far-Right erupted with ….. fear! Those who have been incapacitated from excessive trembling for the last 8 years, screamed with anguish. Evidently they do not think much of the American system of justice. But Eric Holder is a true believer and a true patriot: he has affirmed to the world that democratic America can be counted on to deliver justice to even the scum of the earth.

I was watching The News Hour with Jim Lehrer when David Brooks, in answer to a question about Holder's action, hit me with the following worrying statement:

I found it 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.

Brooks is not the only scaredycat. John Boehner said:

The Obama Administration’s irresponsible decision to prosecute the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York City puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people.

There are lots more fulminations on the Right. But the above quotations are enough to show that 8 years after 9/11 these people are still so paranoid they are willing to trash the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights and our whole system of justice so they may feel safe. Brooks, Laufman, Boehner and other Far-Rightists are so fearful of what the terrorists on trial may say and how they may encourage others to become terrorists, that they are willing to forego a trial altogether. They forget that America with this trial is making more than a statement, an action, that demonstrates our commitment to justice. Which will be more powerful?

Glenn Greenwald expresses this Far-Right fear well:

The Right's reaction to yesterday's announcement -- we're too afraid to allow trials and due process in our country -- is the textbook definition of "surrendering to terrorists." It's the same fear they've been spewing for years. As always, the Right's tough-guy leaders wallow in a combination of pitiful fear and cynical manipulation of the fear of their followers. Indeed, it's hard to find any group of people on the globe who exude this sort of weakness and fear more than the American Right.

Eric Holder, with his bold action, is returning America to one of its core values: justice for all. The same justice for rich and poor, for majorities and minorities, for Christian and non-Christian, for American citizens and EVERYBODY ELSE. Holder is affirming that America not only believes in but does its utmost to produce JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Posted by Paul Siegel at November 14, 2009 6:34 PM
Comments
Comment #290777

This idea is terrible on every level. As has been pointed out, giving terrorists the public relations platform of such trials will only motivate more terrorists.

But beyond that, what system of law is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed going to be tried under here? A trial will have to be either a mockery of American justice under which KSM will not actually be granted the rights that a normal defendant receives or a trial in which he’s given rights that defendants never receive. He can’t possibly be prosecuted under the laws of American justice.

Nobody ever thought that this guy was going to be given a trial under American laws. Was he properly mirandized when he was arrested in Pakistan? Was there a proper warrant for his arrest issued by a judge? Were warrants issued on the basis of probable cause to search his property? Was a lawyer present during his questioning? Where in the United States is the purported mastermind of 9-11 going to get an impartial and untainted jury?

All of this is absurd. Either the Obama Justice Department will have to create special circumstances under which they suspend the laws and deny him his “rights” (and have a judge go along with it) or they will have to allow the mastermind of 9-11 to be acquitted on a mountain of technicalities. Has the Obama administration actually thought through how badly they’ll be damaged politically if they let the mastermind of 9-11 walk? It’s more likely, considering the political ramifications, that they simply won’t allow that to happen—which means they’re going to use the American justice system into a kangaroo court.

Posted by: Paul at November 14, 2009 7:49 PM
Comment #290778

Paul,

What is absurd is exactly what Paul Siegel wrote about. If you fear Constitutional law and US Justice, then I humbly submit you should find a tyranny you might feel more comfortable in.

Posted by: gergle at November 14, 2009 8:17 PM
Comment #290779

My intense liberal leanings aside, I would be very interested in hearing the answers to the questions that Paul asked regarding due process issues. Anybody?

Posted by: steve miller at November 14, 2009 8:59 PM
Comment #290780

These people are not U.S. citizens. They do not fall under our constitution. They are prisoners of war and should be tried in military courts. No time in our history was a prisoner of war tried in our federal courts. What make those on the left think they are going to get a fair and impartial trial in our federal court system? especially in New York. People there still remember what happened 8 yrs ago. IMO Eric Holder made one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

Posted by: KAP at November 14, 2009 9:00 PM
Comment #290782

KAP,

So now they become “prisoners of war”?
What a ridiculous concept. After years of being told that these guys were “enemy combatants” the right has finally changed it’s “mind” and decided that they are now covered by the Geneva Conventions.

This should be good for a few yuks while the right squirms out of this predicament.

Oh, and BTW, Noriega wasn’t a US citizen either and yet he was tried and convicted in our courts.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at November 14, 2009 9:36 PM
Comment #290789

Rocky
He was captured by the military. Being he was a non uniformed combatant he could have been shot and killed on the spot as like each detainee if we go by the Geneva Convention.

Posted by: KAP at November 14, 2009 10:28 PM
Comment #290791

Sorry guys,
We were told by the Bush administration that these detainees wouldn’t fall under the protection of the Geneva Conventions.

You can’t have it both ways.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has either committed crimes against humanity, in which case he should be tried in the Hague, or he has committed crimes against America and he should be tried here.

BTW, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan by the Pakistani ISI, not on the battlefield.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at November 14, 2009 10:52 PM
Comment #290798

I wonder why the words of the Constitution, the words we live by are so ineffective we have to categorize those whom it is intended for…if we believe in the words and the meaning of the Constitution, why are they meant for just us? If the words are true and the meaning clear, wouldn’t they be for everyone? These people might not be American citizens, but don’t they qualify for “all men are created equal”?

Posted by: Marysdude at November 14, 2009 11:28 PM
Comment #290809

For 7 years we suffered through the Bush administration acting out of fear that America was not strong enough to face down this threat. 7 years of a policy that our people were not strong enough to band together and sacrifice and show each other and the world that we are better than the people that perpetrated these horrible crimes. We were told to go shopping or go buy duct tape and plastic sheets and stay inside depending on which way they thought would help keep them in power and to deflect any blame for this happening on their watch. We suffered through 7 years of a policy analogous to trying to kill flies with a sledgehammer. Sure, you might kill a fly with a thousand blind swings but you wreck your house and your neighbors house in the process. Then, when they actually captured some supposedly responsible they threw out everything our system was built on and approved and encouraged subordinates to commit acts of torture.

Now that someone is trying to make this country live up to its laws and procedures the right squeals like a baby at the thought of our justice system being able to do what it was intended to do by our founders, people far wiser than they could hope to be. To listen to some of these folks whine you’d think that KSM is some kind of superman who will escape from a maximum security prison. When to look at him, he’d have a tough time running across the prison yard without having a coronary.

I’m not saying that this trial will be a slam dunk. We did torture this guy after all. Our country committed war crimes that we need to own up to. Only by doing this do we regain our self respect and our Constitution, while being far from perfect is certainly the best political document ever drafted. This whole mess needs to be set right if we are ever to move forward. While I am by no means happy with this administration, this is a positive step.

Posted by: tcsned at November 15, 2009 9:40 AM
Comment #290810
I wonder why the words of the Constitution, the words we live by are so ineffective we have to categorize those whom it is intended for…if we believe in the words and the meaning of the Constitution, why are they meant for just us? If the words are true and the meaning clear, wouldn’t they be for everyone? These people might not be American citizens, but don’t they qualify for “all men are created equal”?

I wonder how much the utopians on the left really believe such a thing. Do they actually think that the American government should ensure the rights of everybody in the world to keep and bear and arms? If our government’s duty to uphold and defend the Constitutional rights for all Americans is to be extended to the entire world, then we’re going to need to invade and conquer a whole lot of countries to ensure that happens. If the rights enumerated in the Constitution should be extended to the entire world, then everybody should be permitted to vote in our elections, run for public office here. And should health care really become a “right” as the left believes it should, this regime of extending the rights we give our own citizens in all directions will mean that we’ll need to provide healthcare to the entire world.

Posted by: Paul at November 15, 2009 11:01 AM
Comment #290813

Paul…

You are apparently falling into the same trap that many on the left fall into as well. The main ideal of this country has been, from the beginning, that rights come from being a human being, not by some government edict or writ. Our constitution does not detail the rights that we have, it is a document about what the government cannot do, to ANYONE, because people, by their nature of being sentient beings, enjoy.

The government cannot overstep its bounds against anyone, not just Americans.

Any other interpretation leads down a path of tyranny and fascism, a path that both parties are hell bent on following.

However, I still am not sure why we want to have civil trials for an enemy combatant, they would actually be treated much more fairly, IMO, in an military tribunal. How are we going to pick a jury of his peers out of a New York City jury pool? That fact that Eric Holder wants to have the trial in New York City is pure politics, not justice.

But, that being said, I have no quarrel with it being a civil trial either. As long as justice, real justice, is served, I have no problem.

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 15, 2009 12:04 PM
Comment #290815

Terrorists are not enemy combatants. The so-called ‘war on terror’ is a name people like to bandy about. We cannot declare war on an ephemeral, ghostlike being, because we cannot sign treaties or surrender documents with them. Terrorists are criminals, and torturers are criminals, so I’m not sure who will be on trial in New York, but that is the place to find out, not some secret tribunal somewhere in outer space.

Posted by: Marysdude at November 15, 2009 12:13 PM
Comment #290816

Paul,

I thought the Constitution spelled out who had rights to vote, at what age they can run for political office, what the citizenship requirements are for each branch, etc. I guess I’ll just have to go back and refamiliarize myself with it

Posted by: Marysdude at November 15, 2009 12:19 PM
Comment #290817

Paul - is it Utopian to demand that we stay faithful to the rule of law? That if someone commits or is complicit it a crime perpetrated in this country that they should not be held accountable for their alleged crimes? and have the same legal protections as any other suspected criminal? Is not our legal system capable of giving someone a fair trial and aren’t our prisons capable of keeping them from doing more harm to society? You apparently have very little faith in our country and our laws. No wonder the right behaves so fearfully and is so willing to ditch everything this country was built upon in the face of, while a very real danger, no where close to the worst threat this country has ever faced.

I love how the right likes to trot out the 2nd Amendment anytime they feel like bashing the left with the Constitution. There are those of us on the left who feel that every Amendment in our Bill of Rights is equally important and that they should all be enforced equally. It seems like the right is stuck in a Constitutional feedback loop “the right to bear arms, the right to bear arms, the right to bear arms …” How about cruel and unusual punishment, right to an attorney, right to a speedy trial? Or are these deemed unimportant and subservient to the 2nd Amendment?

It is not Utopian to expect that those who commit crimes or conspire to commit crimes in our country be subject to our judicial system. KSM is suspected of being complicit in the 9-11 attacks - thus he should be subject to the laws and protections of our Constitution. People captured on the battlefield are different. If they are not being accused of committing a crime in this country they should under the various international treaties we have signed as legally binding. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that these people be tried in US criminal courts. They are not under that jurisdiction. Oh, I get it, you are setting up straw men and bogus arguments to try to prove a point.

Posted by: tcsned at November 15, 2009 12:30 PM
Comment #290818

Rhinehold - I agree with you but since the 9-11 crimes were committed in NYC (DC too) isn’t that the proper place to start the proceedings? If KSM has a good lawyer, or any lawyer other than himself, wouldn’t their first move be petitioning to move the trial?

Posted by: tcsned at November 15, 2009 12:38 PM
Comment #290824

The underlying question here is why do those on the Right have more faith in the military ‘justice’ system than in our civilian ‘justice’ system? Is there one definition for justice for the military and another for our civilian system? Or, should justice have but one definition and applied equally and achieved equally for defendants and victims in both judiciary systems?

It would seem that the Right leans toward capital punishment and martial law where serious crime threats exist, but, toward weak civilian courts where white collar and lesser crimes are concerned. This is only my impression from the taking heads on this question.

But, the Left has confidence in our federal judiciary system. Does the Right not have confidence in it because they politically nominated so many justices to that federal civilian system over the last 8 years?

In reality, I suspect the Right simply views the military justice system as biased in favor of the prosecution since apprehension and detention was accomplished by their own. And they view the civilian justice system as more partial to defendant’s rights. Which begs the question, why is the Right so opposed to the Bill of Rights, where alleged terrorists are concerned?

I think the answer lies here. The Right has prejudged the alleged terrorists as guilty of terrorism and therefore, having already been convicted in the minds of those on the Right, these people should have no rights, or as few as possible, and that is better accomplished, they think, in the military tribunal court system.

Kind of goes along with the Secessionist bent of those Republicans in Texas and Alaska who simply don’t like or, trust our federal government or the Constitution it rode in on.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 15, 2009 3:53 PM
Comment #290827

Paul,

“The decision to try a handful of terrorists in civilian courts doesn’t suddenly mean, for instance, that an illegal alien in this country now has all the rights given to American citizens.”

As far as the rights afforded to all Americans within the American justice system IMHO you’re wrong and there is precedence to back up that opinion.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at November 15, 2009 5:30 PM
Comment #290836
Rhinehold - I agree with you but since the 9-11 crimes were committed in NYC (DC too) isn’t that the proper place to start the proceedings? If KSM has a good lawyer, or any lawyer other than himself, wouldn’t their first move be petitioning to move the trial?

I would think that if we had a good Attorney General he would have put the trial somewhere where there would be fewer legal issues and the best method to achieve a fair and just trial, it is a federal crime therefore it does not have to be in the city where the crimes occured.

Of course, it has been such a long time since we have seen a good Attorney General, perhaps I am just mistaken on what they would be putting first, justice or politics.

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 15, 2009 8:05 PM
Comment #290837
In reality, I suspect the Right simply views the military justice system as biased in favor of the prosecution since apprehension and detention was accomplished by their own. And they view the civilian justice system as more partial to defendant’s rights. Which begs the question, why is the Right so opposed to the Bill of Rights, where alleged terrorists are concerned?

David,

Not being a member of the ‘right’ I don’t know if I should be speaking for them, but I think the thought going throw many who are concerned about this ended up in a civil court is ‘OJ’…

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 15, 2009 8:07 PM
Comment #290839

Rhinehold
I think that is exactly what is going threw many peoples minds. Are these guys going to walk on technicalities? Is housing these guys in the U.S. asking for trouble? Many questions are going unanswered. Do the liberals really think that a jury of New Yorkers are really going to be impartial? As one said the defence lawyers will probably ask to have the trials moved elsewhere.

Posted by: KAP at November 15, 2009 8:46 PM
Comment #290844

“Are these guys going to walk on technicalities?”

So is the right worried about this now?

These guys are criminals. They are murderous thugs.
And we did everything wrong. We violated every rule that would alllow America to put these guys on trial, convict them and out them away forever, and in the process we made them martyrs.
There is no possible way we were going to be able to keep these guys forever without putting them on trial eventually.

So please share with us how we would put criminals on trial through a Military tribunal?


Paul,

In the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissent; “Hamdan is an illegal combatant and therefore not protected by the Geneva convention”.

So do you guys want it both ways or what?

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at November 15, 2009 10:30 PM
Comment #290846

Rocky
POW’s are held until hostilities end. The fighting has not ended. Therefore according to the Geneva Convention they can be held indefinitely or until a military tribunal has been set and they be tried.

Posted by: KAP at November 15, 2009 10:45 PM
Comment #290847

KAP,

They cannot be called POWs.

They do not belong to any “organized” army. They do not represent any country. This is what we have ben told by the right in this country for the last 8 years.

I could go on and on, and yet the spinning, and parsing from the right won’t stop.

I wasn’t under a rock for the last 8 years. Supreme Court Justice Thomas called them “illegal combatants”, Bush did every possible thing he could to deny them the rights they should have enjoyed if they were indeed POWs.
These guys were held in secret prisons all over the world. You can’t treat people like that and then turn around and call them POWs, and now the right is crapping the bed in fear over what could happen if and when they go to trial.

I have said from the very beginning of my time here at watchblog that these guys were criminals, and should be treated as such.

The Bush administration screwed the pooch on this issue, and now we will reap what he has sown.

It’s now time for America to “man up” and do the right thing despite the consequences.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at November 15, 2009 11:30 PM
Comment #290856

It is strange…when those on the right feel threatened in their comfort zone, even in the slightest, they cast the Constitution at someone as if it is David’s smooth stone. But, when the Constitutional issue is about something they don’t agree with, it becomes “just a GD piece of paper”, that gets in the way of their goals.

We reap both the benefits and the restraints of the Constitution…if we want the one, we must be willing to abide by the other.

Posted by: Marysdude at November 16, 2009 4:56 AM
Comment #290859

Rhinehold,

The reason that the prosecutions are being filed in NYC is due to Constitutional and statutory venue requirements. The substantive crime occured in NYC. Washington would also qualify. If challenged, it is possible that venue may be changed if the government cannot prove that the defendants would be able to receive a fair trial in the NYC federal district.

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Comment #380617

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