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Couldn’t Have Said It Better

17 November 2009

To my amazement, a gem from a member of the editorial board of the National Review (via The Opinionator at NYT):

[referring to comments opposing the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and co. in Federal Court] These readers disagreed with my decision to welcome a trial here in New York —precisely because they fear that it will be a fair trial, in which the defendants may be acquitted. Here’s one: “I think what has people very worried is the perception that our legal system is so biased in favor of the accused that a conviction is hardly a sure thing. . . . Many things can happen which would result in our enemies walking away free; that is my worry, and I suspect the worry of many others.” Here’s another: “It is not that we fear 12 jurors cannot be found to mete out justice in New York City. It is that we fear that defense attorneys will obstruct justice and make this trial a circus of the worst kind. Can you say ACLU?”

In other words: Some people oppose this trial precisely because they fear it will not be a show trial. They recognize that there is always a chance that the prosecution might lose. I ask readers to stop for a moment and think about what that says about our country.

Potemra pretty much hits it out of the park here.  I’ve always been bewildered by the question of whether terrorists ‘deserve’ constitutional protections or the process afforded by the United States criminal court system–not because I think the answer is ‘yes’, but because it strikes me as beyond irrelevant.  Do those who attack the Justice Department’s decision suggest that while someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad does not deserve a fair trial, individuals such as Ted Bundy, or domestic terrorists such as Scott Roeder and Eric Rudolph do?  What about Timothy McVeigh, or Nadal Malik Hason–individuals against whom the evidence was and, respectively, is, rather insurmountable?

The question isn’t what these despicable creatures deserve.  Not a one of them, empirically speaking, deserve any protections, rights, comforts, or provisions whatsoever.  And I doubt there’d be much argument that in the retributive sense, at least, the justice appropriate to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad is beyond the capability of any society to mete out.  Had the Attorney General announced at his press conference that KSM would be burned, drawn and quartered on Wall Street, I’m sure there would be some who’d be disappointed at the leniency of such a sentence.  But having a threshold of heinousness at which we throw trials out the window completely negates the purpose of having any trials for any purpose.  It seeks to codify the principle that the more serious the crime, the less we as a society care about justice for the victims, and about truly punishing those responsible, so long as someone is punished–swiftly and mercilessly.

So no, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his band of murderers do not deserve the protections they will be given.  And that frankly could not matter less.  Because when we seek to deal out that which is deserved without regard for that which is fair and consistent, we become an ugly, ugly society indeed.

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