Don’t make a martyr of Mohammed

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s promises to be the trial of the century. Three thousand victims of a single conspiracy equals the death toll of the entire Troubles. The scene-set recalls an earlier age in Britain when justice seemed less complicated. In the same manner encountered over the release of al-Megrahi, Americans take a more robust view of justice and terrorism. From the president downwards, vengeance and punishment are unapologetically referred to as justice. And lest there be any doubt, the Attorney General of this liberal administration is calling for the death penalty.Almost certainly on this side of the Atlantic, because of the risk of jury bias the trial would not have been held in the same city as the crime – much less a few hundred metres away from Ground Zero, the site of this most monstrous of crimes. There is a dramatic deliberateness to the decision to site the trial in lower Manhattan despite entirely natural fears of fresh attack. It appears to echo the terrible ritual quality of the Twin Towers attack itself. From the rhetoric, you might think this is to be a show trial. But that would be to discount the majestic independence of American legal process. It has taken years to reach this point, finally prodded by Obama. The trial formats for Guantanamo inmates will vary controversially and the Gatmo saga is far from resolved. It has claimed the scalp of the White House counsel who has failed to deliver Obama’s first promise to close the camp within a year of his Jan 20 inauguration. Americans, in particular New Yorkers, will be putting themselves through months maybe years of foreboding and anxiety for what must be a very uncertain outcome. Mohammed’s inevitable defence of confession extracted by repeated torture appears to undermine the prosecution from the start. Underlying fears of reprisal and the creation of a new martyrology makes execution unlikely and certainly unwise. There must be great anxiety that America will divide over this trial and others. A lot will depend on events far away in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region where the first al Qaida plots were laid.

Telegraph extract
Mohammed was subsequently “waterboarded” – a simulated drowning technique formerly used by the CIA – 183 times before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. Behind closed doors at a combatant status review in 2007 he confessed to involvement in 31 plots, including the 2001 attacks which had the blessing of Osama bin Laden. “I was responsible for the 9/11 Operation from A to Z,” he said.

  • 6countyprod

    Even if he were acquitted, which is quite possible – on a technicality perhaps – they are never going to release the guy, anyway. So why create such a stir and unnecessary problems for New Yorkers?

    No matter how it turns out, it’s a propaganda coup for AQ.

  • I’m a survivor of the events of September 11th, 2001 in New York, New York 10048.

    None would question my desire for justice in this case. Yet, more than some ill-defined “justice”, I’d rather such events never occur again.

    However, I seriously fear that the previous White House Administration seriously handicapped any attempt to prosecute this case, by contaminating any real evidence with testimony given under duress (to put it euphemistically).

    This along with the squandering of the good will of the world, the earlier exploitation of the tradegy to pursue an errant and mischeivous foreign policy and the continued use of the lunatic rightwing rabble of the Republican Party to associate and compare the perpetrators of this atrocity with President Obama and those who support his domestic agenda undoubtedly constitute the stangest and saddest chapter in our history.

    My friends, neighbors and fellow New Yorkers did not deserve to perish so horribly.

    Nor did they deserve to have their memories so sullied and obscured by public sociopaths.

  • 6countyprod


    Your comments are a good illustration why a civil case against KSM should not be heard, especially in NY. Mixing civilian and military cases are fraught with danger, and as your post clearly indicates, the focus will be taken off the terror of 9/11 and an attempt will be made to find other scapegoats, thus distracting from the crimes committed.

    Maybe that’s what Obama wants. It’s certainly not what Rudy Guiliani desires. Click the link for some cogent comments from The Mayor.

  • RepublicanStones

    Everytime I hear reference to waterboarding Im reminded of Hitchens.

    I believe before the experience, he tried to claim it wasn’t torture. But fair play to him, he was quick to hold his hands up and recant…

  • Fair play to Hitchens, Stones.

    Didn’t Seán Hannity promise to do likewise?

  • NCM

    Let’s get this straight: before we execute the alleged mastermind of 9/11 — a war criminal, if he’s guilty –we’ve decided it would be good PR for a jury to first find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, since that shows our commitment to international law and other norms of civilization, etc. Meanwhile, we’ve killed and maimed countless Afghan civilians without so much as being even halfway sure they weren’t in danger before we dropped the bombs or fired the missiles that blew their limbs from their bodies, etc. Can someone explain to me how this makes sense?

  • DW

    Civilian casualties of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)–present)

  • DW

    At least 753,399 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimates.

    Most recent update: September 11, 2009. This page is updated about once monthly.

    About 251 times as many people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq than in the ghastly attacks of September 11, 2001. More than 108 times as many people have been killed in these wars and occupations than in all terrorist attacks in the world from 1993-2004. The 2004 report showed terrorism at an all-time high, and after numerous experts suggested that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were fueling the increase, subsequent reports have remained classified.

  • New Yorker

    This wretch and his cohorts are common criminals who murdered thousands of New Yorkers. He is rightly to be tried in a NY court as a common criminal.

  • igor

    I have no doubt that after due process he can look forward to his quota of virgins

  • Seymour Major

    “From the president downwards, vengeance and punishment are unapologetically referred to as justice”

    In fairness to most Americans, notwithstanding their desire to see the criminals punished I dont think the vast majority of right-minded people there would be satisfied unless there was a fair trial and due process of justice. Your remarks say more about your prejudice than that of the Americans.

  • Doctor Who

    No matter what this man has done, he should not face trial. His confessions have been procurred from him under torture. A man subjected to waterboarding 183 times will say anything, dishing this torture out once is barbaric. We hear alot said about the monsters of 9/11, sometimes I wonder who really are the monsters.

    America continues to exact “justice” on Iraqi citizens on a daily basis but no matter how many men, women and children they kill, it will never be enough to satisfy them. Im afraid I fear the American form of justice as much as the new boogie men Al Qaeda´s brand.

  • Sean McEntee

    “Ground Zero, the site of this most monstrous of crimes.” Some posters have demonstrated otherwise.

    Such are the contradictions of life and of America’s imperialist agenda.

  • Padraig

    The guy was water boarded {tortured} 183 times. No one has ever been made amenable for this, no one ever will. There is an old saying, ‘Beware lest in fighting the monster you become the monster’.

    Any court that over looks the fact that this man has been tortured becomes in effect a party to torture .

    The threat of torture or the use of torture and similar practices of coercing testimony, confessions, information is universally condemned under international law [e.g. the Geneva Convention, Article 3 and 31 and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article 5] and (a) the Fourth Amendment’s right to be free of unreasonable search or seizure (which encompasses the right not to be abused by the police), (b) the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination (which encompasses the right to remain silent during interrogations), (c) the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments’ guarantees of due process (ensuring fundamental fairness in criminal justice system) and (d) the Eighth Amendment’s right to be free of cruel or unusual punishment].

    Or to put it another way, the Government has burnt its boats as far as trying this guy in an open Federal Court goes.

  • NCM

    The major problem here is that the US has serious unclean hands in how it treated Mohammed and obtained its evidence against him, and Obama’s going to look really stupid after the federal district judge hearing the case dismisses it as a result of the years of torture, etc. that this guy has been through while in US custody. Then what? Continue to hold Mohammed extra-judicially? Send him off to a “friendly” repressive “ally” to be dispatched? This PR stunt (and that’s what it is — a PR attempt to deflect attention from the injustice of the US’s wars that don’t give their victims any due process before killing them) hasn’t been thought through very carefully and is prone to backfire. Obama and US AG Holder seem to be assuming that Mohammed will make their case for them by spouting off about killing infidel Americans and how much fun 9/11 was, etc., but the joke’s on them if none of that happens (or if the case doesn’t even progress that far because of the severe “irregularities” in how the US treated Mohammed while in custody).

    Surely the US can’t just let Mohammed go if his case is dismissed… talk about a non-viable option… I mean, if he wasn’t steaming mad at the US before he was in US custody, I bet he is now… So then the PR facade will have to crumble and back to Gitmo he goes, fair trial or not.

  • joeCanuck

    They will have to waterboard me just once before I will admit that it actually was me who masterminded the attacks.

  • OC

    The defense can request a change of venue, which could probably be any Fed District Court in the 2d Appeals Circuit. If they don’t, then it will be harder to claim that they didn’t get a fair trial.

    It would seem unfair to use any uncorroborated evidence obtained by waterboarding. There may also be a problem with State secrets.

    It is a problem trying this as a criminal case. Al Kyda is an NGO much like Ian Fleming’s SPECTRE, where actors would seem to be “unlawful combatants”.

    KSM should just be held until “the end of the war”, which I don’t see happening any time soon.

    In any case, if KSM is found not guilty, Obama’s presidency is finished.

  • Ramzi Nohra

    Does anyone seriously doubt his guilt? He wasnt shy about admitting it prior to being taken into custody.

    I take all the points about US conduct in afghanistan and iraq. Khalid aint the only one who should be facing justice.

    However, the fact is he can be punished for his actions whereas we’ll be waiting a hell of a long time for people on the other side to be prosecutedd.

    He is a war criminal, a deliberate killer of thousands of innocents. I would imagine, for example, that most on the left would think the orchestrators of the sabra and shatilla massacres should be executed. This guy killed a couple (or more) times than that, so whats the problem?

    I am mystified by some of the comments above saying he shouldnt stand trial – should the yanks just release him then?

  • Doctor Who

    Ramzi Nohra

    If you tolerate torture on any scale, who will you turn to if if happens to you.

    If his guilt is established as you say, why is he then going to trial?

    He also may well be a war criminal, I think George Bush is too, but Bush is not likely to be waterboarded or stand trial. Go to the thousands of orphans in Iraq and ask them who are the war criminals.

  • joeCanuck

    Of course he should go on trial. But the evidence must fit as Johnny Cochran (in)famously said.
    “Evidence” obtained by torture is worthless.

  • NCM

    Ramzi, factual guilt and guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal trial are two very different things. The problem here is that assuming factual guilt, because of his unconscionable treatment in custody by the US government a criminal conviction in ordinary criminal court is not certain — no matter if he done it or not.

    So Obama is risking a disaster by playing a PR game — the disaster being a dismissal or acquital, followed by either letting public enemy # 1 free to plan 9/11 ver. 2 or some unconstitional plan to execute or imprison him despite being acquited. And we’ve killed all these innocents in Afghanistan without ANY semblance of due process but the one guy who actually should be shot is given his day in court? This is a bullshit move designed to make the US look like a fair country, but meanwhile this has everything turned on its head. The Afghan women and children slaughtered by the US should have gotten a fair hearing before we maimed and killed them, but of course they didn’t… and we’re trying to show how good we are despite our murderousness by playing a PR game that might result in an unacceptable outcome.

  • Brit

    Few things here:-

    1. 9/11 was a grave and evil crime of massive proportions. I wish people could remember this and say it very clearly and wait at least a few seconds before condemning various actions of the US government.

    2. Torture is wrong and should be subject to an absolute international prohibition and I’ve no down waterboarding falls into this category.

    3. The conclusion from 2. is not to set the guy free but to exclude from the trial any evidence obtained through torture.

    4. It may well be that there is enough to convict notwithstanding point 3, not least because the individual may confess.

    5. Whilst the Bush regime was responsible for some departures from some of the key principles of any liberal criminal justice system lets not go to far and adopt a Chomsky / Naomi Klein line that the US is on the road to becoming fascist or totalitarian. The US criminal justice system in general adheres to norms only found in liberal democracies and is in no way comparable to court proceedings in third world and / or repressive regimes. To call this trial a PR stunt or a show trial is therefore hysterical and over the top.

    6. A more interesting question for liberals who like me are opposed to the death penalty for common criminals is whether we should adhere the the same principles for Islamist mass murders or other war criminals. I’m somewhat torn although on balance I would rather life than execution – though I’d shed no tears if the bloked was fried.

  • Brit

    For those seeking to compare deaths caused by 9/11 and those caused by the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, I think you are missing a number of key points.

    First, there is no obvious connection between scale of a wrong and numbers of dead. The Neo-Nazi nail bomber killed less people than the Dutch police force but no one claims the letter is a more evil entity.

    Second, you are not comparing like-for-like in any sense. If you wanted to go someway to comparing like for like you would need to compare all those killed by Islamists worldwide (in the US,western Europe, asia, Africa and elswhere) with all those kille by the US.

    Third the death figures you rely on include those murdered by the Saddam iraqi army, AG in iraq and Afthanistan, the Taliban, Iranian backed militias, sectarians, common criminals rather than the US forces of those of its allies.

    Fourth you fail to acknowlege the crucial and central moral difference between deliberatly killing civilians and accidentally or unintentionally killing civillians (even if negligent). The Islamist terrorist wants to increase and maximise the number of dead civillians. The US army unit wants to minimise them.

  • Brian MacAodh

    The hatred shown for America by posters knows no bounds.

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