Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Time to Heal or a Time to Fear?


(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

We will not be driven into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and remember we are not descended from fearful men. - Edward R. Murrow

To borrow the tortured rationale of the Bush administration and its swarming simian army of Fox pundits in the first days after 9/11: If we let the Republicans have what they want, the terrorists will already have won.

The idiotic mantra we were hearing from the Simian in Chief, one George W. Bush, was that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms. Yet a much, much more persuasive case can be made that that is precisely why the Republicans currently hate this once-great republic and our democracy: For our freedom to try terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian federal court.

When you hear erstwhile employed pundits such as the Cheneys tell us through slick ad campaigns that a military tribunal is the only way to try KSM, they're essentially saying, "Let's throw him in a kangaroo court in which the scales of justice and the American flag are mere props and window dressing, let's make it so that he cannot hear the evidence against him, face his accusers or give him a lawyer who's actually worth a shit. Terrorism is much too serious an affair to be left in the hands of lawyers and judges."

It's not as if we haven't had time to build a case against him. We've had KSM in custody ever since we first invaded Iraq. Since March 2003, our military and intelligence communities have had 84 months to accumulate enough evidence to try Mohammed in a federal civilian court just as we had over 500 others. Even with the odds obscenely stacked in their favor, the military tribunals have a much more miserable record.

Consider this: During the Bush administration, according to NYU's School of Law's report (quick view of the original .pdf file),
828 people [have been tried] on terrorism charges in civilian courts. At the time of publication of this excellent report from the Center on Law and Security, NYU School of Law last year, trials were still pending against 235 of those folks. That leaves 593 resolved indictments, of which 523 were convicted of some crime, for a conviction rate of 88%.

On the other side of the coin, the Bush administration tried over 20 terrorists, including KSM, in military tribunals, resulting in exactly three convictions. With 20 trials resulting in three guilty verdicts, that's a miserable conviction rate of 15%.

That's right, boys and girls. No doubt it will shock liberals and conservatives alike but it's true: the Department of Justice headed up by John "I Lost an Election to a Dead Man" Ashcroft and Alberto "Torquemada" Gonzales was brilliantly effective in convicting terrorists in civilian federal courts.

88% vs 15%. You do the math. Why would Republicans like the Cheneys want to try KSM and other terrorism suspects with the far less efficacious legal system?

Perhaps it isn't about cost or interrupting NYC's business as Michael Bloomberg recently noted. Perhaps it isn't about letting KSM spouting his jihadist rhetoric in an open courtroom ("Sticks and stones will break my bones and names will always hurt us".). Perhaps it isn't even about the Republican mantra of government being the problem and their loathing and revilement of anything remotely resembling good, fair and effective government.

Perhaps it is, instead, about what we need to hide. Such as the fact that we waterboarded KSM 183 times. Because a civilian federal court would require full disclosure of the facts, something guaranteed not to happen according to the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Republicans want to stack the deck against people like KSM because they don't want to take a 12% chance that he'll walk. Republicans have cheated to get virtually everything they've gotten since Ronald Reagan stole Jimmy Carter's playbook in 1980 and refused to give back.

So they fall back on the old 2001-2002 mindset of fear as motivator, fear as a tool for control, unreasonable, terrorist-engendered fear that, if we do things fairly, upfront and aboveboard, there's a tiny chance the terrorists will win, after all.

But striking fear into our hearts, minds and altering our lives is the goal of terrorists, which is why they're called "terrorists" and not "bad guys who are willing to sit down at a table and discuss our different ideologies."

And Republicans have nothing in their idea bank but fear, fear as a never ending means to an end the Republicans themselves fear more than anything else: Namely, closure and healing.







(Note: If you have any spare change or even linty Life Savers for my old buddy JP, please click on the Paypal button. It was close but no cigar on the job front this weekend but something's got to break for him, eventually. TIA.)

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