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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

KSM Trial Intended to put Bush-Cheney-Yoo on Trial

Ever since the announcement, I have wondered what was the purpose of putting Khalid Sheik Mohammed on trial in New York. Senselessly extending Constitutional rights to a man whose one of many ambitions is to bring down the American government ruled by the Constitution, did not not make a great deal of sense to me. Nor did I see any purpose to invoking an inevitable media circus that would accompany the (for all intents and purposes) show trial and its inevitable verdict.

Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has an interesting theory, one that is echoed by Andrew Sullivan of all people.

First from Jacobson's post: "The lofty rhetoric about the rule of law is a sham. The KSM civilian trial is all about putting the Bush administration on trial in a public forum. With plausible deniability built in because KSM and his attorneys will do the Bush-basher's dirty work for them over the government's objections.

"The decision also is another vote of 'present' for Obama. Obama satisfies the left's desire for further public disclosure of the interrogation program, but it will take place as part of the civilian trial process, not as a result of an administration choice. If there is damage to our intelligence agencies from such disclosures, blame will be placed on a federal judge, not the Obama administration.

"Using 'the rule of law' for a political agenda is the ultimate disrespect for the rule of law. And in this case, another vote of 'present.'"

Jacobson links to Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic who writes a piece amusingly entitled "Finally A President Not Governed By Fear" (the fact that the Obama Administration is one of the most alarmist is the last twenty years-- fretting about "right-wing extremists, FOX news, Chicken Little screams about a "failing" economy, etc.-- seems completely lost upon Sullivan).

From Sullivan: "I think it's a potentially brilliant move. I do not believe for one moment that this case was brought in a civilian court without sufficient evidence to convict KSM of criminality to put him away for good. But what an open civilian case will also do - and it's why a war criminal like John Yoo is so apoplectic - is reveal the extent to which the brutal torture of KSM was unnecessary, and led to the government's inability to prosecute him to the full extent of the law.

"It will be a civic lesson to America and the world. It will show the evil of terrorism and the futility and danger of torture. It will be a way in which Cheney's torture regime can be revealed in all its grotesque excess at the same time as KSM's vile religious extremism is exposed for its murderous nihilism. That all this will take place in New York - close to where the mass murder took place - is a particularly smart touch."

I enjoy the "civic lesson to American and the world" line. This sentiment, coming on the heels of Obama's world apology tour soon after his election, is hard to stomach. Apparently for Sullivan it's wrong for America to teach the world, but laudable for Obama to do so. Do these people not read their own words anymore? Ah, but I digress...

Sullivan ends with "I believe this is the best symbolic answer to 9/11: a trial, with due process, after tempers have calmed somewhat, that exposes this evil for all it truly was. And also reveals the tragedy of an American government that lost its nerve and has now, under a new president, regained it."

Obama has not demonstrated "nerve," in the sense that Sullivan uses it, as he frets over Afghanistan. Indeed the only nerve he has demonstrated is the arrogant belief that he can restructure the US economy (with the Value Added Tax and Cap & Trade) and health care industry over the objections of the majority of American people, and that he can succeed in these endeavors where other countries have universally failed within a few decades. More digression... I'm sorry.

I have to wonder whether both Jacobson and Sullivan have given too much credit to the Obama Administration. One consistent feature of the Obama Admin has been amateurism. On an almost daily basis, Obama and his people have demonstrated little understanding of the nuts and bolts of political reality. Whether its alienating the US's intelligence services over water boarding, the predictable "pwning" by Iran while negotiating with them over enriching uranium, the out-of-control House health care "reform" bills, the misreading of the mislabeling of the Honduran crisis as a "military coup," the Obama Administration has shown a great deal of inexperience and naivety in the decisions it renders. It all makes me slightly dubious that the inexperienced but powerful Obama Administration could orchestrate the "brilliant move" that Sullivan describes with the full Machiavellian awareness Sullivan credits them with.

Jacobson does make a strong point in his post when he says (you must forgive the repetition) "[t]he decision also is another vote of 'present' for Obama. Obama satisfies the left's desire for further public disclosure of the interrogation program, but it will take place as part of the civilian trial process, not as a result of an administration choice. If there is damage to our intelligence agencies from such disclosures, blame will be placed on a federal judge, not the Obama administration." This move does strike me as being rather Obamaian (Obaman?) as it is a grand gesture, back-handed, likely to end badly, and most concerned about satisfying Left sensibilities while leaving an enormous escape hatch for the Administration itself. So, who knows?

It really doesn't matter, of course. Like most things Obama, the KSM trial will certainly spin out of control and skid beyond any political intentions. It will become a highly divisive circus, further splitting the American Left and Right, and distract the media and American people from very real upcoming economic dangers-- such as the upcoming Senate version of health "reform" bill, the Value Added Tax, etc. Hopefully it will not distract the US intelligence community from their job and make the US less safe. Any bets on that?

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