After much argument and controversy, the Administration has decided to prosecute 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his co-conspirators through a military commission, instead of a civilian trial. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to make a formal announcement later today.
The original plan was to put KSM on trial in New York City, a spectacularly foolish idea that prompted Human Events to lead the charge for a change of venue with a petition drive. The petition went on to garner over 130,000 signatures, including luminaries such as Mark Levin, Peter King, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and George Allen. Eric Holder could have saved himself a lot of trouble by joining them and signing the petition.
The first point of this petition was that we have always “tried those who make war against America in military, not civilian courts,” and changing that policy “sets a potentially catastrophic precedent.” Why did it take a year for the Administration to grasp this simple, common-sense point?
We are a nation of laws, and the way our legal system views enemy forces has a profound effect on the nature of the conflict. By sending KSM and his henchmen to a military tribunal, we are making a legal judgment about them: the entirely appropriate judgment that they are not eligible for the benefits of our civilian legal system, for they are enemies in a time of war, and unlawful combatants to boot. Why did Eric Holder and Barack Obama ever see them otherwise, for even a single moment?
ABC News reports that New York City’s projected cost for security in a civilian trial would have been $400 million to get started, plus another $206 million per year if the trial ran longer than two years. Who ever thought it was a good idea for a beyond-bankrupt government to spend that kind of money on legal indulgences for terrorist murderers, instead of holding and trying them in secure military facilities? How was this insane idea allowed to survive for an entire year?
Today’s development is not merely the bursting of an ill-advised trial balloon. The controversy surrounding Obama and Holder’s weird ideas for putting terrorists in civilian court has already damaged our standing in the eyes of the world, and especially the predatory terrorists who find anything less than swift and decisive action to be an inviting sign of weakness. Hesitation in self-defense is one of the most provocative signals that could be sent to a savage enemy, for it tells the world that we have not reached any firm decisions on the question of our own survival. We needed a year to figure out whether the unlawful enemy behind a despicable attack deserved to be treated the same as one of our own citizens, and given a comfortable ringside seat at his multi-million dollar legal circus.
Putting a man who held these ideas into the Oval Office sent a message that cannot easily be taken back. It matters that Obama stumbled through the china shop of civilian courts before finally arriving at the right decision. Today’s decision should prompt outrage, not celebration. The Obama presidency is turning out to be a fabulously expensive, and dangerous, process of proving that Candidate Obama was wrong about everything.