Obama Admits Bush was Right, Apologizes

By Frank Hagan | Related entries in Terrorism

Well, not really.

But the administration is backing off the proposal to try certain foreign terrorists in the regular court system. The reversal is for terrorists who declared war on the US, then plotted and directed the worst attack on US soil from abroad .

The Washington Post reports:

President Obama’s advisers are nearing a recommendation that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, be prosecuted in a military tribunal, administration officials said, a step that would reverse Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s plan to try him in civilian court in New York City.

The president’s advisers feel increasingly hemmed in by bipartisan opposition to a federal trial in New York and demands, mainly from Republicans, that Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators remain under military jurisdiction, officials said. While Obama has favored trying some terrorism suspects in civilian courts as a symbol of U.S. commitment to the rule of law, critics have said military tribunals are the appropriate venue for those accused of attacking the United States.


The argument that the mastermind of 9/11 should be tried in civilian court never made sense to me, or evidently to a lot of people, including Democrats.

That being said, there is a good argument that can be made for de-emphasizing the lesser terrorist attempts like the Christmas day underwear bomber. Why would the underwear bomber be different? Because highlighting these lesser attempts and treating them like they are Khalid Sheik Mohammed elevates their status among their compatriots, providing the fame and reputation that young strident “true believers” often seek. If we provide non-stop news coverage, a Presidential address, and the US military swooping in every time some punk shoots up a shopping mall, you can expect more “true believers” to be attracted to going out in a blaze of glory. I am not convinced that the existence of military tribunals or even Gitmo are “recruiting tools” for these folks, but the psychological benefits of having the leader of the free world appear on TV and utter your name just might be.

Military tribunals have passed constitutional muster, and are just as valid as civilian courts. What we need now is a bi-partisan, national policy regarding what conditions merit their use.

Cross posted to FrankHagan.com

This entry was posted on Friday, March 5th, 2010 and is filed under Terrorism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to “Obama Admits Bush was Right, Apologizes”

  1. PunditKix Says:

    Donklephant » Obama Admits Bush was Right, Apologizes…

    Trackback from PunditKix…

  2. David Says:

    Obama Admits Bush was Right, Apologizes

    Boy, I sure do wish I lived in a world where politicians could admit their prior mistakes in judgement, and would discuss how their positions have grown and evolved.

  3. Rob in Denver Says:

    The argument that the mastermind of 9/11 should be tried in civilian court never made sense to me, or evidently to a lot of people, including Democrats.

    The argument that the mastermind of 9/11 should not be tried in civilian court makes even less sense to me. Seriously… he’s a common criminal who devised an uncommon crime. So what? Bring him on.

  4. Sl8ofHand Says:

    It is only by having and using a single standard for all criminals, no matter what skin-color, religion or political cant they ascribe to, that justice will be served. When you create special courts for ‘special cases’ you are no better than the petty dictators and military leaders of third-world nations.

  5. Rob in Dayton Says:

    If it never made sense to you, you might want to tell us why.

  6. kranky kritter Says:

    From the beginning of this manufactured controversy, I haven’t cared a bit. All along this has felt like a waste of time and energy.

    People on both sides are filling in the blanks with their biases and trying to make the other side look bad.

    Whether we use a criminal trial or a military tribunal, KSM is going to get convicted and will never see daylight again. I could care less what judicial and legal mechanisms we use. Further, I don’t care what “message”either method would have sent. Those are the kinds of moronic partisans routinely traffic in…

    Initially, I was surprised that this issue had any legs. But it quickly became clear to me that most folks want the tribunal method because it seems harsher, and so better matches the malice they bear towards KSM (not of course that there is anything wrong with that). I feel substantial malice myself.

    Sadly, this particular non-issue still has legs. First, there will be the inevitable conservative triumphalism. Right alongside that,. we’ll have to suffer the liberal whining that the switch to the military tribunal will be a helpful recruiting tool because it reinforces the notion that America is anti-muslim, that America’s comittment to civil rights is capricious.

    Fact is, whichever method we chose will have no effect on the hearts and mind of those who oppose. There is almost nothing we can do to make psychotic true-believer terrorists feel somewhat more favorably disposed towards America. The only really good reason to use the criminal system was for America’s own sake, to show us all that we’re willing to hold ourselves to a higher standard even when it is hard to do so.

    Things like using military tribunals and the provisions of the Patriot act are examples of ways in which we lower the bar alittle bit in response to being afraid. Compared to high ideals, they are perhaps troubling and/or could lead to more troubling compromises. At the same time, I think this bar-lowering is both understandable and defensible.

  7. Obama White House does a 360 on Military Tribunals for 9/11 masterminds | Political Byline Says:

    [...] Power Line, NPR, Balkinization, Michelle Malkin, New York Times, Wonk Room, Gothamist, AmSpecBlog, Donklephant, 9/11 Families …, democracyarsenal.org, Think Progress, Law Blog, Hot Air, Guardian, Emptywheel, [...]

  8. Tillyosu Says:

    @Rob in Denver

    Are you really going to characterize the murder of 3,000 Americans as simply an “uncommon crime?”

  9. Frank Hagan Says:

    Declaring war and then attacking a sovereign nation are pretty serious acts, and are historically dealt with in a different manner than an armed robbery at the corner liquor store.

    Even crimes done by civilians during a war can be adjudicated by military tribunals, such as the Nuremberg trials after WWII. Military trials are the method we use for our own citizens who are in the military. It is a different justice system, but is still fair, impartial, and constitutional.

    Much of what the Bush Administration tried to do was unconstitutional (although they would have been acceptable during WWII), and the process worked to correct the procedures found to be in error. The political posturing is regrettable, but is also part of the process.

    I disagree that there’s no difference in outcome between a civilian and military trial; the rules of evidence are vastly different as befits the difference in type and scale of crimes, and its a mockery of our system to say that a certain decision is pre-ordained. If it is pre-ordained, our system is rotten to the core, and must be overturned.

    But what we need is a policy that is clear, that tells us when to use civilian trials and when to use military tribunals. The danger of giving government the power to determine on a case-by-case basis to whisk people off to secret locations for secret trials is un-American and will inevitability lead to abuses.

    We have 535 smart people in the legislature, and a dozen or so smart executives, so they should be able to figure this out. Perhaps we should dock their pay until they do so.

  10. kranky kritter Says:

    I disagree that there’s no difference in outcome between a civilian and military trial; the rules of evidence are vastly different as befits the difference in type and scale of crimes, and its a mockery of our system to say that a certain decision is pre-ordained. If it is pre-ordained, our system is rotten to the core, and must be overturned.

    Obviously the rules are different. The military system lowers the bar somewhat for the prosecution and limits the tactical procedural advantages defendants enjoy in civilian court. It’s a more expedient way to get a conviction.

    I stand by my view that the outcome would not be different. I don’t believe that “the fix is in.” and did not imply this, though I can see how this assumption might be made.

    KSM is not going to go free. But not because our system has pre-ordained the outcome and made a mockery of justice. The reason that KSM is not going to go free is because he’s guilty, not because the outcome is pre-ordained. Our system is supposed to convict guilty people.

    The fact that our government is/was willing to try KSM in civilian court instead of a military tribunal is tantamount to an extremely strong suggestion that it has more than ample evidence to convict him. Probably overwhelming evidence.

    Our system requires that defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence within the context of the trial and in the eyes of the jury. But folks outside the courtroom are not required to withhold judgement. And let’s face it, they generally don’t.

    I feel quite comfortable presuming that KSM will never draw another breath of air as a free man.

  11. Rob in Denver Says:

    @Tillyosu: It certainly wasn’t a common one, say, like burglary or vandalism or assault. The word “common,” like many words, has more than one meaning, dependent upon context. Mass murder on any scale doesn’t occur frequently, making it uncommon.

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