There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin.
-- President John F. Kennedy, June 26, 1963.
Jim Riches, whose firefighter son, Jimmy, died in the attacks, welcomed the decision.
“Let them come to New York,” said Mr. Riches, a retired deputy chief with New York Fire Department. “Let them get on trial. Let’s do it the right way, for all the world to see what they’re like. Let’s go. It’s been too long. Let’s get some justice.”
-- New York Times, Nov. 13, 2009.
It was a good day -- not a great day, but a good day -- for America today, with the announcement that confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others will finally face justice in a U.S. court of law, more than eight long years after the horrific attacks on this country. That news made it a horrible day for a crowd that, well, if they don't hate America, they certainly hate the principles that this country was founded upon, as espoused by the Founding Fathers whom they warp with their inane books and as died for by our bravest citizens from Lexington to Omaha Beach.
There's no need for a long post on this. A criminal trial for any surviving 9/11 perpetrators is something that has been long sought here ever since this blog was created, and -- much, much more importantly -- has been long sought by many of the family and friends of the innocent people who were murdered that day, people like New York firefighter Jim Riches. It will show the people -- of the United States and of the world -- that America is still a nation ruled by laws, something that can't be erased even by the worst custodians.
Real American-style justice for KSM and his cohorts -- his fate decided by a jury, under rules of evidence and even (unless he pleads guilty) a presumption of innocence, albeit one that could never withstand the mountain of proof complied against this sworn al-Qaeda member -- will re-ignite the spark that once made our commitment to basic human rights the envy of the rest of the world. So why is it not a great day for America? Because as has been so often the case these last 10 months, the Obama administration moved in the right direction but with a partial, baby step. As constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald explains much better than I ever could, the lesser-discussed, other half of today's decision announced by Attorney General Eric Holder -- keeping military tribunals against other defendants because the possibility remains that the government might lose the case -- is a big disappointment that clouds an otherwise positive move.
Meanwhile, I can't decide whether to laugh or cry at the unvarnished, infantile fear and the abject anti-Americanism that I heard or read today expressed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Hannity-wannabe Mark Simone, Rep. John Boehner, Sen. John Cornyn, Rudy Giuliani and so on. Their rage - why do they hate our freedom? -- was laced with some of the most inane logic or phony rhetoric I've ever heard, that Mohammed will be wearing suits and eating lunch at a fancy New York restaurant during recesses in the trial (he'll probably be shackled), that KSM's lawyers will get the trial delayed endlessly (not mentioning how George W. Bush and Dick Cheney delayed justice in the case for seven years), that the defendant will be found not guilty because of waterboarding (wait, now they're against waterboarding?), that New York City will now be a target for terrorists (not to be flip, but I think they've already thought of that)....
...and, most importantly, that the American legal system and the constitutional rights that so many soldiers fought and died to preserve, is actually -- it can now be revealed after 233 years! -- a joke, a farce, not worth the parchment paper that it's written on. And that deep down they think the country that they profess to love so much in all their best-selling books is so weak that it can't even keep a handful of two-bit extremists safely in custody. Of course, the only thing the Limbaugh-Giuliani-Boehner crowd really revealed today is their own pathetic fear to breathe the air of a free and just country. How sad.
For the rest of America and the rest of the world, if they want to see in the coming months how a nation can prosper and defeat terrorism by respecting human rights within a system of real justice, I can only echo the Kennedyesque words of everyday citizen Jim Riches.
Let them come to New York.