(Author’s Note: The statement below is in response to an April 9, 2012, editorial in the Long Island, New York newspaper, Newsday, which can be found at http://www.newsday.com/opinion/9-11-terror-trials-it-s-about-time-1.3647063 )
The delay you mention in “On al-Qaida trials, it’s about time” [Editorials, April 9], regarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s (KSM) prosecution was due largely to first, a two year wait for the Supreme Court to rule on legal challenges from the left, and second, a re-writing of the Military Commission’s Act (MCA) of 2006, due to extended political and legal challenges from the left. Our current MCA of 2009 is governing the proceedings, not the aforementioned as you state in your editorial. You also fail to mention what “due process” means in the context of the Commissions. The newest MCA gives unlawful combatants unprecedented extra legal privileges, and these new privileges include “presumption of innocence until convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.” A quick visit to http://www.mc.mil allows a fingertip study of U.S. military commissions, their origins, history, and current application. It’s worth a look to see that there is virtually NO DIFFERENCE between a U.S. Courts-Martial, U.S. Federal Court proceedings, and a Military Commission, to the advantage of our enemies; how could this not be, in your words, “optimal?” And optimal for whom, us or KSM? By the way, the Nuremberg trials of World War II lasted about four years (1945-1949), and suffered no delay due to attempts to extend extra legal privileges to Nazis, and took place AFTER the end of hostilities. May I remind Newsday we are still very much in armed violent struggle with Islamist extremists, like KSM, who want to kill us.
Over 400,000 lawful Prisoners of War were held in the United States during World War II without one call for extra legal privileges for them. Habeas corpus was suspended then for dry foot German saboteurs, who were captured, tried by military commission, and then most executed, all within four weeks time. Why is it then, when all Americans have been targets for Islamist extremists since the death of Marine CPL Stephen Crowley in Islamabad, Pakistan, back on November 21, 1979, when he was murdered by one when the U.S. embassy there was stormed by bussed-in radicals (later to be funded by Osamma bin Laden) on false news reports the U.S. had seized the mosque at Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, and after Iranian “students” had seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran weeks before, on news that the Shah of Iran had been allowed into the United States for treatment of an illness, and fast forward to today, when we have troops in 75 countries (including those we defeated in WWII), CIA in over 90 countries, and Diplomatic Security Service in over 200 countries, that we pay so much attention to a comparative handful of UNLAWFUL COMBATANT Islamist extremists who want to kill us? These detainees BROKE Geneva Convention rules, and our own Law of Land Warfare (US Army Field Manual 27-10 Warfare http://ac-support.europe.umuc.edu/~nstanton/FM27-10.htm ) during war time, and BY LAW have earned NO EXTRA LEGAL PRIVILEGES. Also BY LAW, they can be held “until the end of hostilities.” Where is the sanity in even discussing what should become of them? They have ZERO rights, according to LAW. But, because they are held by the benevolent, kind, generous, and moral United States of America, they are treated within the spirit of Geneva, and in accordance with DoD policy (by which they have due process rights – see Military Commissions Act http://www.defense.gov/news/commissionsacts.html ), and in accordance with U.S. Army Regulations governing the care and treatment of detainees. All Gitmo detainees are lucky to be alive, let alone realistically hoping to receive extra legal privileges. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have told me on two separate occasions, once in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and once in Iraq, that “nobody does [detention operations] better than the U.S.” The detainees are at Gitmo so long as they either pose a risk or are suspected of having valuable information that may aid us in our effort to win the Global War on Terror (Struggle Against Islamist Extremists).