Sunday, December 6, 2009

Justice, politics or bollocks?

OK, now the media furore has died down and this has slipped back beneath the short attention span of the American population I wanted to bring this up, the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others in New York.

Is it just me that thinks this is nothing more than political grand standing by President Obama's administration? This strikes me as more of a sop to the 'liberal' side of American life and politics than anything else. It seems like an attempt to look like the current administration is making amends for the fuck ups of the previous one but without actually doing that much.


They can say they are dealing with one of the major criticisms of the whole Guantanamo Bay problem - holding people without any real form of judicial process - because look, some of the (high profile, funnily enough) detainees are going on trial in a real civilian court, but they also know there is no danger of this actually being a fair trial and of the accused getting away with it. Look at how much has been made of the fact that the trial will take place just blocks away from the former site of the World Trade Centre towers, by officials connected with this. It's almost like they are saying to the Republicans, "Look, we have to do this for our voting base but you know that they are never going to get away with it so just piss and moan for a little bit because you know this is politics and nothing ever really changes." I mean really, do they actually honestly think they'll be able to find an unbiased jury just blocks from the site of the terrorist attacks when everyone has already made up their minds that these guys helped to facilitate or plan them?

Or, are they actually relying on the fact that they know this won't happen, that you couldn't find an unbiased juror anywhere in the USA where these five accused are concerned?

Exactly how will jury selection go for this one? "Miss, do you have an opinion on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that happened a mile from here? Have you ever heard the accused described as the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks? Have you heard that he confessed to this?"

And doesn't it strike you that if this is just the administration playing politics, then they are doing it really badly? This has the potential to be a massive cluster fuck. What if their legal representatives really do manage to get them off? Well, Obama can kiss goodbye to 2012 for sure - even that village idiot Sarah Palin could beat him under those circumstances. Who would vote for the guy that let the mastermind behind 9/11 go free? Secretly the Republicans must be jumping for joy. Sure, there will certainly be some embarrasing and damaging stuff about torture to come out in the trial, but the Republicans will always be able to tell the voters "Hey, we did it for America." You just know that Karl Rove is sitting there behind the scenes saying "Hey, best thing for the Republican party is if they get off on a technicality, so get verbal about this but don't get to verbal and then get ready for the big we told you so."

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said of this:

"Bringing these men to justice in a legitimate system will allow the world to focus at long last on the atrocities they are accused of committing against us, rather than on how we have treated them."
But I can't help thinking that this is hopelessly na├»ve, there is almost no chance of these men getting a fair trial within earshot of the construction work going on at Ground Zero. In fact, the accused's legal representatives will almost certianly also try and turn this into a trial focusing solely on how the USA has treated them - they will make sure the world is focussing on this.

Now, I am not saying that if these guys are found guilty it is not because they actually are guilty but because of political games or a fixed trial, I'm just saying that the Obama administration has decided to play it this way for political reasons rather than any belief in the power of American justice or for a deeply held belief in Habeas Corpus and human rights. It's good old fashioned political cynicism rather than highminded principle.

Politically, the Obama administration can't afford for these men to get off and they almost certainly wouldn't in a federal trial on US soil. And justice for all indeed.

For me, the only fairly reasonable (although far from perfect) solution would have been to have these men tried in the Hague at the International Criminal Court. Unfortunately the Bush administration fucked that up as well - but the Obama administration has at least paid lip service to the idea of the ICC. The 9/11 attacks certainly could fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC and it would have been the only real chance that a fair trial could have been seen to occur - America should have swallowed it's pride on this one if it was really serious in reclaiming the moral high ground and dragging itself out of the stinking cesspool left by the Bush years.

But that chance has passed and instead we have business as usual. I know I shouldn't have expected better, but sometimes I'm a hopeless romantic.

No comments:

Post a Comment