Il faut constamment se battre pour voir ce qui se trouve au bout de son nez. George Orwell
Dès le début du procès … les frères doivent faire tout leur possible pour démontrer au juge qu’ils ont été torturés par la sécurité d’État. Manuel d’Al Qaeda
Le mensonge pour le Jihad est permis. Moussaoui
Nous avons un réel problème quand une grande partie de l’establishment politique et journalistique n’hésite pas une seconde à imaginer que leurs tout ce qu’il y a de plus pacifiques adversaires politiques soient de mèche avec les extrémistes violents, mais est terrifié d’envisager la possibilité que les extrémistes violents soient vraiment des extrémistes violents par peur d’attirer l’attention sur le fait qu’il s’agit de musulmans. Jonah Goldberg
Si seulement Hasan était un fan de Glenn Beck! Jonah Goldberg
Nous ne saurons peut-être jamais si la religion était un facteur à Fort Hood. Chris Matthews (MSNBC)
Quant au suspect, Nadal Hasan, comme une femme d’officier me disait: ‘si seulement il avait pu s’appeler Smith’. Martha Raddatz (ABC)
Comme tous les virus, le terrorisme infecte les personnes à basse résistance. Et sûrement le major Hasan n’est pas le seul musulman américain qui, pour des raisons d’histoire personnelle, a perdu son équilibre et est ainsi devenu vulnérable. (…) C’est un rappel que, contrairement au stéréotype de droite, l’Islam n’est pas une religion intrinsèquement belligérante. (…) Plus les Américains dénigrent l’Islam et se montrent soupçonneux des musulmans sur leur lieu de travail, plus le virus a des chances de se propager – et chaque apparition du virus tente à son tour plus de gens à dénigrer l’Islam et à se montrer soupçonneux des musulmans. Chaque fois que vous avez un tel système de rétroaction positive comme ceci, un incident isolé peut vous entrainer sur une pente glissante. (…) Bien que le 11 septembre 2001 a été un succès pour Oussama Ben Laden, il n’était en réalité qu’un petit triomphe tactique; ses aspirations grandioses dépassent bien le massacre de quelques milliers personnes et la destruction de quelques bâtiments. Peut-être estime-t-il que notre descente dans le carnage de l’Irak et de l’Afghanistan l’a rapproché un peu plus de son but. Mais s’il réussit à déchirer notre pays sur le terrain religieux et ethnique, il pourra vraiment déclarer victoire. Robert Wright
Avant le nouveau cirque que promet d’être le procès civil d’un des cerveaux des attentats du WTC …
Pendant que la Secrétaire américaine à la sécurité intérieure Janet Napolitano agite la terrible menace des groupes d' »extrême droite » …
Voici, suite à la pire attaque terroriste sur le territoire américain depuis le 11/9 par un monsieur qui sur sa carte de visite avait inscrit « soldat du jihad » et avait poussé la compassion ou l’amour du travail bien fait jusqu’à achever ses victimes …
Après la tentative de médicalisation (le pauvre monsieur qui avait poussé la compassion avec ses frères agressés de par le monde jusqu’à une telle extrémité souffrait en fait de « syndrome pré-traumatique »)…
La dernière variation en date du thème favori de la gauche américaine, à savoir la bonne vieille culture de l’excuse.
En gros, si les pauvres terroristes en sont réduits à de telles extrémités, ce ne serait pas par pure compassion ou stress pré-traumatique mais tout simplement, comme pour les malheureux délinquants de nos ghettos,… notre faute!
Who Created Major Hasan?
The New York Times
November 22, 2009
In the case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre, the verdict has come in. The liberal news media have been found guilty — by the conservative news media — of coddling Major Hasan’s religion, Islam.
Liberals, according to the columnist Charles Krauthammer, wanted to medicalize Major Hasan’s crime — call it an act of insanity rather than of terrorism. They worked overtime, Mr. Krauthammer said on Fox News, to “avoid any implication that there was any connection between his Islamist beliefs … and his actions.” The columnist Jonah Goldberg agrees. Admit it, he wrote in The Los Angeles Times, Major Hasan is “a Muslim fanatic, motivated by other Muslim fanatics.”
The good news for Mr. Krauthammer and Mr. Goldberg is that there is truth in their indictment. The bad news is that their case against the left-wing news media is the case against right-wing foreign policy. Seeing the Fort Hood shooting as an act of Islamist terrorism is the first step toward seeing how misguided a hawkish approach to fighting terrorism has been.
The American right and left reacted to 9/11 differently. Their respective responses were, to oversimplify a bit: “kill the terrorists” and “kill the terrorism meme.”
Conservatives backed war in Iraq, and they’re now backing an escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Liberals (at least, dovish liberals) have warned in both cases that killing terrorists is counterproductive if in the process you create even more terrorists; the object of the game isn’t to wipe out every last Islamist radical but rather to contain the virus of Islamist radicalism.
One reason killing terrorists can spread terrorism is that various technologies — notably the Internet and increasingly pervasive video — help emotionally powerful messages reach receptive audiences. When American wars kill lots of Muslims, inevitably including some civilians, incendiary images magically find their way to the people who will be most inflamed by them.
This calls into question our nearly obsessive focus on Al Qaeda — the deployment of whole armies to uproot the organization and to finally harpoon America’s white whale, Osama bin Laden. If you’re a Muslim teetering toward radicalism and you have a modem, it doesn’t take Mr. bin Laden to push you over the edge. All it takes is selected battlefield footage and a little ad hoc encouragement: a jihadist chat group here, a radical imam there — whether in your local mosque or on a Web site in your local computer.
This, at least, is the view from the left.
Exhibit A in this argument is Nidal Hasan. By all accounts he was pushed over the edge by his perception of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He also drew inspiration from a radical imam, Anwar al-Awlaki. Notably, it had been eight years since Major Hasan actually saw Mr. Awlaki, who moved from America to Yemen after 9/11. And for most of those years the two men don’t seem to have communicated at all. But as Major Hasan got more radicalized by two American wars and God knows what else, the Internet made it easy to reconnect via e-mail.
The Fort Hood shooting, then, is an example of Islamist terrorism being spread partly by the war on terrorism — or, actually, by two wars on terrorism, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Fort Hood is the biggest data point we have — the most lethal Islamist terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. It’s only one piece of evidence, but it’s a salient piece, and it supports the liberal, not the conservative, war-on-terrorism paradigm.
When the argument is framed like this, don’t be surprised if conservatives, having insisted that we not medicalize Major Hasan’s crime by calling him crazy, start underscoring his craziness. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, they’ll note, aren’t wars against Islam or against Muslims; Major Hasan must have been deluded to think that they are! Surely we can’t give veto power over our foreign policy to a crazy … well, not crazy, but, you know, not-entirely-sane person like Major Hasan.
It’s true that Major Hasan was unbalanced and alienated — and, by my lights, crazy. But what kind of people did conservatives think were susceptible to the terrorism meme? Like all viruses, terrorism infects people with low resistance. And surely Major Hasan isn’t the only American Muslim who, for reasons of personal history, has become unbalanced and thus vulnerable. Any religious or ethnic group includes people like that, and the post-9/11 environment hasn’t made it easier for American Muslims to keep their balance. That’s why the hawkish war-on-terrorism strategy — a global anti-jihad that creates nonstop imagery of Americans killing Muslims — is so dubious.
Central to the debate over Afghanistan is the question of whether terrorists need a “safe haven” from which to threaten America. If so, it is said, then we must work to keep every acre of Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, etc.) out of the hands of groups like the Taliban. If not — if terrorists can orchestrate a 9/11 about as easily from apartments in Germany as from camps in Afghanistan — then maybe never-ending war isn’t essential.
However you come out on that argument, the case of Nidal Hasan shows one thing for sure: Homegrown American terrorists don’t need a safe haven. All they need is a place to buy a gun.
Concerns about homegrown terrorism may sound like wild extrapolation from limited data. After all, in the eight years since 9/11, none of America’s several million Muslims had committed violence on this scale.
That’s a reminder that, contrary to right-wing stereotype, Islam isn’t an intrinsically belligerent religion. Still, this sort of stereotyping won’t go away, and it’s among the factors that could make homegrown terrorism a slowly growing epidemic. The more Americans denigrate Islam and view Muslims in the workplace with suspicion, the more likely the virus is to spread — and each appearance of the virus in turn tempts more people to denigrate Islam and view Muslims with suspicion. Whenever you have a positive feedback system like this, an isolated incident can put you on a slippery slope.
And the Fort Hood shooting wasn’t the only recent step along that slope. Six months ago a 24-year-old American named Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad — Carlos Bledsoe before his teenage conversion to Islam — fatally shot a soldier outside a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. ABC News reported, “It was not known what path Muhammad … had followed to radicalization.” Well, here’s a clue: After being arrested he started babbling to the police about the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were supposed to reduce the number of anti-American terrorists abroad. It’s hardly clear that they’ve succeeded, and they may have had the opposite effect. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger, they’ve inspired homegrown terrorism — a small-scale incident in June, a larger-scale incident this month. That’s only two data points, but I don’t like the slope of the line connecting them.
Sept. 11, 2001, though a success for Osama bin Laden, was in the scheme of things only a small tactical triumph; his grandiose aspirations go well beyond the killing of a few thousand people and the destruction of some buildings. Maybe he feels that our descent into the carnage of Iraq and Afghanistan has moved him a bit closer to his goal. But if he succeeds in tearing our country apart along religious and ethnic lines, he will truly be able to declare victory.
Robert Wright, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author, most recently, of “The Evolution of God” and the editor in chief of the blog The Progressive Realist.
A Terror Suspect With Feet in East and West
The New York Times
November 22, 2009
PHILADELPHIA — The trip from a strict Pakistani boarding school to a bohemian bar in Philadelphia has defined David Headley’s life, according to those who know the middle-age man at the center of a global terrorism investigation.
Raised by his father in Pakistan as a devout Muslim, Mr. Headley arrived back here at 17 to live with his American mother, a former socialite who ran a bar called the Khyber Pass.
Today, Mr. Headley is an Islamic fundamentalist who once liked to get high. He has a traditional Pakistani wife, who lives with their children in Chicago, but also an American girlfriend — a makeup artist in New York — according to a relative and friends. Depending on the setting, he alternates between the name he adopted in the United States, David Headley, and the Urdu one he was given at birth, Daood Gilani. Even his eyes — one brown, the other green — hint at roots in two places.
Mr. Headley, an American citizen, is accused of being the lead operative in a loose-knit group of militants plotting revenge against a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The indictment against him portrays a man who moved easily between different worlds. The profile that has emerged of him since his arrest, however, suggests that Mr. Headley felt pulled between two cultures and ultimately gravitated toward an extremist Islamic one.
“Some of us are saying that ‘Terrorism’ is the weapon of the cowardly,” Mr. Headley wrote in an e-mail message to his high school classmates last February. “I will say that you may call it barbaric or immoral or cruel, but never cowardly.”
He added, “Courage is, by and large, exclusive to the Muslim nation.”
Mr. Headley’s e-mail messages, including many that defended beheadings and suicide bombings as heroic, are among the evidence in the government’s case against him and his accused co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who was born in Pakistan, is a citizen of Canada and runs businesses in Chicago.
The men, who became close friends in a military academy outside Islamabad, were arrested last month in Chicago. They are charged with plotting an attack they labeled the Mickey Mouse Project against Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper whose cartoons provoked outrage across the Muslim world.
Since then, the investigation has widened beyond Chicago and Copenhagen. The authorities have learned more, with cooperation from Mr. Headley, about the two men’s network of contacts with known terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, as well as officials in the Pakistani government and military. United States and Indian investigators are also looking into whether the two Chicago men, who traveled to Mumbai before the deadly assault there last November, may have been involved in the plot.
Mr. Headley, 49, and Mr. Rana, 48, stand out from the young, poor extremists from fundamentalist Islamic schools who strike targets in or close to their homelands. Instead, their privileged backgrounds, extensive travel and bouts of culture shock make them more like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, who attended college in the United States, and Mohammed Atta, one of the lead hijackers.
Mr. Rana’s father is a former principal of a high school outside Lahore. One of his brothers is a Pakistani military psychiatrist who has written several books, and another is a journalist at a Canadian political newspaper, The Hill Times.
Trained as a physician, Mr. Rana immigrated to Canada in 1997 and became a citizen a few years later. Then he moved his wife and three children to Chicago, where he opened a travel agency that also provided immigration services on Devon Avenue, which cuts through the heart of the city’s Pakistani community. In 2002, he started a Halal slaughterhouse that butchers goats, sheep and cows according to Islamic religious laws.
He and his family live in a small brick house on the North Side with a huge satellite dish on the roof. Neighbors described Mr. Rana as a recluse who rarely spoke to anyone and whose children never played with others on the street.
“He seemed very committed to his Islamic religion,” said William Rodosky, who once managed Mr. Rana’s slaughterhouse, in Kinsman, Ill., about 65 miles southwest of Chicago. “He said he wanted the business so he could provide meat to his people and make a little money.”
Mr. Rodosky echoed the views of several others who knew and did business with Mr. Rana when he said he was “shocked about the terrorism charges.”
“As far as I knew, he was very nice man and a very good businessman,” Mr. Rodosky said.
But Mr. Headley did not draw the same expressions of shock. Those who knew him paint a more troubled image.
“Most people have contradictions in their lives, but they learn to reconcile them,” said William Headley, an uncle who owns a day care center in Nottingham, Pa. “But Daood could never do that. The left side does not speak to the right side. And that’s the problem.”
Daood Sayed Gilani was born in Washington, where his parents worked at the Pakistani Embassy. Friends of the family said his father, Sayed Salim Gilani, a dashing diplomat and an avid musicologist and poet, charmed his way into the heart of Serrill Headley, who had left Philadelphia’s Main Line to work as a secretary at the embassy.
In 1960, the couple and their infant son, Daood, left the United States bound for England aboard the ship America, and from there went on to Lahore. But the marriage quickly soured, friends said, as Mr. Gilani immersed himself in the traditions of his homeland and his bride refused to submit to them.
After Ms. Headley left Mr. Gilani and her son and a daughter, Syedah, in Pakistan, friends say, the details of her life become lost in a jumble of fact and fiction. Ms. Headley, a red-haired, green-eyed woman, told friends she married an “Afghan prince” but then had to flee Kabul after he was murdered.
She arrived back in Philadelphia, friends said, in the early 1970s, taking different office jobs and dating wealthy suitors until one of them lent her money to buy an old bar. She turned it into the Khyber Pass, decorated with billowing Afghan wedding tents and stocked with exotic beers.
In 1977, Pakistan’s government was overthrown in a military coup, and Ms. Headley, friends said, feared for her children. She traveled to Pakistan, withdrew her son from the Hasan Abdal Cadet College and brought him to live with her, a move recorded by The Philadelphia Inquirer. (Her daughter, Syedah, stayed behind with her father for several years.)
“He has never been alone with, much less had a date with, a girl, except the servant girls of his household,” the article said, referring to the teenage Daood Gilani. “But he has just this day found a cricket team to join. And he has just this day, after watching American TV, said to his mother in his soft Urdu-English that she is to him like the Bionic Woman.”
According to family friends, the teenager soon rebelled against his mother’s heavy drinking and multiple sexual relationships by engaging in the same behavior.
“Those were the days when girls, weed, and whatever, were readily available,” Jay Wilson, who worked at the Khyber Pass, wrote in an e-mail message from England. “Daood was not immune to the pleasures of American adolescence.”
Later, said Lorenzo Lacovara, another former worker at the bar, Daood Gilani began expressing anger at all non-Muslims.
“He would clearly state he had contempt for infidels,” Mr. Lacovara said in a telephone interview from New Mexico. “He kept talking about the return of the 14th century, saying Islam was going to take over the world.”
Ms. Headley tried to help her son straighten out his life. In 1985, she put him in charge of the Khyber Pass, but he proved to be such a poor manager that they lost the bar a couple of years later, friends of the family said.
Ms. Headley embarked on her third marriage, and her son set off for New York, where he opened two video rental stores in Manhattan. It is unclear where he got the money to start the ventures. But court files suggest that the source may not have been entirely legal.
In 1998, Mr. Gilani, then 38, was convicted of conspiring to smuggle heroin into the country from Pakistan. Court records show that after his arrest, he provided so much information about his own involvement with drug trafficking, which stretched back more than a decade, and about his Pakistani suppliers, that he was sentenced to less than two years in jail and later went to Pakistan to conduct undercover surveillance operationsfor the Drug Enforcement Administration.
In 2006, he changed his name to David Headley, apparently to make border crossings between the United States and other countries easier, court documents say. About that time, his uncle said, he moved his family to Chicago because it had a large Muslim community and he wanted to send his four children to religious schools.
There, the family lived in a small second-floor apartment. Mr. Headley claimed to work for Mr. Rana’s immigration agency. The two men attended the Jame Masjid mosque on Fridays, then stopped at the nearby Zam Zamrestaurant to eat and talk politics. Cricket, neighbors said, was their passion.
But Mr. Headley never seemed to fully fit in. Masood Qadir, who sometimes watched cricket with him, said he was “different” and kept mostly to himself.
E-mail messages show, however, that Mr. Headley stayed in regular contact with classmates from the military high school he attended in Pakistan, often engaging in impassioned debates about politics and Islam.
Earlier this year, Mr. Headley complained about “NATO criminal vermin dropping 22,000 lbs bombs on unsuspecting, unarmed Afghan villagers” or “napalming southeast Asian farmers.” Writing about Pakistan’s chief enemy, he said, “We will retaliate against India.”
And in an e-mail message defending the beheading of a Polish engineer by the Taliban in Pakistan, he wrote, “The best way for a man to die is with the sword.”
Reporting was contributed by Puk Damsgard in Islamabad, Pakistan; Emma Graves Fitzsimmons in Chicago; Nate Schweber and John Eligon in New York; and Ian Austen in Ottawa. Research was contributed by Barclay Walsh in Washington.
Sometimes, an extremist really is an extremist
If we act as if ‘Islam is the problem,’ we will guarantee that Islam will become the problem.
The LA Times
November 10, 2009
Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan demonstrated many things when he allegedly committed treason in the war on terror. For starters, he showed — gratuitously alas — that evil is still thriving.
He demonstrated that being a trained psychiatrist provides no immunity to ancient hatreds and religious fanaticism, nor does psychiatric training provide much acuity in spotting such things in others. For example, the London Telegraph reports that, in what was supposed to be a medical lecture, Hassan instead gave an hourlong briefing on the Koran, explaining to colleagues at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that nonbelievers should be beheaded, have boiling oil poured down their throats and set on fire.
His fellow psychiatrists completely missed this « red flag » — a suddenly popular euphemism for incandescently obvious evidence this man had no place in the U.S. Army.
He proved how lacking our domestic security system is. According to ABC News, intelligence agencies were aware for months that Hasan had tried to contact Al Qaeda. His colleagues reportedly knew he sympathized with suicide bombings and attacks on U.S. troops abroad, and one colleague said Hasan was pleased by an attack on an Army recruiting office and suggested more of the same might be desirable. That’s treason, even if you’re a Muslim.
Which raises the most troubling revelation: For a very large number of people, the idea that he is a Muslim fanatic, motivated by other Muslim fanatics, was — at least initially — too terrible to contemplate. How else to explain the reflexive insistence after the attack that the real culprit was « post-traumatic stress disorder »? The fact that PTSD is usually diagnosed in people who’ve been through trauma (hence the word « post »), and that Hasan had never in fact seen combat, didn’t seem to matter much.
Apparently the « P » in PTSD can now stand for « pre. »
A few months ago, an anti-Semitic old nut named James von Brunn allegedly took a gun to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to get payback against « the Jews » and killed a black security guard in the process.
In response to this horrific crime, the leading lights of American liberalism knew who was to blame: Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the GOP. One writer for the Huffington Post put it succinctly: « Thank you very much Karl Rove and your minions. »
The fact that Von Brunn was a 9/11 « truther » who railed against capitalism, neocons and the Bush administration didn’t matter. Nor did the glaring lack of evidence that Rove
et al ever showed antipathy for the museum. It was simply obvious that Von Brunn was the offspring of the « right-wing extremism [that] is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment, » wrote columnist Paul Krugman.
If only Hasan was a fan of Glenn Beck!
President Obama was right when he said, in the early hours after the shooting, that people shouldn’t « jump to conclusions » (a lesson he might have learned when he jumped to the wrong conclusion about a white cop who arrested Henry Louis Gates, a black Harvard professor). But just as we should not jump to conclusions, we shouldn’t jump away from them.
Despite reports that Hasan had shouted « Allahu Akbar » as he opened fire, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews insisted that « we may never know if religion was a factor at Ft. Hood. » Thursday night, NBC and CBS refrained from even reporting the man’s name. Meanwhile, ABC’s Martha Raddatz’s reporting on the subject reflected a yearning for denial: « As for the suspect, Nadal Hasan, as one officer’s wife told me, ‘I wish his name was Smith.’ »
We have a real problem when much of the political and journalistic establishment is eager to jump to the conclusion that peaceful political opponents are in league with violent extremists, but is terrified to consider the possibility that violent extremists really are violent extremists if doing so means calling attention to the fact that they are Muslims.
I am more sympathetic toward this reluctance to state the truth of the matter than some of my colleagues on the right. There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomena but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world. And yet, to work from that assumption might make the assumption all the more self-fulfilling. If we act as if « Islam is the problem, » as some say, we will guarantee that Islam will become the problem. But outright denial, like we are seeing today, is surely not the beginning of wisdom either.
I have no remedy for the challenge we face. But I do take some solace in George Orwell’s observation that « to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. »
Two Ground Zeroes
The Wall Street Journal
November 18, 2009
I have long thought it would be a good idea to bring 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his accomplices to lower Manhattan. In my concept, the men would be taken by helicopter to a height of about 1,000 feet over Ground Zero and pushed out the door, so that they, too, could experience what so many of their victims did in the awful final flickering seconds of their lives.
And since al Qaeda intended the attacks as a spectacle for the benefit of its would-be recruits, I’d give al Jazeera the exclusive TV rights.
This, however, is not Eric Holder’s concept. In announcing his decision last week to send KSM and four other defendants to stand trial for their crimes in a federal courthouse just a few blocks from Ground Zero, the attorney general said the trial would offer the bereaved of 9/11 « the opportunity to see the alleged plotters of those attacks held accountable in court, » adding that he was « confident » the legal system would « rise to that challenge. »
We’ll see about that.
There are a few ways to predict the course of the trials. One is to consult what al Qaeda itself advises its members to do in the event that they are brought before a judge. « At the beginning of the trial . . . the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge, » goes a line in what is known as the Manchester Document, a 180-page al Qaeda how-to obtained by British police in 2000.
This is, of course, a prescription for lying, though it shouldn’t be a tough sell with the jury given that KSM was in fact waterboarded by the CIA some 183 times. If anything, it provides a perfect opening for him to turn the tables on his accusers and put the U.S. government on trial, while embellishing any which way he pleases. No small number of potential New York City jurors would find KSM a more credible witness than any number of Bush administration officials—think Alberto Gonzales or Dick Cheney—who might be called to the stand.
A second way to predict how the trials might go is to look back at the trial of al Qaeda’s Zacarias Moussaoui, often described as the « 20th hijacker. » Moussaoui’s case has been cited by defenders of Mr. Holder’s decision as an example of how civilian courts have succeeded in dealing with some of the most hardened terrorists.
Really? Moussaoui was arrested in August 2001, and indicted that December. It would take until May 2006 before a jury would sentence him to life in prison, a single juror having spared him a death sentence. Assuming a similar time frame for the KSM trials, that means we can expect verdicts in 2015. That’s a long time to keep lower Manhattan in a perpetual state of red alert.
Yet the Moussaoui trial wasn’t merely interminable. It was also incompetent. Moussaoui did everything he could to turn it into a circus, at various times entering contradictory pleas on the view, as he put it, that « you’re allowed to lie for jihad. » Lawyers for the government were repeatedly accused of malfeasance, leading Judge Leonie Brinkema to observe at one point that « I have never seen such an egregious violation of a rule on witnesses. » The judge herself came close to dismissing the entire case, even as the Fourth Circuit had to step in to reverse one of her rulings.
And this was a comparatively clean case, unlike, say, those of El Sayyid Nosair, acquitted in 1991 of the murder of Jewish fanatic Meir Kahane; or of Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh at whose trial for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing critical intelligence information was disclosed that gave Osama bin Laden clues as to what the U.S. knew about his network.
The third way to consider the trials is to look at Ground Zero itself. After eight years of deliberation, planning, money and effort, what have we got? The picture nearby is the answer.
Let me be more precise. After eight years in which the views and interests of, inter alia, the Port Authority, NYPD, MTA and EPA, the several governors of New York and New Jersey, lease-holder Larry Silverstein, various star architects, the insurance companies, contractors, unions and lawyers, the families of the bereaved, their self-appointed spokespersons, the residents of lower Manhattan and, yes, even the fish of the Hudson river have all been duly consulted and considered, this is what we’ve got: a site of mourning turned into a symbol of defiance turned into a metaphor of American incompetence—of things not going forward. It is, in short, the story of our decade.
Barack Obama, energetic and smart, was elected largely to change all that. But the thrust of his presidency so far has been in the direction of bloated government, deficits and health-care bills; paralysis over Afghanistan and Iran; the convulsions over Gitmo and the CIA torture memos. And now this: An effort to demonstrate the purity of our methods and motives that is destined, as all these things have been, to wind up as the legal equivalent of Ground Zero. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for whom no real justice will ever be meted, understood his targets well.