Trials in Cuba send message of fear

Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I disagree with Kevin Nye that holding terrorism trials on the foreign soil of Cuba will make children in New York or anywhere else feel safer.

Holding military commission "trials" at Guantanamo Bay would be a confession of fear that I am glad President Obama is unwilling to make. Such a move confesses fear in several ways:

1) It tells the world that nine years after 9/11, we still have inadequate security in our largest cities.

2) It tells al-Qaeda that we can't handle them in our own country.

3) It tells the world that we don't trust our own legal system. The same one that convicted the bombers of Oklahoma City and the first World Trade Center bombing back in 1993.

4) It tells the world that we're afraid the evidence against 9/11 plotters won't hold up in a real court. That sends the message that the evidence is weak and will give comfort to the conspiracy theorists who still can't accept that al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11.

In addition to being a confession of fear to the world, trials in Cuba send two additional messages. The first message is that al-Qaeda members are soldiers, not criminals. Courts put criminals on trial, but armies deal with soldiers. No matter that we wish a different message, this is the message that the Islamic world will hear. That's also the message al-Qaeda wishes to be heard.

The second message will come back to haunt Americans overseas whether stationed as soldiers or traveling as civilians: A nation that declares itself under threat is entitled to use lifetime detention without trial, torture or military commissions.

This sounds good to many Americans now. It won't sound so good when our soldiers are held by Iran or whoever our future state foe is.

Let's not confess our fears to the world. Let's not do al-Qaeda's propaganda work for it. Let's not tell the world that they can give Americans the Gitmo treatment.

Let's respect our laws and give these accused mass murderers the open trial that will make their guilt or (unlikely) innocence plain for the world to see. Let's do here at home, the home of the brave.

Daniel Cornwall


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