Critics of the decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other accused masterminds of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks have spent the last two days going on television and radio and the internet, asking the same incredulous question over and over: Are we really going to give these terrorists the same constitutional protections as American citizens?
The correct answer to that question is: Yes, we are. A better, more complete answer would be: Yes, we are, and why the hell shouldn’t we?
What are we afraid of, exactly? That these guys are going to skate? If they do, whose fault is that? We’ve had these guys in custody for years. If we can’t convict them of the crimes they are charged with, in a civilian court, with all the standards and limitations applicable to that venue — the same venue where an America citizen charged with identical crimes would be tried without question — then shame on us.
Affording constitutional rights to Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-defendants isn’t a show of weakness. It’s a show of strength. We aren’t hobbled by our Constitution. We’re empowered by it. Taking these assholes to a civilian court and trying them under the law in front of the families and friends of their victims and the entire world is the only just thing to do with them. Otherwise, aren’t we admitting that, when push comes to shove, we don’t think the American system works? And if that’s what we really think, what the hell are we doing here?