The decision to pursue the death penalty against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a number of other suspects creates a situation that no doubt was thought through by the Bush administration more than whether to actually use torture against these people in the first place. I haven’t seen this angle discussed too much in depth but if it has, please forgive me.
Regardless of whether anyone thinks that the death penalty is a just punishment, is “cruel and inhuman”, or just plain doesn’t agree with it, I want to at least (for now) leave that out of this post. If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM” to make it easier for me) is guilty of masterminding the 9/11 attacks, or if he is guilty of any other crimes that can be proven, then he should receive the justice that he deserves. This is not about whether he should or should not pay for his crimes.
I don’t think there are many people who would say that he does not deserve punishment (whatever the maximum punishment that can be meted out would be) for planning these attacks. But, and here is the rub – the fact that his trial will be largely based on evidence that is obtained by torture will forever cloud his trial – if not in the eyes of Americans then most certainly in the eyes of the world .
Thus, the second part of this conundrum – the argument that “liberals would rather let an evil terrorist mastermind go free than receive justice for his role in killing thousands of Americans” which no doubt would be trotted out. But this is, to me, something that was done purposely.
To have as many legal memos that talk about torture being justified, about “enemy combatants” being outside the Geneva Conventions, the “interrogation techniques” that were personally approved by Rumsfeld, the debate going on among those who support torture and the rest of the civilized world about whether waterboarding is “technically” torture, the news that Bush personally ordered waterboarding – all of this was done to make sure that KSM could be prosecuted for his role and actions, even if the only way that the CIA can get information out of him is by torturing him.
Or because Mister Bush is a sadist. But either way, there was a long discussion and debate on a number of occasions that would have Mukasey waffle on whether waterboarding is illegal even though he said that it would be torture if it was done to him and that torture is illegal. Or that would have Scalia, a number of republican Senators (including John McCain) vote against outlawing waterboarding. Or that would have waterboarding ONLY used if Bush himself ordered it.
The end result of all of this is a situation where someone whose actions (if true) nobody can defend, and is the most unsympathetic figure outside of Osama bin Laden in the eyes of Americans is now at the center of yet another fork in the road for this country.
Choose option 1 and we have a precedent whereby evidence can be obtained by torture and used as primary evidence in a prosecution that could carry the death penalty as a punishment. Option 1 also further reduces America’s reputation in the global community.
Choose option 2 and we have a situation where someone that very well may have had a huge hand in the biggest attack on American soil can not be prosecuted because the primary evidence against him was obtained via torture. Or that the prosecution is tainted because of the evidence obtained by torture, and is not viewed as legitimate to the vast majority of the world (and many in this country). Option 2 also results in the “why do you hate America” nonsense that detracts from the fact that (1) that is total crap and a distraction from reality, (2) one of the chief architects of the 9/11 attacks either goes free or is prosecuted in what will be known as a kangaroo court proceeding and most importantly, (3) this is all due to willful and premeditated acts by the highest levels of the US government.
The road chosen will go a long way towards either repairing our reputation in the world or reinforcing that we do not care about the rule of law that this administration preaches about. Unfortunately, we as a country have been put in this position (once again) by our own government, and these people will look to point fingers instead of actually thinking of the ramification of their actions.
And I am sure that many people will say (as I have heard before) that it really doesn’t matter that he is tortured if he was actually guilty. But that isn’t the point. If he was actually guilty, then he shouldn’t have to be tortured in order to be prosecuted.
Once again, Mister Bush and his cohorts have put this country in a horrible position with two bad choices. This time, the ramifications are the justification for torture and the use of it to obtain evidence for a prosecution.
That is a door that should never have been opened. Thanks, once again, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, John Yoo, John McCain, Michael Mukasey and everyone else who allowed and enabled this country to reach yet another new low.