Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Trial of Osama bin Laden

The current issue of 'Vanity Fair' magazine has an article titled, "The Hunt for Geronimo" about the White House process leading up to the killing of Osama bin Laden.  The article is adapted by Mark Bowden from his book of the same title.  Bowden personally interviewed most of the participants, including President Obama.

On page 190 Bowden writes, "In the unlikely event that Bin Laden surrendered, Obama saw the opportunity to resurrect the idea of a criminal trial.  He was ready to bring him back and put  him on trial in a federal court."

Then follows a direct quote which Bowden attributes to President Obama in double quotes on page 190.
We worked though the legal and political issues that would have been involved, and Congress and the desire to send him to Guantanamo and to not try him and Article III [of the Constitution].  I mean, we had worked through a whole bunch of those scenarios,  But, frankly, my belief was, if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and the rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaeda, in preventing him from appearing as a martyr.
Whether one supports President Obama's re-election or not, this remark should give one pause.  It is astonishingly naive to think that the message the Muslim world would take away from a public trial of Osama bin Laden in an American court would be to respect us for due process and the rule of law.   That the President could be so wildly wrong cannot help but make one question his judgment.  This is not a partisan issue, it is a matter of simple competence.

A much lesser note is that it illuminates the 2009 fuss when we were told that Attorney-General Eric Holder wanted to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was immediately responsible for planning 9/11, in federal court in Manhattan.  Pretty much every single person in New York thought that was a bad idea and said so.  The plan was withdrawn and Holder wound up with egg on his face for having proposed it.

The President's remark suggests that trial in Manhattan was only one of several option Holder presented to the President and was the one President Obama chose.  It appears to me that when it blew up in their faces, the Attorney-General fell on his sword as ordered, and the President could semi-truthfully claim that Holder had suggested the idea to him.  Taking the hit to deflect flak from the boss is to be expected, so that in itself does not reflect badly on either man. Indeed, it reflects well on Holder.

Two years later, in May 2011 President Obama, unchastened, thought trying Osama bin Laden, a vastly bigger fish than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in federal court was a good idea.  We have just seen how the faithful in the Muslim world reacted to a two-bit Youtube video.  Four of our people died in that.  Imagine what the reaction would have been to a lengthy public trial of the charismatic central figure of the Salafist movement.  Or even just the reaction to the inevitable sermons and exhortations to revenge for his coming death that bin Laden would have delivered in Arabic from the dock and had broadcast around the world.  Not a US embassy, consulate, school, or other American institution anywhere in the Muslim world (the 57 countries in the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Countries) would have survived.

Sure, I have the advantage of hindsight but I do not have the advantages of the resources of the entire federal government and all day every day to think about these things and every smart person in the country to ask advice of.  In any case, President Obama also had the advantage of hindsight.

That. two years after the Holder-Khalid fiasco, President Obama still thought trying Osama bin Laden in federal court was a good idea makes me wonder about his judgment.  It might make you wonder too.


  1. Tony Greenstein1:06 PM

    Jack, what about Netanyahu for his crimes and acts of genocide (I might add, on a far grander scale than that of Geronimo). Do you think its fairer he be put on trial and then executed, perhaps even tortured in Guantanamo. I think he should. Shooting him on sight is too easy a solution regardless of how tempting it might be. What is your opinion?

  2. sunny4:28 PM

    No, of course not...I knew what evil (and incompetence) lurked in Obama's heart and mind.

  3. Jasmin10:12 AM

    You grow more conservative by the year, the aging process of the Jew normally leads to Neo-conservative gutter belief sets indeed.

  4. I have denounced Tony Greenstein to the authorities for his repeated acts of child molestation and have already arranged for him to be found guilty. Greenstein might object that I have no evidence of his molesting children. But that is transparently special pleading. Since Greenstein thnks charges of apartheid and war crimes without any evidence are OK, so the child molester Tony Greenstein must agree that the charges of child molestation against him are fully justified. In fact, my making of the charges is effectively his admission that they must be true. Time to register as a sex offender Tony.

  5. Jasmin, your questioning anyone else's politics or morals while ranting racism makes clear that you have not the moral standing to opine even the tine of day, let alone any judgment of behavior by actual civilized human beings. Sorry Jasmin, you and your pedophile friend Tony Greenstein just don't qualify.

  6. Actually Anonymous, it is your Muslim pals who go around self-righteously denouncing Islamophobia while simultaneously saying that Jews are descended from apes and pigs. I think Muslims have nothing, nothing at all, to complain about while they are mired in the filth of racism and Muslim supremacy.