9/11 Justice: Executing terrorists not in nation's best interest
The U.S. government's plan to seek the death penalty against 6 Guantnamo
Bay detainees in the Sept. 11 attacks is bound to have enthusiastic public
appeal. It might seem fitting punishment for anyone found responsible for
nearly 3,000 deaths, 600 more than in the Japanese ambush at Pearl Harbor.
Yet the effort to assign guilt for the barbaric Sept. 11 raids this
generation's own "day of infamy" should not end in an execution chamber.
That would not be in this nation's best interest.
Carrying out the death penalty would put the government's questionable and
untested military tribunal system on trial simultaneously. It's a test the
nation could not afford to fail as it tries to assert moral authority in
the war on terror.
Justice could not be served in a trial stemming from coerced confessions.
One of the six suspects, alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh
Mohammed, has undergone CIA interrogation that included waterboarding, a
practice widely considered torture and prone to produce unreliable
information. American and international legal traditions demand better.
And make no mistake: Trying these suspects will have global implications.
The military tribunal also could very well curtail traditional rights of
defendants, such as open-court proceedings and challenging government
evidence. While some deviation from standard court procedures might be
tolerable for security reasons, a high-stakes capital punishment trial is
not the time to grope for a balance.
There is a better option for the American people, although it's admittedly
a hard case to make in light of emotions that will remain forever raw on
the subject: Terrorists who bring savagery to our shores should spend the
rest of their lives isolated in secure prison cells.
Advantages are many. For one, the government could gain truly useful
information through methodical interviews. Second, unending solitary
confinement could lead a terrorist to reflect on and renounce fanaticism,
which would pay rich propaganda dividends. Third, imprisonment would have
deterrent value by denying Islamo-terrorists a reward they crave the
glory of martyrdom for their twisted cause.
Finally, no one should underestimate the punitive value of condemning
someone to look at four bare concrete walls for the rest of his life.
In the words of the judge who pronounced a life sentence on terrorist
Zacarias Moussaoui 2 years ago: "You will die with a whimper."
(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)