9/11 Justice: Executing terrorists not in nation's best interest
07:03 AM CST on Thursday, February 14, 2008
Mike Ghouse: Executing the 9/11 Terrorists is perhaps the easiest thing to do, however the editors have prudently suggested to keep them in solitary confinement for life and deny them the only satisfaction they yearn for; to be the martyrs. Heck, they are no martyrs.
This certainly will hold a few potential candidates from martyrdom and cause a few in the cells to ponder and renounce violence, as some 300 of them did in Yemen about three years ago.
It further sends a clear signal to the terrorists that we are not like them who shamelessly slaughter innocent humans and hang them on the bridges and place the disgusting video on the internet. They need to know that we are a civil society and value life, but will prevent the individual from becoming a threat to the society.
The U.S. government's plan to seek the death penalty against six Guantánamo 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 two years ago: "You will die with a whimper."