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"A Major About-Face," "A Significant Moment Of Capitulation," "An Embarrassing Reversal" For Obama On Military Commissions | Missouri Political News Service

“A Major About-Face,” “A Significant Moment Of Capitulation,” “An Embarrassing Reversal” For Obama On Military Commissions

April 5th, 2011 by mopns · No Comments


The New York Times reports, “The Obama administration, ending more than a year of indecision with a major policy reversal, will prosecute Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other people accused of plotting the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks before a military commission and not a civilian court, as it once planned. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced on Monday that he has cleared military prosecutors at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to file war-crimes charges against the five detainees in the Sept. 11 case. Mr. Holder had decided in November 2009 to move the case to a federal civilian courtroom in New York City, but the White House abandoned that plan amid a political backlash. The shift was foreshadowed by stiffening Congressional resistance to bringing Guantánamo detainees into the United States, and by other recent steps clearing the way for new tribunal trials.”

Back in October 2009, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was urging adoption of an amendment to stop the Obama administration from proceeding with its ill-considered idea of civilian trials for terrorists and returning them to the military commissions: “The amendment is simple and straightforward. It explicitly prohibits any of the terrorists who were involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks from appearing for trial in a conventional U.S. courtroom. Instead, it would require the government to use Military Commissions; that is, the courts proper to war, for trying these men. . . . The question is not whether terror suspects should be brought to justice. The question is where and how. And the answer is perfectly clear: the right forum is Military Commissions at the secure facility we already have at Guantanamo, not in civilian courts in U.S. communities.”

Finally, it appears the administration has acquiesced to the reality of the war on terror in reversing itself on military commissions. Press reports emphasized what a significant shift this decision was: The New York Times writes, “[I]t marked a significant moment of capitulation in the Obama administration’s largely frustrated effort to dismantle counterterrorism architecture left behind by former President George W. Bush.” The Washington Post points out, “The decision scuttled one of the administration’s signature goal . . . . It may also mark the effective end of the administration’s effort, now more than two years old, to close the detention center in Cuba.” The Los Angeles Times writes, “The Obama administration admitted defeat in its efforts to prosecute the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks before a civilian jury in New York City . . . .” According to Reuters, “[Holder’s] announcement was an embarrassing reversal of the administration’s decision in November 2009 to try September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-conspirators in a court near the site of the World Trade Center . . . .” And AFP calls the decision “a major about-face.”

The Wall Street Journal editorializes, “The Obama Administration did a full spinning reversal with a triple twist yesterday on its plans to prosecute terrorists, announcing that it will now try September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay after all. . . . KSM and his fellow murderers will now be tried by military commissions of the kind that President George W. Bush proposed in the earliest days of the conflict formerly known as the war on terror. . . . Mr. Holder made clear he’s not about to apologize, much less thank his predecessors for their foresight, but we suppose his vindication of Guantanamo is enough.”

And even The Washington Post editors, while still apparently preferring Holder’s initial approach, acknowledge, “The reversal is a personal blow for Mr. Holder, who has been the Obama administration’s most committed advocate for prosecuting terrorism suspects in federal courts. But it is the correct call.”

It was obvious long before Holder’s decision to attempt to try the 9/11 conspirators in civilian courts that such trials would have serious drawbacks, given that prior ones inadvertently aided terrorists and exposed sensitive classified information. And last fall’s case against Ahmend Gailani, charged with murdering 224 people in the 1998 embassy bombings, demonstrated more of the potential troubles with civilian trials for terrorists. Ghailani was convicted on only one charge out of 285, and acquitted of all murder charges.

As Leader McConnell said yesterday, “[T]his change today is truly a welcome development. The administration is announcing that KSM and the others who plotted these crimes will be tried in the proper jurisdiction—these military commissions—at the proper place for these commission trials—Guantanamo Bay. This is the right outcome to the long and spirited debate that preceded this decision. Military Commissions at Guantanamo, far from the U.S. mainland, were always the right idea for a variety of compelling reasons which I and others have enumerated repeatedly over the past two years. For the sake of the safety and security of the American people, I’m glad the President reconsidered his position on how and where to try these detainees. Going forward, this model should be the rule rather than the exception.”


Rasmussen Report:

“24% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty percent (40%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -1.”




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