Pursuit of justice advances in Guantanamo courtroom

 

Twelve years after misguided religious sycophants of the late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden murdered nearly 3,000 people, costly ripple effects still can be seen all over the world. A primary place they are evident is in a military courtroom in Guantanamo Bay.

There the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), and several other imprisoned suspects move slowly toward a trial, scheduled for a year from now.

The technical ins and outs of pretrial maneuverings get little attention, but they are important because they reveal again the American commitment to the rule of law.

The military commission that was convened to try the charges against KSM and others already has heard more than 40 hours of testimony from more than a dozen witnesses. The commission and the military judge, Col. James Pohl, so far have dealt with more than 100 "substantive motions," as they are called. This legal action must be finished before a trial begins.

Why is all of this taking so long and why is it necessary? One obvious reason for the length of the process is that five persons - not just KSM - are being tried in a single case involving the murder of nearly 3,000 individuals. Chief prosecutor Mark Martins calls this "the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history."

Martins describes members of the five defense teams as "zealous, effective and competent." That means there are lawyers doing everything possible to make sure their clients are treated fairly. That also takes time. In fact, it's widely reported that defense attorneys are trying to slow the process further by raising concerns about how their clients have been treated.

As Martins noted, "Pursuing a sustainable justice under law that is consistent with our values is a worthwhile undertaking and one that would take time in any court."

It's to our nation's credit, however, that in much of our response we have remembered who we are and what our foundational values are. In that sense, the terrorists have lost.

—The Kansas City Star, Sept. 11


Agreement over banning Syrian WMD must be quick, enforceable

 

The chances of striking a good deal over Syria's lethal chemical stockpile with the likes of Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad lie somewhere between remote and won't happen. But given the American public's rejection of yet another intervention by U.S. forces in the Middle East, President Obama is obliged to consider the offer seriously - providing it's not a ruse by the Syrians and the Russians.

The proposal has already forced the Syrians to admit for the first time that they do indeed possess a chemical arsenal.

Secretary of State John Kerry must figure out quickly if the Russian counterparts he will negotiate with are serious or stalling.

U.N. inspectors, preferably including an American contingent, should be free to go wherever they want in Syria to do their job, whenever they want.

The agreement should also be enforceable. That won't be easy. Russia has already balked at a proposed U.N. resolution that would make the agreement binding under the threat of force, which implies support of the world body for a military strike on Syria if the pact is violated.

Without an enforcement provision, Syria would be free to keep and possibly use chemical weapons again. The U.S.-Syria standoff would be back to square one. A deal that lacks strict enforcement is a nonstarter if ever there was one.

That's why President Obama needs support in Congress for a limited use-of-force resolution. It would give him greater leverage in dealing with the unreliable Russians and Syrians. The American public rightly rejects the idea of another military intrusion in the Middle East, but preserving that option may be the best way to convince the other side that it's in their interest to make a deal.

—The Miami Herald, Sept. 12