Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Civil Trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: We Win

The case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is now coming up. The forces of right, truth and justice, as well as the practitioners of self-defense by intimidation against future civil atrocities, are scandalized by the announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that KSM will be tried in federal – not military – court with the protection of civil law and the possibility of acquittal.

This seems outrageous and unreasonable. Bill McGurn, writing in today’s WSJ (Tuesday November 17, 2009, A23), quotes Andrew McCarthy, successful prosecutor of Omar Abdel Rajman for the first bombing of the WTC to the effect that “At first, I was of the mind that a criminal prosecution would uphold all our high-falutin’ rhetoric about the constitution and majesty of the law. But when you get down to the nitty gritty of a trial, you see one huge problem: The criminal justice system imposes limits on the government and gives the defendant all sorts of access to information, because we’d rather have the government lose than unfairly convict a man. You can’t take that position with an enemy who is at war with you and trying to bring that government down.”

My Comment: However, we reason within the context of the culture in which we find ourselves: a culture of death. Whenever we kill a man – except in the most extreme situation in which there is no other way to live except by killing him – we damage ourselves. As reminder of the development that has taken place in the Church and civil society particularly in the time around and following Vatican II, let me pass review of the bold venture of John Paul II: “On this matter [the death penalty], there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God’s plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is ‘to redress the disorder caused by the offense.’ Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment of the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people’s safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behavior and be rehabilitated… Today… as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such casers are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”[1]

My point: we do not mete out justice by killing. We damage ourselves. I remember my thinking on 9/11 as I was in the vicinity of the WTC. My nephew was in the building and I was searching for remains. My first thoughts were the hope that there would be no retaliation on our part since there is no justice achieved that way (my mind goes to the death of Karla Faye Tucker, which achieved no justice) and we only damage ourselves, besides damaging others by the example. We perpetuate the deconstruction of the human person and dig the culture of death deeper into the fabric of society. I say march to civil trial, hew to a civil law based on Christian principles, and affirm life. Then, we win.

[1] John Paul II, “The Gospel of Life” #56.

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