Obama Administration vindicated
by Ghailani verdict


By Peter Duveen

PETER'S NEW YORK, Thursday, November 18, 2010--The jury verdict in the Ahmed Ghailani "terrorism" case yesterday signals a broad victory for the Administration of President Barack Obama, which has consistently championed the use of civilian courts to try the alleged crimes of Guantanamo detainees. Many, if not most or even all of the detainees, rounded up in the wake of September 11, 2001 and accused of various offenses, have been subjected to torture during their long confinements.

The trial in a downtown Manhattan federal courtroom of Ghailani, in which the innocence of the alleged terrorist was established against all but one of hundreds of charges leveled against him by the government, did not attract the kind of dangerous incidents predicted by some opponents of civilian trials. Now these opponents are moving the goal posts, and saying that the more sensational trials are yet to come--those that will garner the attention of Muslim insurgents who are supposed to be hiding behind every hotdog stand or donut kiosk in the city, ready to brandish a lethal weapon at people from some other religious group. Yet we know that New York has been traditionally devoid of such incidents--we, that is, who have actually lived in New York and who deeply appreciate its diversity, and have, on numerous occasions, had our rolls buttered and coffee prepared by a Palestinian, a Pakistani, a Syrian, or any number of nationals from Muslim/Christian/Jewish/Hindu countries. So, sans some sensational but bogus incident created by the FBI, CIA, or other discredited U.S. investigatory or intelligence body, it is now very lilkely that trials will be able to be conducted unimpeded by the loudly anticipated acts of violence.

The Obama administration, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in particular, put their reputations on the line by supporting civilian trials for the Guantanamo detainees. A trial is held because the guilt or innocence of the accused must be established, according to American law, beyond a resonable doubt. Although most mainstream media outlets have presented the individuals accused as certainly guilty, a very vocal and substantial minority have, in the alternative press, pointed to the torture of the individuals as tainting testimony and evidence against them, and have indicated that the government may have merely made up the charges. A trial, in this view, may uncover government malfeasance as much as any crimes of the accused. Thus, a civilian trial is absolutely necessary, in this view, in order to make sure the government has not strayed from its role as servant of the people.

In other words, although the government and the mainstream media have attempted to present these cases as ones of open and shut guilt, the people demand proof, not just to safeguard the rights of the accused, but to ensure that government power is not abused, the way it was, say, before the American Revolution. This all makes sense, but seems to be lost on many people today. The opposition to civilian trials is far more likely to be rooted in an attempt to cover up government and media corruption or to promote a particular domestic or foreign policy than in actual security concerns.

An attorney for Ghailani has said he will attempt to overturn the one count for which his client was found guilty. Athough the press has routinely described the sentence he must endure as the result of his alleged crime as twenty years to life, surely time served under rather unhappy circumstances must bear on any sentence delivered.

However spotted the Obama Administration has become because of its continuation of the many truly horrendous policies of the previous presidential administration, it has taken a different tack with respect to the trials of the Guantanamo detainees. One of these detainees, the now famous Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is accused of being the mastermind of "9-11." Yet there are many incongruities in the government's investigation of the events of that day, and it would be of great public interest to see state's evidence made public in any trial of KSM.  Now that it has been shown that a civilian trial in New York failed to create the chaos and violence predicted by its critics, there seem to be no obstacles in the way of public, civilian trials for the accused. Holder and Obama deserve credit for taking the seemingly unpopular position of supporting civilian trials for the Guantanamo detainees. We now have a track record of these trials being conducted safely and successfully according to the highest standards of American justice. Our scrutiny must now shift from the falsely accused to the accusers.

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