In the wild and crazy theory department, I've got a humdinger. I think Usama bin Laden's goose was cooked way back in 1995 when O.J. Simpson was acquitted by a criminal jury in Los Angeles. (Stick with me on this. It may make sense by the end.)
There is presently a groundswell of public opinion in support of — all things — military tribunals to try, convict and most likely execute foreign terrorists. We heard President Bush announce he was going to use tribunals, as FDR and Abraham Lincoln did in wars past.
At first, we thought of this as an abstract preparation, that the president was making plans for something that wasn't yet a reality. Then, it turns out the tribunal route was most likely planned for an Algerian we have in jail now — the so-called 20th Sept. 11 hijacker — Zacharias Moussaoui.
We could try Moussaoui in a criminal court, as Alan Dershowitz and other civil libertarian members of the defense bar have urged. We could even try bin Laden in a criminal court, if we catch him alive. That seems unlikely, but it's possible. If somehow all of the bullets we possess actually miss bin Laden, he could end up in custody. (We actually don't miss that much, but it's at least theoretically possible.)
We have convicted some fairly serious Al Qaeda terrorists like Ramzi Youseff, the bin Laden bomber now in jail. (How he got life and not the needle is beyond me.) But I think the tribunal method was made for Moussaoui and bin Laden. We need to send a message to the world.
That message is: You only thought you could buy O.J. justice in America. You thought the Americans were so stupid as to grant civil rights to terrorists, so silly as to think our system depends on being fair beyond question to people who would kill us en masse.
In fact, you're not going to get the chance if you're caught in the act of conspiring to bring terror on America. There won't be any 'dream team' for you. There won't be any Mr. Johnny handpicking jurors and insisting if the headgear don't fit, you must acquit. Not this time, pal.
This time, there's going to be a jury of generals and colonels. There's going to be a defense attorney picked from the judge advocate general's office, picked by the military. This time, if we bring you to trial, it's because we already know you're guilty.
Does that sound un-American? Okay, sure. Does it sound like something we need to do now for these particular people? Definitely a yes.
Moussaoui and bin Laden do not have a chance of pulling an O.J. The day their trials start, it's already over. What was good for Timothy McVeigh will be too good for them.
That's My Word.
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