US Courts Best Equipped To Fight Terror

June 22, 2011

Yesterday in Manhattan federal court, with a minimum of fuss, Arid Uka was charged with first degree murder.

Uka, an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, allegedly murdered two US servicemen and wounded two others in an assault on a bus full of USAF personnel at Frankfurt International Airport in March 2011.

Uka reportedly told German authorities that he was seeking revenge for the US invasion of Afghanistan and had been stirred to action after watching videos on YouTube. He claimed to be acting alone and said that he was not affiliated to any terrorist group.

Uka is currently detained in Germany and the United States is seeking his extradition to stand trial in New York. No one in New York has bleated about security fears or called for Uka to be sent to GTMO. The wheels of justice grind on slow and sure.

What a contrast with Kentucky where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been calling hysterically for two Iraqi refugees recently arrested in his state to be shipped to Guantanamo post haste without due process of law so that he can sleep safely in his bed at night once more.

Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi are accused of providing material support to insurgent groups in Iraq. The key word in that sentence is ‘accused’. They are both in the United States legally and as such they are considered US persons under the law and their case must be treated with the same due process accorded US citizens.

In an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post yesterday Senator McConnell sought to justify his craven position by claiming popular support for his stand:

“My constituents do not think that civilian judges and jurors in their community should be subjected to the risk of reprisal for participating in a terrorist trial.”

Tell that to Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum who presided over the trial of Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad; Or to Judge Wllliam Young who heard the trial of shoe bomber Richard Reid in Boston; Or Judge John Coughenour who sentenced Millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam in Seattle.

Potential jurors and court officials in New York, Massachusetts, and Washington are apparently made of rather sterner stuff than those in Kentucky because they have turned out to participate in trial after trial of suspected or aspirant members of Al Qaeda and their sympathizers.

Not one juror, prosecutor or judge has been attacked as a result. Thank goodness at least some states in the Union have shown a little backbone in the past ten years.

Senator McConnell describes Guantanamo in his op-ed as being “uniquely suited to the unconventional threat posed by foreign terrorists.” That much is certainly true: It has proved the perfect tool for Al Qaeda to use to recruit more willing volunteers to carry out attacks on American targets.

Which is why at the end of his presidency even George Bush wanted to close it.

Senator McConnell went on to suggest in his Washington Post article that by praising law enforcement officers as America’s “most effective terror-fighting weapon” in a recent speech Attorney General Eric Holder was insulting US troops.

Every time you think public debate in the United States has hit rock bottom someone finds a way to keep on digging.

It is worth noting that the law enforcement approach so derided by McConnell, coupled with a vigilant public, is precisely what has kept so many Americans safe over the past decade.

Since 9/11, law enforcement agents have successfully preempted a series of meaningful plots, prosecutors have successfully gained treasure troves of valuable intelligence from terrorist suspects, and the federal courts have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorism cases.

I am curious to know more about Senator McConnell’s thought process. Does the Senior Senator from Kentucky now have a ranking system that he uses to weigh the value of public servants? If so, where do New York City firefighters rate on his scale?

I just ask because McConnell was conspicuous in his failure to support the James Zadroga Bill 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It seems that some American heroes matter rather more to McConnell than others.

McConnell has insulted law enforcement officers who serve on the frontline every day, he has insulted 9/11 first responders who gave everything to help their fellow citizens in their darkest hour, he has insulted his fellow citizens who have stood up to be counted when summoned to jury service, and he even insults America’s founding fathers.

The architects of our constitution hoped that values enshrined within it would inspire the peoples of the world, in John Winthrop’s famous phrase, like ‘a shining city on a hill’. These are values worth fighting for but, driven by fear, Senator McConnell would apparently rather surrender that ‘shining city’ without a fight.

The classic 1955 movie “The Kentuckian” celebrates life on the American frontier in the 1820s and ends with a promise from Big Eli Wakefield, an archetypal and heroic Kentuckian backwoodsman played by Burt Lancaster, to “live it bold.”

How times have changed in Kentucky.