Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The civility of terrorists

If I said: "Someone masterminded a terrorist act on US soil by using a vehicle as a weapon and destroying a building with it, killing far too many people, all because he opposed the Government of the United States" youd think of Osama bin Laden and 9/11, right? Or perhaps maybe youd even think of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

Now, would it surprise you to know that I wasnt talking about Arab terrorists, planes, and New York buildings? In fact, I was referencing an American terrorist, a rented moving truck, and a Federal building in downtown Oklahoma City.

On April 19th, 1995 Timothy McVeigh loaded a rented Ryder van with 5,000 pounds of fertilizer and racing fuel and parked it in front of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. When the bomb went off, 450 people were injured and 168 were dead, including 19 children who were in a day care on the first floor.
The reasoning for this terrorist act was that Timothy McVeigh wanted revenge for "What the US Government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge" and he hoped to inspire a revolt against what he considered "a tyrannical federal government."
He has been quoted as saying: "The administration has said that Iraq has no right to stockpile chemical or biological weapons ("weapons of mass destruction") - mainly because they have used them in the past. Well, if thats the standard by which these matters are decided, then the US is the nation that set the precedent. The US has stockpiled these same weapons (and more) for over 40 years. The US claims that this was done for deterrent purposes during the "Cold War" with the Soviet Union. Why, then is it invalid for Iraq to claim the same reason (deterrence) - with respect to Iraqs (real) war with, and the continued threat of, its neighbor Iran. If Saddam is such a demon and people are calling for war crime charges and trials against him and his nation, why do we not hear the same cry for blood directed at those responsible for even greater amounts of "mass destruction" - like those responsible and involved in dropping bombs on the cities mentioned above. The truth is, the US has set the standard when it comes to the stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction."

There is no hard definition of "terrorism" but under Federal criminal code 18 U.S.C. 2331, the United States has defined "terrorism" as: "Activities that involve violent... or life threatening acts... that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and... appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping..."
And under this definition, McVeigh was tried as a terrorist, in a civilian court, and was convicted of all 11 counts of the federal indictment and was sentenced to death, which was carried out on June 11th, 2001. But he did not leave this world before saying: "Isnt it kind of scary that one man could wreak this kind of Hell?"

So whats the point of this? Well, seems that there are politicians who are trying their hardest to block trials of people - "terrorists" - being held in Guantanamo Bay. At least, they want to block trials in civilian court even though some of these people - like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - are accused of the very same thing Timothy McVeigh did. Coincidentally, Mohammeds crime came three months to the day after McVeigh was put to death for his.
So whats the difference? Why is it ok to capture, try, convict, and execute one terrorist and not another?
"Because theyre war criminals and any trial should be held in military court. besides, military trials are quicker." No, no theyre not - there was no war, they did not act with the authority of a particular country, they acted alone because of their personal beliefs, and Timothy McVeighs trial was not in military court. And if military trials are quicker, then why the hell havent they happened yet?

Now heres one possible reason: military trials are closed doors, whereas civilian trials are open for the public to see. "So, what does that mean?" It could mean that these politicians - mostly Republicans - want these trials kept quiet so as not to cause issues for a certain former President and his administration.
See, its pretty much accepted that during the course of our "war" with whomever were at war with, we did some very very bad things. Things that are not only embarrassing to our country, but also highly illegal by our own rules as well as the generally accepted rules of civilized nations of the world. And while its one thing to talk about these at the water cooler at work, its quite a bit different to have to admit to these things in a court, under oath, for the record, and for the world to see. Only way to make sure that doesnt happen is to have a military trial, which would come complete with conveniently closed doors. "If you cant hear us admit to doing it, then maybe we didnt do it at all."

But like I said, thats just one possible reason, but Im sure the truth is much more innocent, right?


Til next time...

-- DBW --

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