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Politics, Firearms, and things that amuse me

The Politics of Terrorism: Cole Bomber Trial

with 9 comments

On October 12, 2000, suicide bombers packed a small boat with explosives, maneuvered it alongside the USS Cole DDG-67, while she was taking on fuel and supplies at a port in Yemen. The bombers detonated their payload, blasting a large hole in the side of the destroyer, killing 17 and injuring 39 American sailors.

Being a few years removed from the Navy myself at the time, I recall being very angry that this happened. I also recall being downright livid when speculation came out that they wanted to press charges against the Captain, or those who were deck guards at the time. Having been in exactly that same situation before, minus the explosives of course, I know what happened.

When moored, or even anchored out, in a busy port, there are sometimes hundreds of craft in the area, and many can be coming or going at any given time. We were not engaged in any open hostilities at the time, and any approaching civilian watercraft would have been likely noticed, perhaps watched, but even if the deck sentry had called in something suspicious, word would likely have come back to just watch and report. In most cases, the deck guards duty was to watch for anything getting close to the ship, particularly close enough to attempt boarding, and report such activity. Depending on the location, and “friendliness” of the port, weapons may not even be issued. And if weapons were issued, likely case was that rounds were not chambered and the magazine may not even be loaded into the weapon.

In the case of the Cole, I suspect several small boats had made approaches through the period of their time in port. It is very common for any civilian boat to try to get close for a better look; it’s not every day one sees a shiny, state-of-the-art American warship up close after all. And with no declared hostilities, especially with the country involved, a captain simply can’t order Weapons Free on any random vessel that crosses some invisible line on the water.

A commissioned warship is considered native soil of the nation whose flag it flies, the same with any nation’s official embassy. So if one wants to get technical, the “first” attack on the homeland came nearly a year before September 11, 2001. But it was a military target, so either way.

Many through the years have wanted to criticize then-President Clinton for doing nothing about the attack. I didn’t so much. While I would have loved seeing a rain of cruise missiles taking out anything and everything connected to the bombers, the fact is the election in 2000 was less than one month away, and Clinton was pretty much a “lame duck” since the impeachment hearings. Besides, I don’t think they had hard evidence on exactly who to target at the time anyway.

After the attacks on the World Trade Center, the War on Terrorism stepped into high gear. Obviously, the operatives on the boat have already met their maker, and cannot be prosecuted. But investigations found that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was the ringleader for the al Qaeda cell that put the mission together, and he was picked up, taken to Club Gitmo, and was one of the three who were waterboarded.

Nashiri has been in the queue for a military trial for several years. So imagine my surprise when I read at Hot Air today that the Obama Justice Department has put off prosecuting him.

From the Washington Post:

In a filing this week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department said that “no charges are either pending or contemplated with respect to al-Nashiri in the near future.”

Leaks and “anonymous sources” seem to make up the bulk of the basis for this article:

“It’s politics at this point,” said one military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy. He said he thinks the administration does not want to proceed against a high-value detainee without some prospect of civilian trials for other major figures at Guantanamo Bay.

A White House official disputed that.

“We are confident that the reformed military commissions are a lawful, fair and effective prosecutorial forum and that the Department of Defense will handle the referrals in an appropriate manner consistent with the interests of justice,” said the official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

I suspect that with all the clamoring from the Far Left about how horrible Club Gitmo is, the White House would like nothing more than just shutting it down and letting everyone go. Thankfully, cooler heads are prevailing, and most of the dangerous terrorists will be held where they can not cause any harm to others.

I also suspect that while many Administration officials also might sympathize with the Far Left’s position, they are also politically smart enough to understand that if this actually happens, they will be run out of town on a rocket sled on a rail. I believe that this bit of news out today may have been a trial balloon to see just how it might be received if it did happen.

Jake Tapper, ABC White House correspondent, reported a few minutes ago:

Am told DOJ is clarifying in a filing today that the Obama administration is still proceeding with military commission case v. Nashiri

I hope this is true. A fair argument might be made, although I think it is wrong, that standard terrorists attacks against civilian targets can and should be treated as criminal action in civilian courts. The Cole bombing, however, was a military target. I think in this instance, the military commissions are definitely the way to proceed against Nashiri. May justice prevail.

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Written by James Lee

August 27, 2010 at 17:35

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. […] James Lee weighs in with his thoughts on the decision by the Obama administration to shelve the trial of the Al-Qaeda member who headed up the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. […]

  2. […] Some of the headlines you may have missed… AShotAndaBeer’s Blog: The Politics of Terrorism: Cole Bomber Trial […]

  3. It’s perfectly reasonable to have military tribunals — as long as the confinement and trials are fair. That means you can’t torture people for confessions, and defendants have the right to contest the evidence against them. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has severely damaged their credibility in this regard.

    zachriel2

    August 28, 2010 at 09:52

  4. Zachriel, the definition of “torture,” in my mind, is very subjective. Personally, I believe part of a subset of the definition is the person inflicting it takes some pleasure in it. There were very strict guidelines on exactly what was and was not allowed under “enhanced interrogations,” though I agree the area is very gray. The problem arises when faced with an enemy prepared, even expecting, to die for their hatred, with how to reasonably stop them. When you have maniacs who readily sacrifice their own children for that hatred and zealotry, that is something we as civilized people have a very hard time understanding.

    James Lee

    August 28, 2010 at 10:28

  5. James Lee: the definition of “torture,” in my mind, is very subjective.

    It’s not so complicated.

    CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

    James Lee: Personally, I believe part of a subset of the definition is the person inflicting it takes some pleasure in it.

    Um, no. It has to do with the intentional infliction of pain or suffering. And if promises made by the U.S. government, under the U.S. Constitution, signed by the U.S. President, ratified by the U.S. Senate, are meaningful, then they are binding.

    James Lee: There were very strict guidelines on exactly what was and was not allowed under “enhanced interrogations,” though I agree the area is very gray.

    We’re talking about people beaten to death, killed by exposure, put in stress-positions, subjected to sexual abuse, and water-boarded. We’re talking about prisoners kept in black prisons without accountability or rendered to other nations that are known to use torture.

    James Lee: The problem arises when faced with an enemy prepared, even expecting, to die for their hatred, with how to reasonably stop them.

    Anyone can keep their promises when it’s easy.

    George Washington was faced with a situation where torturing British prisoners for information may have yielded actionable intelligence. The stakes were his country, his home, his family, his army, his friends, and to be hung as a common criminal. This is what Washington said about the treatment of captured British soldiers.

    Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren who have fallen into their hands.

    zachriel2

    August 28, 2010 at 12:51

    • I don’t for one moment disagree that we as Americans should be better than others and be the example. There are, however, sometimes extenuating circumstances that must be taken into account. For example, I’m not in favor of killing another human. But if one is intent on harming me or my family, then I would not have much of a problem pulling the trigger.

      It’s an old tired analogy, but the ticking bomb scenario is apt; if the person in your custody knows where it is and how to disarm it, how far is too far to save the innocent lives that will be taken if the bomb is allowed to detonate?

      And for the record, I don’t really count waterboarding as a form of “torture,” but it should only be used in extreme circumstances. As it was. Things such as sensory deprivation, verbal intimidation, etc, also are not torture in my book.

      I’m not saying the US’ hands are totally clean. But our record is much better than most others. Doesn’t make it right, certainly, but there it is.

      James Lee

      August 28, 2010 at 13:19

  6. James Lee: For example, I’m not in favor of killing another human. But if one is intent on harming me or my family, then I would not have much of a problem pulling the trigger.

    People and nations have a fundamental right to self-defense. But self-defense never justifies torture under international law.

    James Lee: It’s an old tired analogy, but the ticking bomb scenario is apt; if the person in your custody knows where it is and how to disarm it, how far is too far to save the innocent lives that will be taken if the bomb is allowed to detonate?

    It’s a old tired analogy because every tin-horn dictator uses the excuse to justify his actions. Saddam killed and tortured all those people to protect his idea of the State. People really were conspiring against him!

    James Lee: And for the record, I don’t really count waterboarding as a form of “torture,” but it should only be used in extreme circumstances.

    And some don’t consider using guns to make withdrawals at the bank to be stealing.

    Read the definition above. If you intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering in order to acquire information, it’s torture. That’s the reason you waterboard someone, or beat them, or suspend them by their wrists, or subject them to hypothermia; to inflict pain and suffering in order to acquire information, or to punish them.

    James Lee: I’m not saying the US’ hands are totally clean. But our record is much better than most others. Doesn’t make it right, certainly, but there it is.

    Under international law, those suspected of authorizing torture are to be prosecuted by the nation involved.

    zachriel2

    August 29, 2010 at 08:14

  7. Obviously, we have a disagreement, and that’s fine. I would like to point out one thing though.

    You seem to try to equate Saddam Hussein using torture, fear, and intimidation to hold on to power with duly-appointed law enforcement officials who in good faith may be attempting to save innocent lives. This is completely off base.

    Again, not condoning actual “torture.” It seems the liberal left in this country, however, wants to make loud music, and drill-sergeant like yelling at someone fit the definition.

    James Lee

    August 29, 2010 at 10:33

    • James Lee: You seem to try to equate Saddam Hussein using torture, fear, and intimidation to hold on to power with duly-appointed law enforcement officials who in good faith may be attempting to save innocent lives.

      If they are “duly-appointed law enforcement officials,” then they can’t be breaking the law. Most of these allegation haven’t even been investigated, and the evidence has been suppressed or destroyed. Power has to be held accountable.

      James Lee: Again, not condoning actual “torture.” It seems the liberal left in this country, however, wants to make loud music, and drill-sergeant like yelling at someone fit the definition.

      Again. We’re talking about people beaten to death, killed by exposure, put in stress-positions, subjected to sexual abuse, and water-boarded. We’re talking about prisoners kept in black prisons without accountability or rendered to other nations that are known to use torture.

      There is no legal justification for torture. And if the promises of the United States mean anything, they have to mean something during desperate times, and not just pontificating.

      zachriel2

      August 29, 2010 at 14:06


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