The Politics of Terrorism: Cole Bomber Trial
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.