In the name of

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January 3, 2002 1:18 a.m.

“In the name of Allah, I do not have anything to plead and I enter no plea,” Zacarias Moussaoui told the trial judge in Alexandria, Virginia when asked to enter a plea yesterday. Some apparently think this is an example of why we shouldn’t give terrorists a platform for mouthing propaganda, but rather try them in secret military tribunals.

But isn’t the answer to this sort of backtalk just ‘who cares?’

Are we so pitiful that this bothers us?

There may be a place and a rationale for military tribunals. But this one is pretty weak.

On the other hand, why should Moussaoui – who actually came to America and plotted a specific terrorist act – get a civilian trial, when some poor shlub in Afghanistan who barely made it out of the training camp gets strung up in a military tribunal? One pretty clear answer would be that if you get caught on American soil you get tried in our courts. But that clean division seems already to have been ruled out by the President’s original executive order, which makes no such distinction.

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