Justice in New York City

November 13, 2009 6:11 am

I didn’t live in New York on 9/11, though my wife did and was down there near the base of the buildings before they fell. I moved here in 2004. But as someone who lives here with his family, someone who’s made his life here, I feel really good that the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks are going to be brought back here to the scene of the crime to face justice as criminals. This isn’t just a matter of wanting to see punishment. It also vindicates our system of justice and values — and for it all to happen here, the scene of the crime, among the people of this city, not out on some island or in some secret jail.Listening to the questions at Attorney General Holder’s press conference, I’m hearing again fears about giving the defendants a platform “to air their hateful views.” But really, who is so cowardly as to worry about what these five say? Is our standing and self-respect so brittle?

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) says it makes New York City more of a target for attacks. And there’s at least some logic to the argument. But fundamentally, I don’t think terrorists aren’t attacking New York because they don’t think there’s enough reason to do so. And I trust the appropriate officials will keep the city’s people safe.

There’s a widespread belief that many seem to have that calling these people criminals and treating them as such somehow elevates their status and diminishes the fact that al Qaeda has effectively been making war on the United States. I’ve never understood this mindset. The key point in World War II is that at the end of the war the Allies would not deign to accord the leaders of Germany and Japan the respect accorded to defeated armies. They were tried as criminals. Because that is what they were.

Whether it’s fear that our justice system can’t mete justice out to these men, or worry that KSM or the others might mouth off about us at their trial, or concern about future attacks, I am continually surprised that the voices of cowardice and fear manage to convince themselves and others that they speak for courage and determination.

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