As a New Yorker, and as an American, I think we should. Without a doubt.
The biggest argument from the right is that Bush 43 set up an updated Military Tribunal system after 9/11 with a specific purpose of allowing certain extra-legal procedures and lowering the standard of evidence in a trial. The system also dis-allows the whole “reasonable doubt” argument. This will make it easier to convict terrorists and those that support them.
This is all fine and good, except the fact that it goes against everything we, as a country, have fought for. If the president (in this case, Bush) can just make up rules that overstep his executive power and start bringing judicial and legislative power into his realm, we may as well have a king again. I’m not huge on history, but I’m pretty sure we had that Revolutionary War thing to get away from this whole problem.
The other argument is that we should try them in Military Tribunals because they are war criminals. The problem here is that WE ARE NOT AT WAR. See, we can call it a “war on terrorism.” That makes a great bumper sticker, but that does not make it a war. Congress has to declare war, and they haven’t. And never will.
If we try to try these (alleged) killers as war criminals without a declaration of war, we will be violating the Geneva Convention. Unless you follow the War Crimes Act of 1996, which states that crimes “… committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.” is a reason to treat them as war criminals, in which case the charges could just as easily be leveled against the U.S. for invading other countries without a declaration of War.
Don’t get me wrong, here. I support the men and women that are trying to make us safer. Just because I’m not a supporter of the war doesn’t mean I don’t support the cause. Saying anti-war means anti-troops, is akin to saying that a fear of needles means you are anti-medicine. One does not necessitate the other.
If we give them a military trial, they get what they want. A reason to say that it is a war against us, it will legitimize their cause and make them martyrs. If we try them in district court, it will diminish them from the warriors they believe themselves to be into what they truly are. Common criminals.
The southern district of NewYork, where the trial will be held, has tried and convicted dozens of terrorists. They can handle the security the trials will require. They can handle the pressure of the trials. They’re best equipped for the media circus it will become. And as far as an impartial jury is concerned, it will be just as difficult to find 12 people in Idaho as New York who are neutral on the subject.
I say bring it on. If we don’t bring criminals like this to trial, we lose.