By a hall of a libertarian Don Meinshausen
There’s been a long lasting controversy and much current noise about whether to try accused terrorists, in courts. People from all over agree that these terrorists have operated all over the world and especially in Iran, for too long with outrageous impunity. Some say it makes perfect sense to try violent villains in a court of law where outraged victims were allowed to present their case against them. It would have been great theater just to watch these creeps squirm in a witness stand where they had no power to hurt others. For once they would be where the whole world would watch them so they can feel the scorn and hatred of outraged people. Don’t forget that these evildoers were getting funds from those who have much oil money. And they have yet to explain themselves. Such types have actually succeeded in imposing and maintaining tyrannies that have ruined societies and economies in many countries.
However those who want such trials should keep in mind the guidelines of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals. These famous trials were held in that city because it was close to where the victims lived. So why not continue this tradition with other war crimes tribunals? This way the victims who have survived this terror can easily go and watch or testify at this trial. The victims and their families have the option of not taking part or ignoring the proceedings.
At Nuremberg it was established as a principle of justice that the defendants have rights to be respected even if they were involved in crimes against humanity. This is so that these procedures will not be seen as just vengeance by the victors. Those who sit in judgment must set high standards. This means that fundamental rights must be upheld in the trial such as; choice of counsel, the ability to summon witnesses and cross-examine and the defendants not to be subjected to torture. Even if the accused did not observe these rules one must honor them. If the tribunal seeks the respect of intelligent world opinion then standards of justice must be maintained EVEN IF THE ACCUSED DOES NOT DESERVE IT.
But why bring up these arguments about a war crimes tribunal that never happened after 30 years? Because this is what should have happened during the Iranian hostage crisis when the radical students arrested CIA and US embassy personnel in Teheran. The students at that time could have organized a very interesting trial that would have attracted judicial and ethical leaders from all over the world. There would have been worldwide media attention and their revolution would have benefited not only in opinion from outside opinion but as a moderating influence on the newly minted state.
However, the students had no idea what was going on. The new Iranian government of religious fundamentalists was making a deal with the new American government of religious fundamentalists about holding the hostages until the Ayatollah Reagan got in power He would then sell Iran arms to fight Iraq.
In other words if the students had tried the embassy personnel they would have educated the world as well as themselves about the horrible regime of the Shah of Iran. He and his trained secret police, the Savak, were both put in and trained by the CIA. The CIA or the embassy personnel on trial would have had to fess up to what they were doing in imposing and supporting police states to help oil companies, arms sales and such. This would have been a tremendous benefit to the American people as they learned where their tax money had been spent. The hostages would be safe as it is far better to embarrass the US government and the oil companies than to punish the few pawns caught in the embassy. Like the historical outcome the hostages would have been released in a magnanimous gesture of forgiveness by the new regime after the secret arm sales went through after the inauguration of Reagan. But as Ron’s campaign slogan went: “It is Mourning in America.”
And what about the current controversy of the trials of the terrorists that were interned in Guantanamo who may soon be tried in American courts? Their notoriety deserves judicious notice. Whenever anyone hears about any crazy violent killing of any type most everyone has the same question: “Why did these people do such a thing?” Even concerning the grimmest, most rabid of raving serial killers, outside of governments or religions, everyone wants to know what these psychotics have to say for themselves and why they did it so that further insanity can be avoided.
This is especially true for politically motivated crimes and trials. The defendants must have their say in court no matter how embarrassing for anyone. They must be allowed to present their case publicly. And if it exposes shameful behavior of the American government and its allies then so be it. This will not excuse their behavior just as their behavior is not an excuse for the violation of rights done by the US government.
. Many US citizens concerned about the implementation of policy to protect our rights want to see the Islamic terrorist way of thinking explain itself in a court of law. The more public and fair the trial the less sympathy these madmen will have here and in their home countries. Remember when a large entity defends itself from an attack by a smaller one it is important not to appear as a bully or even as a Goliath vs. David match. It is part of the nature of humans to identify with and even root for the smaller player and to see them as brave.
It is therefore especially important to define these shocking events in the history and the cultures of the time in a fair and public way so our ideals are seen as justice. These misguided souls live in their own myth that needs a thorough public discussion and dissection of their warped thinking with media coverage from around the world. This is so as to not make themselves into a martyr within any culture.
And this is the best way to defend a moral system under attack. For those who attack a standard of moral order are obliged to raise and uphold another as well as withstand critique. There is no mistake they wanted attention to some real grievances. In that corner of the world there is a smothering neo-colonialism, corruption, tyranny and hopelessness as in the much of the Third World. What makes this area a breeding ground for religious violence is that Islamic fanaticism is seen there as the only space where a poor man can find acceptance, justice, brotherhood and expression within a respected tradition. And while reforms are badly needed this does not excuse terrorism.
Therefore to try these supposed terrorists it is incumbent on those who create the theater of justice (and it is a theater) must take into account civil libertarian and conservative Islamic legal traditions as well to determine justice. From what I hear about Islam this is not difficult. Even under Sharia terrorist acts are considered horrible deeds.
The idea is that if you judge then by the same standards shall you be judged. You build a hall of justice and share a standard with others. At the same time you’ll be liable to stand in the defense dock if you break the rules of the hall. If not, all hall will break loose.