Monday, November 23, 2009

It Takes a Nation of Cowards to Hold Us Back

Last week Eric Holder gave testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, addressing his decision to take the 911 terrorists out of the military justice system and bring them to New York City to participate in a civilian trial. His remarks about those who criticized his decision were of note. After initially stating that reasonable people could disagree on this matter, he proceeded to denigrate the motives of those who would do just that:

"I have every confidence the nation and the world will see [Khalid Sheik mohammed] for the coward he is," Holder says in a written version of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "I'm not scared of what (Mohammed) will have to say at trial -- and no one else needs to be either."

Holder's gratuitous testament to his own bravery reminds me of a scene from the movie "The Paper Chase". Harvard Law, contracts class, Professor Kingsfield grinding down his charges via the Socratic Method. A student explaining "force majeure" uses an example of an apartment that burns down before the lessee takes residence thus freeing him from the contract. He adds "that actually happened to me," causing the class to laugh. Kingsfield silences the room, icily interrupting with: "personal commentary is not necessary".

The judiciary committee could have used a man like that last week. (Kingsfield for Senate in 2010!)

In contrast to his own bravery, Holder also makes the implication that those who oppose civilian trials for these terrorist are driven by fear. He reiterates this later in his testimony:

Holder vowed that the U.S. would not surrender to fear or politics in seeking justice in federal court for the alleged Sept. 11 plotters.

"We need not cower in the face of this enemy," Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee at a packed hearing. "Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm and our people are ready."
Those opposing civilian trials are "cowering". This follows his previous characterization of KSM as a "coward". Holder seems to have a thing for using this slur. You may recall within his first few weeks in office as Attorney General, virtually his first public pronouncement was to call out the American people:

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder said.
This may explain a lot. A civilian trial requires judgment by a jury of one's peers. Holder may believe a coward like KSM can only get a fair trial if the jury is picked from the pool of cowards that is the American people.

Of course, the American people aren't cowards. The accusation that "fear" is the driving force of an idea, policy, or a criticism has become a common debating tactic of liberals and Democrat party activists. Name the issue, any issue, and you will be able to easily find a chorus of hectoring voices from the Left attempting to shame opposition or silence dissent by saying it's "fear mongering," as opposed to their rational, intellectual, and dispassionate analysis of the issues.

It is disheartening to see the Attorney General of the United States adopting the tactics of Keith Olberman, the Daily Kos, and Democratic Underground. Decorum alone should prevent those at the highest levels of government from publicly denigrating the motives of the opposition. More to the point, someone in Holder's position ought to be doing more than paying lip service to dissenting views. He should be legitimately trying to understand them and perhaps letting the more persuasive arguments influence his decisions.

If he's not aware of any non-fearful critics of his decision to bring the 911 terrorists to New York for a media sensation, here's one:

An attorney for one of the five men to be put on trial says all five will use their time in court to speak out against U.S. foreign policy.

That news did not sit will with the father of Minnesota 9-11 victim Tom Burnett Jr. His son died trying to take control of Flight 93, and Tom Burnett Sr. says his son,
and thousands of others, never got a chance to speak.

"It's a slap in my face, and all of the people who lost someone that day to have these vermin put on trial in New York City and get away with what I think they'll get away with," said Burnett Sr.

Succinctly and eloquently put. It is not "cowering" to want to prevent handing the murderers of September 11 a stage and megaphone in which to shout that their victims got what they deserved. Justice can be fairly meted out by other means which would deny them this privilege.

A few years ago, when the President was a Republican, parents of war time casualties dissenting against administration policy were said by liberals to have "absolute moral authority". Do the parents of Tom Burnett deserve the same consideration? Or are they cowards who should be ignored?

The measure of the Burnetts' bravery is best exemplified in the final words of their son in a phone call to his wife, on September 11, 2001:

Tom: We're waiting until we're over a rural area. We're going to take back the airplane.

Deena: No! Sit down, be still, be quiet, and don't draw attention to yourself! (The exact words taught to me by Delta Airlines Flight Attendant Training).

Tom: Deena! If they're going to crash this plane into the ground, we're going to have do something!

Deena: What about the authorities?

Tom: We can't wait for the authorities. I don't know what they could do anyway. It's up to us. I think we can do it.

Deena: What do you want me to do?

Tom: Pray, Deena, just pray.

Deena: (after a long pause) I love you.

Tom: Don't worry, we're going to do something.

A lesson in bravery even Eric Holder can learn something from.

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