Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

Today the Obama administration announced that trials of five people accused of participation in the 9/11 attacks will be held in New York City in Federal Court. It was also announced that five other Guantanamo detainees will be tried by a military court for their part in the attack on the USS Cole.  It’s about time.  The Bush administration did nothing during eight years in office to mete out justice to these individuals.  Instead they have all been held without trial at the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba.  One can only wonder at the thought processes of the people in the Bush administration.

Guilt and innocence are black and white. A person has either committed a crime or they haven’t.  The government either has proof of their guilt or it doesn’t.

Predictably, the extreme right wing of American politics, i.e. the Republicans are upset about the Obama administration’s plans to conduct a trial in New York City. It seems that these people would prefer a hanging without a trial.  Or, as they shout loudly, they would prefer a military trial where the defendants won’t have the same rights to a fair trial that Americans enjoy.  And then, of course there is the Republican “concern” about putting these people in American prisons if they are found guilty.  It seems that they feel that American prisons are not too dependable.  What if these people escaped? So, these confused Republicans like the idea of keeping them in a makeshift prison camp in Cuba where they seem to feel escape is impossible instead of a maximum security prison in the U.S. from which no one has ever escaped.

The holding of trials in New York City is exactly what should be done.  NYC is the scene of the crime.  The people of New York City, who will be the jurors in these cases, will have the opportunity themselves to determine the guilt or innocence of each defendant. This is the epitome of American justice.  So what are Senators Cornyn, Smith, McCain and Lieberman worried about? (I know that Lieberman is not a Republican, but he might as well be and give up the sham of pretending to be an Independent.) Do they think our system of justice is inferior to the military system?  Really?  Is that what United States Senators think these days? Do they think that maybe these people won’t be convicted because the evidence is not compelling enough? Well…. isn’t that what a trial is all about?

Let’s suppose that in the case of one of these individuals that the government doesn’t actually have any proof that this person committed the crime of which they are accused.  Let’s say that maybe the government only has a strong suspicion and maybe some hearsay evidence that no court would admit as evidence.  So maybe they get found innocent.  What is wrong with that?  A person is either guilty or innocent.  You either have the proof or you don’t.  If you don’t have the proof how can you put someone to death?  Are the Republicans looking to hold fair trails or would they just prefer a witch hunt where you judge the person guilty without evidence and then you just kill him. Is that the Republican concept of justice?

Let’s suppose that one of these people is put on trial and the jury finds them innocent because the government has no proof that they are guilty. What should be done?  Should we kill them anyway or should they be set free?  My guess is that these Republican Senators would prefer the “kill him anyway” approach.  This is how far the Republican Party, in all its paranoia, has drifted away from truth, logic, justice, and American ideals.  We cannot be afraid of holding a fair trial even for Osama bin Laden if he is captured.  Facts are facts. Truth is truth. We either have the evidence or we don’t. If we don’t have the evidence, how can we pronounce anyone guilty of anything?

It is my guess that the government has a massive amount of evidence against each of these individuals. It is my guess that they will all be found guilty and be sentenced to death. Why are these Republicans so upset? Do they have no faith in American justice or would rather not have justice at all? Should we just hang them all because they look guilty or because they are Muslims? Could it be that the only “proof” we have is from confessions made during waterboarding torture sessions?

Whatever the worries of the ultra-right wing Republican Party, there is no excuse for not providing American justice for these people. Anything else is a vote of no confidence in our democracy.  It is a vote of no confidence in our system of justice.  It is a vote of no confidence in the ability of ordinary Americans to be part of a jury and come to the correct decisions.

The thing I don’t understand is this: how can these U.S. Senators say these outrageous insults about our American system of justice and then still call themselves Americans? Perhaps they need to resign from the Senate and let some true believers in American ideals take their place.

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As the U.S. Army, the soldiers at Fort Hood, and the American population in general come to grips with the catastrophe that occurred at Fort Hood with the murder of thirteen people and the wounding of twenty-nine others, it is only natural to try to see if we can draw some sort of lesson from this tragic incident. Is there something that can be done to try to insure that this sort of assault won’t happen again or must the army live with the knowledge that this sort of thing might just reoccur again and again? And beyond the army, is there a lesson here for the American public too?

The facts, as we know them today, seem to indicate that the perpetrator of the massacre, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was indeed an Islamic radical and that his sympathies lay with the enemies of America. For whatever reasons, the army failed to take notice of the abundant evidence that indicated that the loyalties of this man were very questionable.  Instead he was treated as a trusted American citizen-soldier, and it was assumed that his complete and utter loyalty was to the United States and its people – his fellow citizens. However, the army was completely wrong in their assumption. Why?

Why, indeed.  Today’s army is certainly a lot different from the army of World War II when Japanese citizens were not even allowed to join the army.   Most Japanese Americans were confined to internment camps because, as a group, they were simply not trusted. It didn’t matter whether they were citizens or not. Eventually, Japanese men, mostly from Hawaii, were allowed into a couple of mostly Japanese units , like the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  The 442nd performed heroically, earning 21 Medals of Honor. This was a unit that had something to prove – their loyalty to America – and they proved it indeed.

The issue, of course, during World War II was whether Japanese Americans could be trusted.  In today’s much more politically correct world we do not dare to wonder whether Muslim-Americans can be trusted.  We like to think we have moved beyond the simple racial prejudices of the 20th Century. We like to think that we can follow the ideal of  “all men are created equal” and therefore we don’t want to discriminate based upon race, religion, and so forth.  The interesting thing is that the government does discriminate all the time when it comes to protecting classified information. Try to get a very high level security clearance if you have an uncle who is a leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan. I guarantee it won’t happen.  Let’s suppose your father is a citizen and still lives in North Korea, do you think the government will allow you access to our most secret nuclear technology? Not in a million years.  Is this discrimination or is it just common sense?

We’ve been dealing with this issue since 9/11. The issue is profiling.  Is it right to be suspicious of someone just because they have similar beliefs, appearance, citizenship, and language as the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks? Or must we follow our ideal of “all men are created equal and everyone is innocent until proven guilty”?  Is that what the army does in Afghanistan when they see someone who appears to be a member of the Taliban? Or is the army a bit more cautious in these circumstances? What does common sense say to do?

The evidence so far indicates that red flags were flying in the face of the army, but the army stubbornly ignored them. More investigation is, of course, still needed, but the facts are the facts: Major Hasan shouted Allahu akbar!  Then he opened fire and mercilessly killed and wounded a lot of U.S. soldiers.  If there was ever an obvious lesson to be learned it is this: army security is insufficient. The question is what should be done to fix it.  It would seem that more thorough background investigations of Muslim members of the Army is needed.  I know that this is distasteful to some, but consider this: suppose we were at war with Australia, wouldn’t we want to take a closer look at Australian members of our army? I know we are not at war with Islam – although Osama bin Laden would love it if we were – but even so, common sense dictates that Muslims in the army be given more careful scrutiny – just in case. Doesn’t that make sense?  Would the Muslim community be outraged over that, and if so why?  Everyone who gets into a very trusted position in the U.S. government has to prove their loyalty by undergoing a very through background investigation.  People who work in these very sensitive positions simply accept that. They aren’t insulted. They know that you can never be too careful.

The lesson of the Fort Hood massacre is this: we don’t need to go back to World War II style internment camps, but the military does need to do more thorough background checks on some people. Perhaps being Muslim is reason enough to trigger a closer background investigation, perhaps not. It needs to be looked into. Our government has always used profiling when handing out top-level security clearances – that is only common sense.  The army also needs to take a common sense approach – not an idealistic approach – reality is seldom ideal.  This isn’t the world of Pollyanna.  The U.S. military used to know that, I wonder when they forgot?

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Recently, U.S. authorities made preemptive arrests in five separate cases of potential terrorist attacks.  In all of these cases the alleged perpetrators are Muslims.  It most of these cases the plan was to murder innocent people.  (One plan was to attack a U.S. Marine Corps base – an incredibly stupid thing to do by a bunch of amateurs, and certainly something they would have deeply regretted if they had tried to execute their plan.) At least one of the plans was reminiscent of 9/11 in that it involved an attempt to bomb a skyscraper – full of innocent people.

In the years since 9/11 there has been a long string of murderous attacks on innocents, all performed in the name of Islam. Some of the most notable have been in Spain, England, Indonesia, and India.  The question that comes to mind is this: is the murder of innocents condoned by Islam?  I’m sure the answer is “no”.  But then I must ask why haven’t these attacks been condemned by the leaders of Islam?  The answer partly lies in the fact that there is no one leader of Islam.  Islam doesn’t have a Pope or an Archbishop of Canterbury, it doesn’t have any sort of unified structure that could produce a single voice. Islam is spread across many nations, and it appears that the leadership of Islam exists only on a local level.  I don’t know of any Islamic leader that speaks for the people of more than one country.

I can understand this.  There is no requirement for a unified Islam; in fact, there are some deep differences within Islam that seem to preclude this from ever happening.  There is nothing wrong with that; however, that is not an excuse for silence.  If the leadership of Islam is made up of tens or hundreds or even thousands of men who each are responsible for the religious instruction of their followers, the question I would put to each of them is the same: “Does Islam approve of the murder of innocents?” If the answer is no, and I am sure it is, then it is these leaders who have a moral obligation to come forth and say so.  If the voice is Islam is actually many voices, then it is time for these many voices to realize that the world needs to hear from them.  The world needs to hear that the murderers who kill and maim innocents for economic or political reasons, and yet say that are doing so in the name of the Prophet, are wrong – they do not represent Islam.

Perhaps some of the leaders of Islam have already said such things and their voices have been lost in the worldwide clamor of voices that serves as our news.  I am sure that some of these leaders must have spoken up.  Yet, their voices are not heard.  The people of America and Europe need to hear a strong voice from Islam condemning the murder of innocents, and if this voice of Islam is not strong enough it must become stronger, because the honor of Islam is at stake.  It is the cruel murderers of innocents who besmirch the name of Islam, but it is the silence of the leaders of Islam that these murderers take as approval for their heinous crimes against humanity.

Now is the time for Islam to find its strong voice and condemn all acts of murderous terrorism against innocents, for however appalling the loss of life that occurs in these attacks, even deeper damage is done to Islam itself when its many leaders remain silent.

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