Recently I got an email asking my opinion of an electronic petition.
The petition, circulated via email, protests the White House’s proposed plan to conduct terrorist trials in New York.
There are actually several petitions, one being conducted by Trey Grayson, currently Secretary of State for Kentucky. Trey wants to be a Senator and he figures to rally the base with his little petition. The other one, the one being circulated primarily by email is from a site called iPetition where anybody can float a petition of any kind, from stopping terrorism to stopping Mylie Cryus.
I wasn’t entirely sure whether the writer was asking what I think of electronic petitions or the proposed terrorism trials in New York.
So I’ll answer both.
First, Electronic Petitions:
Personally I think electronic petitions are complete crap and a waste of time. Petitions in general rarely work other than on the local level, they almost never affect the actions of the state or federal government in any way, shape, or form. And in this case, I think they make angry people feel as if they’re doing something, but the truth of the matter is that while 500,000 "signatures" sounds like a lot, it's only a fraction of the national population - and a small enough fraction that politicians can safely ignore it. Politicians routinely ignore the opinions of millions, just as long as those millions are in the opposing party, so why would they pay any attention at all to a petition where the majority of “signatures” aren’t even in their voting district?
And the truth of the matter is that they don’t pay any attention to them at all.
In fact, there is nothing in the law, again at the national level (local governments may have different local laws) that says the government has to pay any attention to a petition no matter how many signatures it contains. We are a representative democracy, i.e. a republic, once elected our leaders are not obligated to bend to the will of the mob - and often don't. If you don’t like that, or what your leaders are deciding in your name, well you can vote them out of office next time around. And in the case of electronic petitions, I think that is a good thing, there’s a reason why our forefathers didn’t set up the United States as a pure democracy and why they didn’t design our government to operate by will of the mob – especially by the will of the mob as expressed by some bogus petition. Up above I said electronic petitions are crap, and crap I meant. There is no way to verify that the "signatures" are valid on an electronic petition, or that the “signatures” are from registered voters or competent adults or even from Americans. And in fact, the “signatures” are not signatures at all, not even electronic ones.
The irony of the electronic petition in this case is that the vast majority of people “signing” it are the same folks who are screaming bloody murder about “voter fraud” and ACORN and “usurpers”, and yet they willingly add their email address to a database that has no oversight or voter verification of any kind. For all they know, 499,000 of those half million signatures could be from illegal aliens.
Also, I really, really, don’t want my name on a list with these illiterate, ignorant, hysterical, mouth breathing dullards (really, read the post and then for an extra treat read the comments – that, my friends, is the NeoCon “Base” right there. These are the folks who intend to vote for Sarah Palin. Wow).
Personally, I think these types of petitions are a singularly useless gesture.
The terrorist trials in New York:
If it was up to me, I'd try them in the wreckage of the WTC, and if found guilty I hang them on a gallows set up dead center on ground zero - right off the top of that one remaining stairway New Yorkers want to turn into a monument.
See terrorists, they believe in gestures, in symbolic actions - which is why they chose the WTC and Pentagon and the White House in the first place. I’d give them a gesture, I would try them in the midst of the carnage they wrought, surrounded by the city and the nation they failed to destroy and the relatives of the victims.
And as a great big old symbolic fuck you to the goddamned terrorists, I’d try them as common criminals.
I wouldn’t call it a terrorist trial. I try them as common hijackers, as common arsonists, as common murders. I’d never mention terrorism or radical Islam and I wouldn’t let them do it either. I wouldn’t let them be martyrs or symbols. No statements, no grandstanding, no posturing. Period. Just as in any trial where the accused wants to make a speech or derail the proceedings or behave in an unruly fashion, he can either behave and stick to the facts and accusations or be put in a room with a big evil tempered bailiff and a closed circuit TV and tried anyway.
I think at this point we are facing a catch-22. The previous administration’s handling of these men – i.e the taint of torture, rendition, Gitmo, extra constitutional means, and the bizarre legal limbo of non-national “enemy combatant” status - has irretrievably fouled the situation.
1) I think it's a mistake to try them in civilian court. I think the evidence is profoundly tainted at this point, and we either have to throw it out and allow for the significant possibility that these men will be set free - not found innocent, mind you, but set free because the evidence against them cannot be used – or we must break our own laws and conduct show trials with the conclusion and assumption of guilt a forgone conclusion, and that will finally destroy any remaining illusion that we are a nation of law and justice in the eyes of our own people and the world – though I have no doubt the knuckle dragging “Patriots” linked to above would approve, which is as good of reason as any to avoid doing this in the first place.
2) I think the concept of a trial by military commission is flawed. I seriously doubt that anybody believes that these men would get a fair and honest trial if tried by military commission (though I do think that they could, depending on the conditions of the tribunal and its makeup). And the world’s perception matters – yes, it does. America needs the rest of the world to fight the real threats, we need the rest of the world if we are to win in Afghanistan, don’t think for one moment that we don’t. We need the rest of the world if we are to eradicate the growing threat of terrorism and piracy off the Horn of Africa for example. Terrorism is an international problem, it requires an international solution and cooperation. If America appears to be a nation who disregards her own law, who disregards international law and agreement, who goes rogue – why then would anyone cooperate with us? And the answer is, they won’t. QED.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we don’t give these men a fair and honest trial for their sakes, we give them a fair and honest trial for our own sake, for the sake of the United States of America. We are a nation of law, and a nation who adheres to our law and obligations even when they don’t suit us, or we are not. Period.
We’re Americans, we’re supposed to be the good guys.
These men, no matter how evil, must have a fair and non biased trial.
Hopefully followed by a fine hanging.
There was a time when these men could have received a fair and untainted trial in America, we are long past that point – it does no good to fix blame on either the Obama Administration or that of George W. Bush. It is what it now is, and we must find a way to deal with it with in the context of our own law.
Personally, I think at this point, that only solution that satisfies all criteria would be an international war crimes commission.
But Americans won’t stand for that. These men attacked us, and we will have our pound of flesh for 911.
No matter what it costs us in the long run.