Updated: January 1, 2013 6:24AM
It was a small news item the other day and you might have missed it. India executed the one surviving gunman from the Mumbai terrorist attack four years ago. India’s swift but fair delivery of justice by hanging a murderer who helped kill 160 people stands in stark contrast to the bipartisan bungled, listless, lethargic, bordering-on-incompetent prosecution of terrorists responsible for mass murders of Americans.
More than a decade after the worst terrorism on American soil, we are still essentially in pre-trial maneuvering for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, described by the 9/11 Commission as “the principal architect” of the 2001 attacks and blamed for other atrocities, including the beheading of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
That sorry record makes a mockery of justice, is an insult to the dead and their survivors, and gives comfort to our radical Islamist enemies who believe we are weak and lack the will for the long war they intend to wage against America.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. The administration of President George W. Bush mismanaged the prosecution of KSM, as he’s come to be known, from the start, and screwed up the establishment of a military tribunal system to try him and other captured enemy combatants. That left those of us agreeing with Bush’s aggressive pursuit of the war on terror perplexed by the administration’s foot dragging in bringing the 9/11 miscreants and other terrorists to justice.
The case got handed off to President Barack Obama, and his administration botched it as well. It decided to try KSM in a civilian criminal court in New York, raising a howl of protests from Democrats and Republicans worried about the unprecedented and burdensome security measures such a trial would have required. That awful idea was abandoned.
More critically, this episode understandably left the impression that the Obama administration views terrorism as a criminal matter more than an issue of war. It’s a view that continues to cause trouble for the White House to this day, as demonstrated by the heated controversy over whether the administration, through U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, tried for political reasons before the Nov. 6 election to minimize the self-evident terrorism in the killing of four Americans in Libya and inaccurately if not falsely claimed al-Qaida had been “decimated.”
By any standard of justice, KSM should have been rotting in hell years ago. Instead, he’s poised to try to manipulate his trial as guerrilla theater playing to a global audience of appreciative Islamist fanatics.
As awful as the KSM affair is, at least it hasn’t descended to the level of farce as in the case of Nidal Hasan, the military psychiatrist turned Islamist gunman who killed 13 people and wounded 29 in a 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. His trial was delayed as lawyers wrangle in an appeals court over whether he can defy military regulations by keeping the beard he grew while in jail.
America hasn’t always been so incapable of delivering timely justice. Terrorist Timothy McVeigh was convicted within two years and executed within six years of the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.
The difference is an exaggerated sensibility in Washington and among our elites not to be perceived as somehow anti-Muslim by prosecuting radical Islamist murderers. That’s accompanied by worry over being characterized in Europe as exemplars of cowboy justice. We’d be better off paying attention to the example of India: The world’s biggest democracy puts justice for its people and defeat for its foes ahead of the kind of feckless fretting over appearances that only comforts and emboldens our enemies.