This is probably a great triumph for something, but I can't say that I'm very happy about the development. In my youth, and the years that followed, it seemed that the American judicial system was, at least in part, dedicated to protecting those who hurt others from facing the logical consequences of their acts, and punishing those who tried to protect themselves. This news reminds me of those 'good old days.'
The White House decision may not be completely daft, though: "...Obama administration officials told The Associated Press that the charges against al-Nashiri will be dismissed without prejudice. That means new charges can be brought again later. He will remain in prison for the time being...." (AP)
America: A Nation of LawJudges interpreting the law may on occasion seem delusional: finding "penumbras, formed by emanations" that few others can see. But I am banking on checks and balances built into the American government, real-world phenomena related to actuarial data, and the occasional spasms of common sense that visit even the highest echelons of America's leadership, to keep American law from becoming a farce.
There's no doubt that American law isn't perfect: but with occasional exceptions the American legal system has been intended as a method of determining what's true, what's not, and, in criminal cases, who (if anybody) is guilty. I'll take what we've got over my ancestors' methods of settling disputes any day. "Njal's Saga"1 is, in its own way, an inspiring tale of courage and determination. But I'm grateful for some of the changes in custom and jurisprudence which have come during the last millennium.
My point is that (generally speaking) American courts don't make decisions based on what the judge feels like that day, and that there is a complex - sometimes maddeningly so - process that by and large brings out facts and identifies baseless assumptions.
I trust that this process will be carried out, for al-Nashiri and the hundreds of other probable terrorists who are now in 'Gitmo.'
Sympathy, Common Sense, and American LeadershipMy sympathy is for the families and friends of the 17 American sailors killed aboard the USS Cole. I hope that they can face another disappointment with dignity and fortitude.
As for America's leaders, I sincerely hope that they can consider the strong possibility that outfits like Al Qaeda and the Taliban are a real threat to America - and anyone else who doesn't follow what they think Islam is.
And, that Congress, the courts, and whoever is in the Oval Office for the next few decades can remember that, for all their human failings, the CIA and FBI are not our enemies.
What do I Have Against Yemen?Since a quick look at the 'related posts' down there might give the idea that I have a low opinion, at best, about Yemen, I thought I'd sketch out how I see the territory.
Last year, after reading more about Yemen, I came to the conclusion that parts of the Yemeni national government are more-or-less allied with America. I still think that this is likely. That doesn't mean that I think that traveling in Yemen is a good idea, or that many of the country's people have gotten used to the 12th century yet.
As I wrote last year: "From what I've read, I think it would be more accurate to say that the Yemeni national government is an ally of America in the war on terror.
"The tribesmen of Yemen, who haven't gotten used to the idea of nation-states yet, don't seem to pay much attention to what the national government wants. My guess is that it's more important for them that Osama bin Laden's family came from Yemen. Besides, Al Qaeda says that they're protecting Islam from unbelieving foreigners: and America is just simply crawling with foreigners...."
More-or-less related posts:
- "USS Cole, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and The War on Terror"
(January 13, 2009)
- "Yemen: Terrorists, Tribesmen, and an American Teen"
(September 18, 2008)
- "Leaky Prisons, Air-Tight Internet: Yemen, Turkey, and the Islamic Way?"
(May 5, 2008)
- "Global Patriot Reporting: Anti-American Bias? Could Be "
(March 25, 2008)
- The Cole attack, common sense, and the news
- "USS Cole Mastermind Back in Prison; Or Never Was Released; Or Something Like That"
(October 28, 2007)
- "Jamal al-Badawi: Al Qaeda Leader, Cole Conspirator, and Free Man"
(October 27, 2007)
- "Jamal Badawi Blew Up USS Cole, Yemen Released Him"
(October 26, 2007)
- "Congress Must Decide Who to Protect Americans From"
(August 5, 2007)
- "Sources: Charges to be dropped in terror trial"
The Associated Press (February 5, 2009)
- "Obama likely to drop charges in Cole bombing case: TV"
Reuters (February 5, 2009)
- "Family of Cole dead to visit Gitmo for arraignment"
PilotOnline.com (February 5, 2009)
1 Njal's Saga (also called "The Story of Burnt Njal," Njáls saga, and other names) is an account of a dispute among Icelanders that led to Nyaal (yet another spelling in American English), an upstanding man, being trapped in his house with his wife and child (I'm oversimplifying here).
The hero of the story gets burned alive? about halfway through? And I call this an "inspiring tale of courage and determination" ?!
Yes: Because of the way Njal faced death. Njal was not a young man. He and part of his family were trapped in their house. There was no way out. If they left the house, they would be killed. If they stayed inside, they would be killed.
It was an unpleasant situation.
I'll pick up the action in Njal's house, by now surrounded by enemies of Njal, who have arson on their minds.
"There had been an ox slaughtered and the hide lay there. Njal told the steward to spread the hide over them, and he did so.
"So there they lay down both of them in their bed, and put the boy between them. Then they signed themselves and the boy with the cross, and gave over their souls into God's hand, and that was the last word that men heard them utter...." ("Njal's Saga, as translated by Sir George W. DaSent (London, 1861))
The way I see it, Njal decided to make a statement: that his enemies were of so little consequence to him that he would ignore them, and take his death lying down. Or, 'you can kill me, but you can't make me take you seriously.'
Burning (relatively) defenseless people alive wasn't high on the list of things a Viking can brag about. Actually, it wasn't even on the list. (" 'We shall have to boast of something else than that Njal has been burnt in his house,' says Flosi, 'for there is no glory in that.' ")
I have great respect for the courage and determination of people like Njal. I'm also profoundly glad that my ancestors, and the rest of Western civilization, found other methods of resolving disputes.