Well, I guess that Poi Dog Pondering is back with a new album (called "7"). Apparently the band is based out of Chicago these days, but I still remember them as a local Austin favorite from back in my high school days. Anyway, I haven't bought their new album yet, but I've listened to the samples of their songs online, and at a first glance, the new album sounds pretty decent. Anyway, it's good to see a local band from my youth still going strong. I kind of miss The Reivers as well, but apparently it's quite rare that they get together these days.
And five terror suspects implicated in the 9/11 attacks, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are being put on trial today in a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in these cases, which primarily involve lending aid and support to the 9/11 attacks and for helping in contributing to their planning. I'm glad to see these men brought to trial, but I wish that they were being tried in a regular U.S. federal court instead of by way of military tribunal. The fact that these trials are occurring in an unorthodox tribunal is going to detract from the legitimacy and credibility of the proceedings. Already the military has stated that these defendants will not be freed, even if they were to be acquitted on all charges (i.e., as designated "enemy combatants", the suspects are to be held until the war on terror is brought to an end- which may not happen for a little while).
In addition, defense attorneys (who are military officers themselves) have pointed out defects in the proceedings which may make them fundamentally flawed and unfair. The tribunals will allow the use of evidence which was gained through the use of "extreme interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation (such evidence would not be allowed in federal court), and the tribunal will allow the use of evidence which was obtained despite the fact that defendants were initially denied their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and their Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
Don't get me wrong. I think that these are bad, bad men, and I want to see them punished as badly as anyone else, but I just think that we need to grant them all of the due process and procedural safeguards that any other prisoners would be entitled to. If we don't do these hearings by the book, it's only going to reinforce a view amongst foreigners that the U.S. is just seeking mindless vengeance rather than justice (which isn't good because it allows for the belief that we don't care whether we're prosecuting the right people). Also, putting these men on trial without taking their civil rights fully into account is going to send a message that it's okay for other countries to take similar liberties with American soldiers once they're captured (and watch how quickly other countries switch from calling our soldiers POWs to calling them "enemy combatants"). Already Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, probably sensing the fact that the rest of the world is watching these trials and judging their fairness with skepticism, has declared that he expects to be convicted and that he is fully ready to accept his fate as a martyr. I think the man knows that conviction and execution by way of this highly controversial tribunal is going to prove unsatisfactory to many foreigners, including many, many Muslims, and that it will only reinforce suspicion of and resentment toward the U.S. in the middle east.
Anyway, it sure would be great if our intelligence forces could actually amass enough evidence against these guys to convict them in a regular court under the regular rules. There will always be some people who will doubt the U.S. no matter what procedures we follow, but I truly do believe that it would make this whole process seem a lot more fair in the eyes of the world if the whole things was more transparent and did a better job of safeguarding basic human rights. (Ideally it would probably be best to see the trial held by an international tribunal, but given the xenophobia of Americans in general and the military in particular, I'm pretty sure that's never going to happen).
Not much else going on. Hope you guys are doing well.