Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that alleged September 11,
2001 "mastermind" Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other accused
terrorists will be tried in civilian court in New York
raises an important question: What if Mohammed gets the death penalty?
Holder said this morning that he expects prosecutors will seek that ruling
But some fear that executing high-level al-Qaeda operatives could galvanize terrorists at a time when al-Qaeda appears to be in decline. Mohammed himself has expressed
his desire to be "martyred." Should one of the most violent terrorists
in history be put to death?
- Risk Of Martyrdom The American Prospect's Adam Serwer warns against martyrdom. "Trying the alleged 9/11 conspirators by military commission, or giving
them the death penalty if they are convicted would be a supremely bad
idea," he writes. "Martyrdom is a big part of the Al Qaeda worldview, and granting
martyrdom to KSM through execution would merely be giving him what he
wants. If he's convicted, let him spend the rest of his life in a cell
rather than becoming an inspiration to his comrades."
- 'A Rallying Point' The Atlantic's Chris Good explains the objections some have to execution. "There was some talk of whether it would be a good idea to seek the
death penalty for terrorism suspects, because it could make martyrs of
them--perhaps something they would want, something the U.S. should deny
them, and something that could provide some gratification, if not a
rallying point, to jihadists who support them."
- 'All They Understand' Adam Serwer reports the dissent of retired Major Eric Monalvo,
who defended Gitmo detainee Mohammed Jawad
in his military trial. "I believe
taking death off the table is a sign of weakness because in dealing
with these radicals, killing and death are all they understand,"
Montalvo told Serwer. "I am not advocating that the only way to go on this is
the death penalty, but it should certainly not be taken off the table
for fear of martyrdom."
- Give KSM What He Wants The National Review's Andy McCarthy wants
us to be accommodating. "KSM and his confederates wanted to plead
guilty and have their martyrs'
execution last December, when they were being handled by military
commission. As I said at the time, we could and should have
accommodated them. The Obama administration could still accommodate
them," he writes. "Moreover, KSM has no defense. He was under American
terrorism for years before there ever was a 9/11, and he can't help
himself but brag about the atrocities he and his fellow barbarians have
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.