Gitmo Trials Show Absurdity of War on Terror

Recently, in the shadowy recesses of the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba, the trials of five alleged Sept. 11 conspirators resumed three years after the Obama administration attempted to bring them to civilian court in New York. After fierce opposition to the civilian trial, which was to be held a few blocks away from Ground Zero in New York City, the Obama administration backed down and agreed to proceed with a prosecution in military court.

Now, as the drama of the proceedings has resumed, the five men accused have stepped onto a global stage. The Miami Herald reports that the prosecutions are being televised on multiple military bases, with several hundred families of 9/11 victims watching with a 40 second lag, allowing for the government to censor any admissions of classified information and, undoubtedly, descriptions of the torture techniques used on the five men during their time in Guantanamo.

The outburst against their courtroom antics has been amplified with every move they make. Led by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the Pakistani national who claims to be the mastermind behind the attacks, the five men have protested at every stage of the hearings already.

Kneeling to pray during their arraignment, removing their headphones with Arabic translators and refusing to answer questions, KSM, as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad has come to be known, and his co-conspirators continued what they call Islamic jihad in the courtroom. One defendant, Waleed bin Attash, had to be strapped to his chair until he agreed to cooperate.

The outcry at their protestations is what KSM and al Qaida seek, and U.S. prosecutors are well aware of that fact. The Los Angeles Times notes that former chief prosecutor Morris Davis said of KSM's rulings: "If we execute him, we will be giving him exactly what he wants."

But what is it the prosecutors, and the American people, seek? For the families who lost loved ones on the day of the attacks, the outcome of the trial is perhaps a cathartic finale to the horrible aftermath of the brutal attacks. For the American public, it is the justice at the end of a decade-long ordeal. And for the Obama and Bush administrations, it is a justification for the stain on American history that is Guantanamo Bay.

The War on Terror, as it has been dubbed, is partially the knee-jerk emotional response to the attacks on this country. For every pointless loss of civilian life in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other corners of the world where the west likes to point its finger to, the public is somehow meant to feel safer, just knowing that some guy in a turban finally paid for 9/11.

The perpetrators of 9/11, despite the trillions of dollars and millions of lives lost, are winning the shadow play that is the War on Terror. Eleven years after 9/11, Islamophobia is rampant in the west, and as drone bombs make rubble of my homeland, Pakistan, the anti-western sentiment only grows more vicious.

And that is the brilliance behind the tactics of fundamentalists in groups like al Qaida. Pitting an ideological war against the west, they continue their attacks at an emotional level. Answering with government-sanctioned drone bombs and full-scale occupations, the United States feeds into their scheme.

The expectation in the international arena, a false one as most have come to realize, is the United States sits at a higher moral plane than other nations. We are meant to be leaders in human rights, in ethics, in freedom. Yet, as legislation in multiple states passes outlawing shari'a law, as blatant attacks on Muslims continue in our own backyard, as innocent civilians are detained indefinitely and as American rights are slowly chipped away, we succumb to the same level as the terrorist organizations that resented the U.S. for its freedoms.

So instead of stepping down to the deplorable level of hatred at which KSM and his co-conspirators operate, the only way the American people, and all who have suffered as a result of Sept. 11, can counter the mental anguish and racism al Qaida hopes to infect our minds with is to step above pointing fingers.

KSM's trial is the condensed metaphor for the way the west has dealt with terrorism. Only in this case, the prosecution knows better than to give in to what al Qaida wants.

Meher Ahmad ( is a junior majoring in international studies and Middle Eastern studies.

This piece first appeared in The Badger Herald: Questions: Signe BrewsterEditor-in-Chief, The Badger Herald | (608) 257-4712 x101