So What is Wrong with a Court of Law?
By John-Paul Leonard, Media Monitors, 18 September 2001
Have I missed a cue here, or is there a good reason that "declaring war against an individual" sounds absurd and ungrammatical?

I always thought nations didnít declare war on individual suspects, nor bombard the countries where they reside. They get them extradited.

In the demand for extradition, they supply supporting evidence, and then there is due process in the court of residence. So I was stunned to read this in the Los Angeles Times:

"The Taliban has said ever since Bin Laden became a suspect in the Embassy bombings that the United States should put its evidence before a Muslim court, and if the evidence proved strong enough, he would be handed over. Washington has consistently rejected that offer." (Click here)

But why? Isnít the Taliban simply saying we should initiate extradition proceedings?

Now what is wrong in this picture? By refusing to submit our evidence to the courts of the land, arenít we setting ourselves above the law? Arenít we acting like bullies and vigilantes on a global scale?

If I think a guest staying over at the neighbors is guilty of a murder in my house, then I have to call the police to arrest him, donít I? I canít just threaten the neighbor, and then set his house on fire, and his friendsí houses too - can I?

We have been told how sure the FBI is of bin Ladenís guilt in the embassy and the WTC bombings. Great. If they are so sure, why havenít any documents been shown either to the public or to the Taliban? All the evidence so far has been hearsay.

When I was in Vienna, I heard a curious story about the murder that sparked off the First Great War - you know, the assassination of the Hapsburg Crown Prince Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which brought on a humiliating ultimatum to Serbia. Many Viennese now believe that it was not done by the Serbs, but by the Prussian secret service, to whom the assassin had links. Motive: The Prussians wanted to assert their supremacy in the German-speaking countries and all of Europe, by provoking a war that would give free rein to their military might.

Now that shoe could well fit the US military, or it may not. There are reports that the FBI was forewarned, and knew some of the alleged highjackers. Did our government want this to happen? If they did, they will cover up, so how can we rule out such a scenario so quickly? Look how long the Kennedy assassination was studied, and they never came to a conclusion.

What is so reminiscent of the events after Sarajevo in 1914 is the speed at which we are being railroaded into war. Somebody wants to shoot first, and let historians ask questions long after some facts have been changed on the ground.

There has been a lot of big talk about defending freedom and democracy. This is pretty loud cover noise for a frontal attack on the cherished principle of Innocent until proven Guilty. Do some young radical amateurs on the other side of the world have to risk their necks to teach us THAT all over again?

It is the same story with Americaís maverick opposition to an International Court of Justice. Isnít Washington saying, we are a law to ourselves at home, and everywhere in the world, and no one can gainsay us? Might makes right, and justice is what the US government alone decides? But the free-shootiní Wild West was a long time ago. When are we gonna grow up?

The Islamic as well as the tribal codes in Afghanistan say it is a duty to help someone who is wrongly accused. So, in its way, does our Bill of Rights.
But thereís the rub.

The Bill of Rights, in this land of the market economy, is a piece of commercial paper. If you canít buy a congressman, if you canít even vote because you live in your village on the other side of the world, the Bill of Rights is not for you. You have no rights. The US Airforce is your judge, jury and executioner. Get out of the way if you can.
Let us not lengthen the list of our own crimes against humanity. Letís get on with the extradition trial of bin Laden, without any more game-playing. And if he is the guilty one, then we must lay part of the responsibility for terror at the door of our bureaucrats, who refused to release evidence against him three years ago.

Why wouldnít our government cooperate in legal proceedings? Arrogance, the need for a scapegoat, or a desire for war?

Mr. John-Paul Leonard is a free-lance writer and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)

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