Khalid Sheikh Mohammed asks for martyrdom

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, threw a U.S. military tribunal into turmoil on Monday by announcing that he and four compatriots being held at Guantanamo Bay wanted to plead guilty to coordinating the attacks. The move seems designed to force the government to make good on its stated intention to ...

591204_081210_ksm5.jpg
591204_081210_ksm5.jpg

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, threw a U.S. military tribunal into turmoil on Monday by announcing that he and four compatriots being held at Guantanamo Bay wanted to plead guilty to coordinating the attacks. The move seems designed to force the government to make good on its stated intention to execute the prisoners.

There is little doubt that Mohammed wants to turn the tribunal into a soap box for his anti-American statements. The Washington Post speculated that the timing of the announcement may be related to Bush's imminent departure from office. The Obama Administration has not yet made clear if it will press for the death penalty, and would likely transfer the inmates to a federal detention center in the United States -- a far less dramatic fate than the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison. Indeed, when the military judge speculated that a guilty plea could complicate their chances for a death penalty, the detainees withdrew their plea until the issue had been clarified.

The true danger of Mohammed's ploy is his attempt to turn the military tribunals into a mockery. In the courtroom, Mohammed declared that "[a]ll of you are paid by the U.S. government...I'm not trusting any American." In questioning the legitimacy of our system of military detention, Mohammed may, sadly, have a point.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, threw a U.S. military tribunal into turmoil on Monday by announcing that he and four compatriots being held at Guantanamo Bay wanted to plead guilty to coordinating the attacks. The move seems designed to force the government to make good on its stated intention to execute the prisoners.

There is little doubt that Mohammed wants to turn the tribunal into a soap box for his anti-American statements. The Washington Post speculated that the timing of the announcement may be related to Bush’s imminent departure from office. The Obama Administration has not yet made clear if it will press for the death penalty, and would likely transfer the inmates to a federal detention center in the United States — a far less dramatic fate than the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison. Indeed, when the military judge speculated that a guilty plea could complicate their chances for a death penalty, the detainees withdrew their plea until the issue had been clarified.

The true danger of Mohammed’s ploy is his attempt to turn the military tribunals into a mockery. In the courtroom, Mohammed declared that “[a]ll of you are paid by the U.S. government…I’m not trusting any American.” In questioning the legitimacy of our system of military detention, Mohammed may, sadly, have a point.

Only 80 of the 255 men currently held at Guantanamo face domestic criminal charges, and only two full trials have been completed under President Bush’s military tribunals. Furthermore, the Bush Administration has reserved the right to continue holding indefinitely those acquitted in its military tribunals, or even those who were convicted and have served their sentences, indefinitely. This is hardly a system that builds respect for the rule of law.

If Mohammed wants to hurry along his “martyrdom,” the United States government should oblige him. But it should do so with a judicial system that has clear rules and standards that apply to all prisoners captured in the war on terror.

Sketch by Janet Hamlin-Pool/Getty Images

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