For those of you who weren’t yet born on September 11, 2001, on that day Islamic jihadis killed nearly 3,000 Americans in attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. A fourth plane was set to murder even more people by crashing into another landmark in Washington, but it was downed in Pennsylvania by its passengers in order to thwart the jihadis’ plans. Even those who don’t remember the day have probably learned about it in school, but few people are aware of the fact that the surviving plotters have not yet been brought to trial.
That is now set to change on January 11, 2021, the day that Air Force Colonel W. Shane Cohen has just set the trial to begin at Camp Justice, at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.
Why has it taken nearly twenty years for these jihadis to face justice? Largely because of Barack Obama.
The trial will take place nearly nine years after the plotters – Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi – were arraigned. The Daily Mail reported that “Cohen’s announcement marks the first time that a trial judge in the case actually established a date. Prosecutors had tried to get the ball rolling with two previous judges after the 2012 arraignment.”
The trial will also begin nearly twelve years after Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the others for all intents and purposes admitted their role in the 9/11 jihad attacks, penning a lengthy Islamic defense for their actions in which they never denied plotting the hijacking of planes in order to commit mass murder of American civilians, but justified their actions by claiming that the U.S. was the greater terrorist. They signed the document “the 9/11 Shura Council.”
This was not a document obtained under torture, but a closely reasoned explanation of why the 9/11 attacks were justified from the standpoint of Islamic doctrine and belief.
“Issues blocking earlier possible dates,” according to the Daily Mail, “included finding out the proper security clearance needed to review documents pertinent to al-Baluchi’s confession to FBI agents.” That may have been among the considerations behind this immense delay, but the same Daily Mail report gives a more telling clue as to what went on to keep this case from coming to trial when it notes that “the case was also delayed when President Barack Obama suspended the war court, in an attempt to add more protections for due process.”
How was due process ever under threat? These men signed their names to a document that essentially admitted their complicity in planning the attacks. But that apparently cut no ice with our sainted and infallible former president.
What’s more, “Obama also attempted to try the group in a federal court in New York City, a proposal that was met with protest and legislation to block it.”
Trying these men in civilian court would have been a continuation of the U.S. government policy of treating jihadis as if they were individual criminals, rather than soldiers in a larger war effort. The U.S. government has been extremely reluctant to admit that such a war exists, and so their policy has been to try jihadis in civilian courts.
If the U.S. had had this policy in 1943, it never would have admitted that it was at war with Germany, and would have tried every captured German soldier as if he were a criminal who had broken the law as a “lone wolf,” separately from all the others who did the same thing, and with no mention of the Nazi ideology that underlay it all. If the Allies had approached World War II the way the West has dealt with the jihad threat since 9/11, newspapers would have been filled with accounts of how masses of armed Germans had swarmed into Warsaw and Paris and Amsterdam and the rest, while authorities were trying to determine the motive of each one.
And so nearly twenty years will have passed between the jihad massacres these men perpetrated and their trial. This epitomizes the unwillingness of American officials, even today, to come to grips fully with what happened on September 11, 2001, and to formulate a coherent and realistic response to the global jihad threat that continues to plague the world so many years after that catastrophic day.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.