The ‘Deboogeymanification’ of Terror Suspects
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 12:22 pm
On his MSNBC morning show today, Dylan Ratigan asked me if I thought the decision to bring the suspected 9/11 co-conspirators to trial in a New York federal court was an attempt to “deboogeymanificate” those notorious terrorists we’ve heard so much about. After all, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged al-Qaeda co-plotters have often been portrayed as larger-than-life supervillains by the Bush administration and the media.
I’m unsure if that was the intention of President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder when they decided to try the five “worst of the worst” terror suspects in New York, but Ratigan was right (and very creative in his word choice) when he said seeing these guys in person could not only let the air out of some America’s inflated fears of Muslim boogeymen. It could also help shrink the suspects’ own enormous reputations among jihadists around the world.
The contrast of seeing these ordinary-looking men on trial in an orderly U.S. courtroom — where they’re accorded the right to a lawyer, the right to speak in their own defense and the right to call witnesses — could go a long way toward publicly revealing the absurdity of their cause, as well as the justice that a fair and functioning legal system can provide. Even if the trials don’t totally “deboogeymanificate” KSM and his allies, they would certainly make the United States look good. And after all the mistakes the U.S. government made over the last eight years in carrying out its “war on terrorism,” Obama and Holder have made an enormously important global public relations move in choosing not to hide these men away in a military commission somewhere, but to cut them down to human size by treating them as the twisted — but “ordinary” — mass murderers we believe them to be.
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