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Gen. Nash: Don’t Let Fearmongers ‘Drive Us Away From Doing the Right Thing’

Human Rights First, which staunchly opposes any decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow 9/11 conspirators in a military commission, convened a conference call with three prominent retired military leaders similarly opposed.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, who served in Vietnam, the Gulf War and Bosnia, said he got “worked up” reading the Post’s story this morning:

“Any time you do something hard, there’s a time where maybe you have second thoughts. That’s the time any good leader has got to remind himself about the story about ‘.’… The machinations of those who are afraid of these terrorists, who are afraid of American laws, who are afraid of this process that lived by under the rule of law for many many years — centuries — this is not the time to allow them to have their fear drive us away from doing the right thing… This is not the time to be scared. This is not the time to accomodate those who have led the country through an aura of fear for eight years. it’s time to do the right thing and persevere through.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Harry Soyster, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had harsher words:

“My concern is what it looks like to our enemy. And they certainly should be delighted in what appears to be great confusion, great ambiguity and inability to address the issue, so they should feel they are making progress if in fact our initial stand is reversed. from my perspective, the president [initially] chose chose the harder right over the easier wrong when he made the stand, supported his attorney general…and he should hold firm to that.”

Soyster rejected any trade, pushed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, that would involve closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a military tribunal for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. “Both should be done,” Soyster said. “Guantanamo should be closed and the [KSM] trial should be done in an Article 3 federal court… We need to do the right thing.”

Retired Navy Real Adm. John Hutson, the Navy’s Judge Advocate General from 1997 to 2000:

“If you were from Mars and you came to earth and were told there were two options for prosecuting these guys. And one of them was federal courts, where we’ve done 200 of these [terrorism] cases over the last nine years, 90-percent-plus conviction rate, people successfully imprisoned, experienced judges, experienced prosecutors and all of that. Or you could go to a military commission which the Supreme Court has already struck down once, they’ve got three cases [with] two guilty pleas — both of those guys are out of jail — no experienced judges, no experienced prosecutors and a tenuous judicial system at best which is untried up to now in any real sense — which one you choose is pretty clear. Then you put on top of that the Constitution very clearly provides the president in his capacity as commander-in-chief is responsible for the prosecution of the war — and I would argue all of this is part of that responsibility, in how we go forward with the war — and the Department of Justice is responsible for the prosecution of federal prisoners, it’s clearly in the authority and the responsibility of the executive branch to do this.”

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