David Frum

01.18.12

Shawcross Defends Guantanamo Bay

William Shawcross delivers a brilliant defense of American justice in the handling of terrorism.

William Shawcross delivers a brilliant defense of American justice in the handling of terrorism. It's worth noting here that Shawcross' father was a lead prosecutor in the Nuremburg Nazi trials—and that William Shawcross himself once burningly indicted Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger for the war in Indochina. But read now this passage from his new book, Justice and the Enemy, as excerpted in the Huffington Post:

Any Nazi defendant transported by time machine from the dock in Nuremberg to that in Guantanamo would be stunned by the rights, privileges, and safeguards to which he was now entitled. Most basic of all, there was no right of appeal at Nuremberg. As General Martins said, "Like our forebears [at Nuremberg], we are not seeking "victors' justice," but justice consistent with the rule of law and our longstanding values and ideals."

I am confident that the trial of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed et al, conducted by General Martins, will be seen to be fair and appropriate. It will protect both the rights of the defendants and the security of the United States and its people.

Like Nuremberg it will address not just a group of thugs but the enduring human phenomenon of evil. No two eras are the same, nor are the threats they face identical. Evil reinvents itself. Like the fascistic ideology that the democratic world fought in the 1940s, the dogmas of Al Qaida and of the Shiite extremist dictators of Iran is despotic, ruthless, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and nihilist. They are responsible for the murders of thousands and thousands of people and almost every day we are reminded by the latest car bomb or suicide bomber of their war against the world.

It is important to recall that the vast majority of their victims are other Muslims and to remember that their demands are non-negotiable. They cannot be appeased, any more than the Nazis could be appeased. They must be fought and defeated. This will not be easy. It is worth recalling Reinhold Niebuhr's warning that "we take and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilisation."

Mistakes have been made by the U.S. since 9/11. That is no surprise—as Churchill famously said, "War is a catalogue of errors." But America's errors in the war that was forced upon it have been broadcast in endless, unforgiving loops around and around the world. It is a tribute to the United States that fair criticisms are absorbed not rejected.