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Argument: Civilian trials improve global opinion of US, fight on terrorism

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Stuart Taylor. "No Need To Fear A Manhattan Terrorist Trial." National Journal. November 21, 2009: "A second advantage is that international opinion sees civilian trials as the only legitimate way to deal with those accused of terrorism.

I can almost hear some of my conservative friends shouting: Screw international opinion! We are sick of Obama bowing and scraping to anti-American sentiment abroad!

I'm getting a bit sick of that too. But we can have a decent respect for the opinions of reasonable people in other countries without giving in to unreasonable people. The fact is, American lives and America's fortunes depend at least as much on international opinion as on, say, preventing leaks of classified information.

"I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo," Matthew Alexander, a former military interrogator in Iraq, wrote in a November 2008 Washington Post op-ed. "At least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse."

The abuses symbolized by Guantanamo have also taken a toll on the willingness of foreign governments to help us fight terrorism.

To be sure, Guantanamo had become a model prison by the time President Bush left office, and the international condemnation is outdated. But it is still a fact of life, and is critical to a hard-headed appraisal of the benefits of a civilian trial."

"A Return to American Justice." New York Times Editorial. November 13, 2009: "Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. took a bold and principled step on Friday toward repairing the damage wrought by former President George W. Bush with his decision to discard the nation’s well-established systems of civilian and military justice in the treatment of detainees captured in antiterrorist operations.

From that entirely unnecessary policy (the United States had the tools to detain, charge and bring terrorists to justice) flowed a terrible legacy of torture and open-ended incarceration. It left President Obama with yet another mess to clean up on an urgent basis.

On Friday, Attorney General Holder announced that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and four others accused in the plot will be tried in a fashion that will not further erode American justice or shame Americans. It promises to finally provide justice for the victims of 9/11."

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