Seidemann: Evil doesn't deserve a glance


From the other side of the bench

by David Seidemann

Issue of November 27 2009/ 10 Cheshvan 5770

Let me make this as clear and simple as possible. If an armed gunman enters a liquor store, bank or army base and screams “stick em up,” he’s a criminal. If the same individual enters a liquor store, bank or army base and screams “Allahu Akbar,” he’s a terrorist.

The failure to categorize the “Allahu Akbar” screamer as a terrorist, the failure to properly label the Fort Hood shooter as a terrorist, is the epitome of weakness. It is manifestly dangerous, and sends the wrong message to friend and foe alike. An isolated decision by the Obama administration? Sorrowfully not. It seems to be but another instance of compromising the security of friends in the hope that foes will bestow graciousness upon us.

Need another example? The administration’s remarks that Israel’s plan to build in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, is “distressing... will inflame the Palestinians... and ruin chances to restart peace talks in the Middle East” — plainly turning one’s back on one’s friends in the hope of appeasing the enemy. I’m still waiting for the administration to issue a statement explaining that the real reason the two-state solution has not been implemented is because the Palestinians want to destroy the other state. I’m still waiting for someone to say it like it is, that there can be no two-state solution if one of those parties does not know how to build a state.

Another example is the administration’s decision to try the World Trade Center bombers in a civilian court in New York City. It frightens me to no end. Half of me considers moving to Israel. The other half of me wants to run for public office and work to end this lunacy in Washington.

Long ago the courts and Congress approved the process of trying military combatants in military tribunals. They recognized that affording sworn enemies that engage in organized combat or terrorist activities the same access and due process to our civilian court system that common criminals enjoy, would endanger society and compromise national security. I could spend five articles explaining why that is so. Suffice it to say, the law does not treat a person who passes a stop sign in the same way as someone who robs a bank. Similarly, the person who robs a bank is not treated the same as a murderer.

For example, a person who runs a red light and cannot afford an attorney is not provided one by the state. A person charged with a misdemeanor, whose freedom is not in jeopardy, is not provided with an attorney if he can’t afford one on his own. However, one who is charged with a felony is provided with an attorney if he cannot afford one. There are many other differences regarding how various arrestees are treated by the law, all based on the seriousness of the offense, the likelihood that society will be harmed, and the possibility that national security secrets will be compromised if certain rights are afforded.

From time to time I have written critically of President Obama and his administration. In response I have enjoyed e-mails from readers critical of my positions and accusing me of being anti-Obama for no good reason. But I challenge any Obama supporter, or Eric Holder supporter (he is the United States Attorney General) to offer one benefit of trying the World Trade Center bombers (who, incidentally, have already confessed their crimes in front of a military court), here in New York.

But those guilty pleas will be quickly withdrawn or suppressed, as will the evidence used to secure those confessions. Why? Because now these non-American terrorists are being afforded the same rights as somebody at risk of losing her driver’s license or going to jail for 30 days. Any statements made by them over the years since 9/11, uttered without them being advised of their right to remain silent and their right to have an attorney, will be tossed out like yesterday’s garbage.

In addition to the high cost of the trial, there will be a security factor. These terrorists are entitled to any and all information, called “discovery,” that the United States government might have gathered against them. But not only that, they’ll be entitled to the background information as to how that information was gathered against them. The government will have to divulge sensitive, confidential material that could pose a present security threat or, at the very least, hamper future operations.

When somebody robs a bank, the threat he poses is gone after he is caught. But when you capture an enemy combatant or terrorist in the middle of a war he is but one of many. The battle rages on and the only hope of ending the danger is by convincing the enemy that remaining alive might be better than being dead. Accordingly, that terrorist might give up information that will not only save his life but save the lives of US soldiers and citizens. Now that the enemy combatant or terrorist knows that flying two planeloads into skyscrapers and crashing a third into a field poses no more risk than robbing a bank, the chances of that terrorist offering valuable information is greatly diminished.

And the worst aspect of this catastrophe is the world stage that will be afforded these animals, as they mock our freedom and spew their anti-American venom. We will once again be the object of scorn and ridicule by a world increasingly intolerant of democracy.

Lot’s wife was instructed not to turn and face those being destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah. Sometimes evil is so evil that one cannot lend it credence by looking at it. Turn your back on Sodom and Gomorrah was the instruction to Lot’s wife because to look at it, even as she was leaving, would be to acknowledge its existence. Terrorism and evil do not deserve a glance. They surely don’t deserve a world stage.

David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann & Mermelstein.  He can be reached at (718) 692-1013 and at