November 2009


Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he had chosen a New York federal district court in Lower Manhattan as the place where 9/ll master mind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four high level al-Qaeda henchmen will be tried as civilians. They are presently incarcerated Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This has caused an uproar, to say the least.

The question is why? In his November 18, 2009 op-ed piece, “Why We Should Put Jihad on Trial,” Steven Simon wrote: “Historically, the public exposure of state-sponsored mass murder of terrorism through a transparent judicial process has strengthened the forces of good and undercut the extremists. The Nuremberg trials were a classic case.” He went on to say that “highlighting the transparency in our judicial process would strengthen America’s reputation just as cracks are beginning to appear in the jihadist base. A growing number of radical Muslim clerics and theoreticians have reversed course in recent years.” Simon is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Nuremberg trials were military tribunals conducted in Germany after World War II. The War on Terror, a term not used by the Obama administration, is not over. Attacks are continually being plotted on U.S. soil, and we also know, in Pakistan and other places. The Fort Hood massacre was a terrorist attack. So this is not a time of reflection in which to contemplate our moral superiority and give enemy combatants rights that American service men and women would not enjoy facing a U.S. military tribunal.

One could say that the Nuremberg trials were fair, in that not all of the accused were found guilty and executed. The trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and henchmen, on the other hand, will be an open and shut case, followed by execution. The President has said as much. He was quoted as saying that the critics of the decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in civilian court won’t find it “offensive at all when he’s convicted and the death penalty is applied to him.” Realizing his gaffe, President Obama went on to say he didn’t mean to suggest he was prejudging the outcome. At his hearing before a military court on Guantanamo, KSM declared his wishes to die as a martyr. So if we execute him, he will get his wish. As to the difficulty of presenting evidence obtained by waterboarding, Mr. Holder hints at plenty of clean back-up evidence that could keep the al-Qaeda holy warriors tied up in our judicial system till the end of their days—and no doubt costing additional millions of dollars.

The Nuremberg tribunals were show trials, albeit less tawdry than the Soviet show trials of the 1930s. The trial contemplated by Mr. Holder and his team is no less a show trial. That is what is transparent about this entire production, when it takes place. Each defendant will have several lawyers, say, 20 all toll. How long will it take each of them to have his say? When KSM sits in the docket, in a suit and tie and trimmed beard, and is asked by these defense lawyers to describe in detail the horrors of his many waterboardings, will he speak quietly, with great dignity, of his pain, eliciting sympathy from the court? You can bet that these details will come out, for unquestionably this trial will also be about the Bush administration, that authorized waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques. The Bush team will be tried in absentia. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Holder and his ilk, The Bush team was unable to bring al-Qaeda leaders to trial after they surrendered their useful information. Now, the villains are still around to haunt Mr. Holder and the new president.

Mr. Holder has declared that he will take responsibility if the trial somehow goes badly. That’s big of him, but hardly reassuring as much more than his personal reputation is at stake. The New York trial of Ramzi Yousef and blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and co-defendants for the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six individuals, turned up information to the defendants’ lawyers that may well have proved to be useful to al-Qaeda in the far more deadly September 11, 2001 attack. In 2005, defense lawyer Lynn Stewart, following a nine-month trial and thirteen days of jury deliberations, was found guilty of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists and defrauding the U.S. government. She has been out on bail since then. On November 17, 2009, the Court of Appeals affirmed her conviction, ordered the district court to revoke her bail immediately, and remanded the case for resentencing. How many lawyers from the show trial team will be similarly inclined to pass along privileged information that could lead to the death of more Americans?

Ramzi Yousef, nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, predicted that the Twin Towers would be attacked again and would fall.

Anyone who worked or lived downtown in the aftermath of the 9/ll attack, will never forget those days, weeks, months. The city from Canal Street south was locked down; there were check points everywhere, police in SWAT gear guarding key buildings, dust and ash covering closed stores along lower Broadway, the sickly sweet odor of cooked flesh in the twisted burning rubble.

The intense security presence cut down on street crime, but reminded us daily of the target we were. Who knows what nuts, home grown terrorists or foreign operatives will come to town during the show trial of the century. What about the unknown perp who tossed a hand grenade into a large flower pot on the sidewalk a couple of years back? Or the “bicycle bomber,” who left a pipe bomb in front of the Army recruiting center in Times Square that destroyed the entrance? Do you think any former radical clerics will show up on the street and denounce Islamic violence? Do you?

New York to Eric Holder: We don’t want you and your gaudy show trial designed to embarrass the president who came to town days after the attack, buoyed our spirits, gave us billions to rebuild, and chased after our enemies. We don’t want it, we don’t need it. We don’t want to hear it on the news, see it on the street, live in fear from it day after day. Just go away.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.

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Maybe you have seen those television commercials where a huge gorilla sits next to an uncertain individual and offers friendly advice, winding up the spot by saying: “Hey, what do I know, I’m just the 800 pound gorilla in the room.”

In the wild, adult male gorillas seldom weigh more than 500 pounds. It was not so many years ago that people talked about the 600 pound gorilla in the room. True to our growing tendency to exaggerate the metrics to make our point, the gorilla has put on weight. The question is: Who is the 800 pound gorilla in the room where Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan is being discussed in absentia?

In his eulogy before a crowd of 15,000 at the Ft. Hood military base for the slain, President Obama praised the courage of the soldiers who braved Maj. Hasan’s gunfire to help the wounded.

“It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know – no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice – in this world, and the next.”

Good words, strong words, confident of God’s justice in the next world. I pause at “tragedy.” People will say what they want, and “tragedy” is a word that readily comes to mind to describe horrific events. It also is a word that mitigates blame. When people say that something is “tragic,” they are implying that it was just one of those things, an act of God like an earthquake, that might have been avoided but wasn’t. Too bad, now it’s time to move on. Who are we to blame? “Islam” and “terrorism” were not mentioned in the President’ sermon.

Army Chief-of-Staff, General George Casey, spoke to Meet The Press’s David Gregory in much the same language. He said: “As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”

Really? There are two kinds of diversity: the naturally diverse populations in nature, and diverse human populations. The Indian peoples in Pre-Columbian America were diverse tribes. They did not all look alike, think and act alike. Some were warlike like the Sioux, others were peace-loving like the Hopi. The more recent variety of diversity that arrived with political correctness places the interests of minorities ahead of whites. That was the diversity Gen. Casey was speaking of. Major Hasan was a minority of Palestinian heritage. As such, he was promoted to the rank of Major even after receiving poor performance reviews at Walter Reed Hospital where he worked. In other words, it is almost impossible for the Army’s politically correct promotion system to turn down a Muslim medical doctor even after he sends up red flags about potential disloyalty and acts of violence.

Consistently, major legacy media have portrayed Mayor Hasan as the victim of stress. The Los Angeles Times ran an article on the massacre titled: “Fort Hood Tragedy Rocks Military as It Grapples With Mental Health Issues.” Time magazine followed suit, posting an article titled: “Stresses at Fort Hood Were Likely Intense for Hasan.” The real stresses at Ft. Hood were on the soldiers returning and going back to Iraq and Afghanistan after multiple deployments in combat zones. Major Hasan never faced a bullet fired at him or had his vehicle blown up by a roadside bomb. As his pay grade is in six figures, he is not poor. His stresses were internal, between the call to duty and deployment to Afghanistan as a psychiatrist to counsel soldiers in the field, which he dreaded, and his growing ties to Islamic extremism, culminating in his yelling “Allah Akbar” (God is Great) before he opened fire on the unarmed and unsuspecting soldiers at Ft. Hood.

Barack Obama is our first president raised in the age of political correctness, multiculturalism and diversity. He takes these as a given in his world. The President and his men have discarded the “War on Terror” in favor of “overseas contingency operations.” Ever heard of it? Think you will remember it? Wars have become “crimes.” Major Hasan committed a “crime against our nation,” said the President.” The President talks about “success” not “winning” such a battle against crime. Apparently we can lose this war on crime and still experience success. It isn’t winning that counts, it’s how you play the game.

History has a way of burying this child’s play. The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial arch in Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, isn’t dedicated to “success” but to the victory of the Union Army in the Civil War. Soldiers do not charge up the hill in the teeth of enemy fire for the cause of overseas contingency operations. They fight for gold, love, country, their fellow soldiers. They do not fight for diversity.

The President and his men do not understand anger in war. The U.S. was angry at Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Americans said impolitic things like “A good Jap is a dead Jap.” Anger fueled the long trek across Europe and the Pacific that culminated in victory and a new age. More men died in single battles in World War II than all the losses in Iraq and Afghanistan to date.

The 800 pound gorilla reminds us of history. It advises us to think clearly and speak honestly, to call a spade a spade. It might appear friendly and benign in TV commercials, but it has the strength to thump us pretty hard if we ignore it.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.

Vietnam

There will always be a jungle
where an old man sits on a mat
and buries the day in opium sleep,
and a young mother searches
among the dead for her own.

There will always be a wind
that blows through the village,
sweeping the clouds from the moon
and the incense from the temple,
the rude rekindling of war.

We will always be coming home from Vietnam.
The dead came first in caskets,
making the long flight, churning the least inside.
And the whole, or nearly whole, and the wounded.
And even those who never went.

For the war was brought home from the start,
fought in hearts and minds, on campus,
in the news, everywhere you went;
on every street in America was a corner of Vietnam.
Everyone saw the images and heard the names.

Those who went can say how the closeness was,
how it tasted, felt, poured into their lives,
played along their nerves, struck their bodies,
or hardly touched them at all—
inasmuch as one can say these things.

They would say, and have said,
how the war was hell and they survived,
that they fought for freedom, for something,
and were damned proud, or liked it;
or they hit a mine inside that was their war.

Those who didn’t go too have a tale to tell:
how they sensed the poison and said hell no,
sat beneath clubs and rifle butts,
beneath a greater threat, and spoke out,
sang to the soldiers, their brothers, and were glad.

And they would say, and will say,
though the times have changed and they have changed,
that they fought their own war their own way,
sought out danger to prove themselves,
or it hardly touched them at all.

We will always be coming home,
for there will always be a bar
where the choice not made will stir the drink
and the conversation comes from strangers
busy with their lives while you were gone.

We will always be coming home
to that place that stopped when we left,
searching for that country of the soul
where what we were and wanted and did
is found on a local street, some manhood map.

So we will always be returning
to the neighborhood before it changed,
to cheap jeans and short lines,
to our senior or junior year,
to our own geography and confusion.

We will always be coming home
to a story and to America,
to the eddy of violence from never losing,
and always losing something to change;
to our own first dreams and violences.

Remains are coming home,
forensically given their dog tags, it is hoped.
As the leaders who gave the orders came back
to sell their memoirs for millions
and be washed in the glow of stardom.

The missing will also be coming home,
whispered by the dead at rest in their wall.
And soldiers will always be going out,
and the great chants will always echo.
But we will have come home, some place like home.

From The Endless Evolving Trilogy – A Poem
Cycle published in 2000 by Hudson Owen

On Wednesday, November 3rd, the New York Yankees won the World Series four games to two over the Philadelphia Phillies, their 27th World Championship. The Phillies, defending their 2008 crown, were overwhelmed by the Bronx Bombers in pitching and hitting. On Friday, the Imperial City gave the home team a parade up Broadway, ending with music and speeches at City Hall. I checked out the scene in the immediate aftermath, knowing in advance how difficult it would be to get my face on Broadway. I counted 14 satellite dishes along Park Row next to Broadway. The streets and sidewalks were still thick with Yankee fans, chanting “Let’s Go Yankees!” and sporting newly minted world champions tee shirts and sweatshirts. I’d say there was less paper discharged from offices than in previous parades down the Canyon of Heroes.

Interestingly, one computer group ran 10,001 simulations on their system and accurately predicted the outcome. And I must say, 4 to 2 sounded about right to me, as well. Other computer simulations picked the Dodgers to win. And one can question whether the American competition is still truly a world championship. The U.S. team, containing many premier players, lost to South Korea in the semi-finals of the 2009 World Baseball Classic, played in the pre-season. Japan went on to defeat South Korea for the title.

No matter, the Yankees are back on top. The American truism that money can by anything has once again played out in our sports culture. That same week, Michael Bloomberg won a third term as mayor of Gotham, spending 85 million dollars of his own money to win reelection by a narrower margin than expected over his opponent. Since their 2000 win over the Mets, my team, the Yankees have floundered with their underachieving big payroll players. The sun is again in its rightful place and the lesser planets revolve around it.

Being a Mets fan, I was secretly rooting for the Phillies. I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Phillies were the local team. My father drove us to Philadelphia to watch games, sometimes a Sunday double header. When was the last time you did that? I saw Sandy Koufax pitch a no-hitter against the Phils in 1964, and Frank Howard hit one of the hardest shots ever. At six-seven and 275 lbs., Hodo, as he was called, was one of the biggest men ever to play the game. When he connected with a baseball, it went a long, long way. One night, while playing for the Dodgers, hit a moon shot that sucked the air out of old Connie Mack Stadium. On the roof in left-center there was a red Coca Cola sign. Howard batted right handed, and he crushed a ball that bounced off the sign on the rise. I kid you not. On TV I watched Don Larsen’s and Jim Bunning’s perfect games.

Phillies and Yankees were the most valuable baseball cards I collected. The Yankees, because they owned baseball in the 1950s. A Robin Roberts card was about as valuable as a Whitey Ford card, to us. I had some black-and-white cards, some of Mickey Mantle, possibly from his rookie year with the Yankees. The Topps cards came five to a pack with a flat piece of bubble bum included. We traded them and flipped them for possession. I had a cigar box jam packed with them sitting in our attic for years. One day, after I had left home, as happened to so many of us kid card collectors, my mother threw my treasures out—a collection worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Oh, well.

I played genuine sandlot baseball. We usually went nine innings, even on hot summer days. I pitched mostly, and could strike out older boys. I threw a no-hitter in Little League and only lost one game as a pitcher, when my team did not score a run. I threw right and batted left. I learned the left-hander’s trick of swinging late, thus sending the ball over the shortstop’s head into left field. I hit over .300 some years; I never hit a home run.

Baseball was a simple game back then. In Little League we wore spikes and those wrap-around batting helmets and swung wood bats. Nobody got seriously hurt playing organized ball, that I can remember. We did not have a victim mentality in those days. I had no ambitions of being a ball player, and let the game go after high school.

I like to watch the game during the summer. It’s something I understand, and it connects me to my youth. It has given me a topic of conversation in my day jobs. The pro season runs on too long, finishing in November now. You shouldn’t have to play in near freezing conditions at night. They should go back to 154 games to compensate for the longer post-season nowadays. I doubt that will happen, though the day will come when an early blizzard will wreck havoc on the post-season. This year, the Colorado Rockies had to reschedule a playoff game because of snow.

The Yankees are back for awhile. I predict they will be in the post-season next year. I think the Mets will continue to struggle. Spring training is ever the season for hope.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.

What do we make of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist, who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood on Thursday, killing 13 soldiers and wounding 30?

He was certainly a man of contradictions, polite to his neighbors, giving away food and personal items, including a Quran, to friends and neighbors before he left for his deployment to Afghanastan, and thanking them for their friendship. He had also cold-bloodly plotted his horrific deeds in advance, with the legal purchase of two powerful handguns: one a .357 revolver and the other a FN 5.7mm automatic pistol that can carry a 30-round clip of high velocity ammunition capable of penetrating bullet-proof vests, so-called “cop killer bullets.” He allegedly purchased the handguns and ammunition in a Texas gun shop in August. Major Hasan, born of Palestinian parents in America, graduated from Virginia Tech, and might have armed himself in the manner of the Tech killer who likewise toted two hand guns.

Major Hasan walked into a base medical facility where some 300 unarmed soldiers were lined up for eye exams and vaccines in preparation to being shipping out to Afghanistan, and opened fire. According to one soldier interviewed by ABC News Nightline Friday night, he shouted “Allah Akbar! (God is great!), or words to that effect.” He reloaded and killed and wounded more victims until he was tracked down by a air pf local cops, Sergeant Kimberly Munley and Sergeant Mark Todd, who confronted him at a range of approximately 20 feet and exchanged pistol fire with the Major until Munley and Hasan went down. Hasan got the worst of it.

Relatives say Hasan reported to them that fellow soldiers teased or ridiculed him for being a Muslim, and that he had grave doubts about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, where he was to go the next day to counsel combat victims, the same sort of professional treatment he had performed as a psychiatrist stateside for returning veterans. Apparently, Major Hasan considered the War on Terror to be a war against Islam itself.

So it would appear, from what we know, that when the major made his decision to take action, he reached for two things: his guns and jihad.

If major Hasan survives his wounds, he might shed further light on his actions. Maybe not. He will be talking through a lawyer, and what is unique about him will be buried in legal code. We will be hearing: “No comment.” In his 39 years, Nidal Malik Hasan has said and done enough to make him an enigma. He was polite on the outside, steaming on the inside toward the end. We have seen that before in our killers. On official Army papers he stated “no religious preference.” Yet to others he stated more recently that Islam took precedence in his life. The last person seen to enter his apartment near the Ft. Hood base was dressed in Islamic clerical clothes, according to one witness.

There are presently small numbers of Muslims in the U.S. military, less than 4,000, about the same number as there are Jews. The Army values them for their language and cultural skills. The Army spent many thousands of dollars to educate Major Hasan. According to his aunt, Noel Hasan, the Major wanted to leave the army because of harassment after 9/ll and offered to repay the cost of his medical training, but the Army would not let him go. He sent up red flags on his way to the slaughter. But as so often happens in these terrible incidents, the red flags went unnoticed or unheeded. He was a loner, something else we have seen all to often in mass murderers.

He purchased the guns, and heard to call to jihad, one of the most unfortunate words in any language. Whereas some disaffected youths will throw rocks through the windows of abandoned buildings or roll a drunk, Muslim youths might well say: “Let’s do jihad.” And they are off and planning. It comes easily to their lips, jihad, with devastating consequences when they are successful.

American Muslims have served their country with valor. Colin Powell reported staring for an hour at the photograph of a Muslim woman grieving at the tombstone of a Muslim loved one in uniform. Today there are the images of fellow soldiers and family lighting candles and grieving together at Fort Hood. Today there is the enigmatic smile of Major Hasan in uniform everywhere on the Web.

There will be a full investigation of the matter. Millions of words of wondering and condemnation will be generated. The Army might well institute a new round of sensitivity training regarding conduct toward Muslim soldiers. The American Muslim community has already denounced the shootings as despicable. Hasan’s family has declared its love for America.

We often speak about the cultural diversity of this country. In good times it is a strength. It is also a witch’s brew when something like the Ft. Hood massacre takes place. Who is to blame? How do we prevent it from happening again? Who is “we” anymore? There are so many factors, so many variables, so many “if’s.” Was Hasan principally a psycho, or a jihadi?

The short answer is: The gunman is to blame. The 2007 Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, wrote a long confession that he mailed the day of his wrath, saying that “this didn’t have to happen.” Yes. He could have thrown his guns away. He could have demanded attention with lesser acts of violence for his grievances. He could have turned his rage inward and killed himself—at the beginning rather than at the end. He could have gone public rather than going postal. Major Hasan could have done the same.

What is it about Virginia Tech?

Despite futuristic movies like Minority Report, in which a Washington D.C. policeman tracks down potential criminals before they can commit a crime, there are too many places in American society for dangerous individuals to hide for any such scenario to work effectively. We can be thankful for the inspired efforts of trained professionals and ordinary citizens who nip these mass murderers in the bud. The Columbine Massacre has given students, parents and faculty a profile of student misfits that has occasionally proved useful in preventing repeat performances of that type of violence.

Major Hasan was not the first American Muslim soldier to commit lethal violence against fellow soldiers; I doubt that he will be the last. He has sent up a huge red flag that cannot be ignored. The scanners and lasers are turned on this man’s life. One thing we know: Nidal Malik Hasan was born an American, with all the rights and complexities we bestow upon our citizens. Despite his deep alienation from mainstream America, Major Hasan is one of our own and joins the rogue’s gallery of mass murderers: jihadi and psycho.

Update: 11-17-09: According to the New York Post, Major Hasan visited a strip club in Killeen, Texas, near the Fort Hood Army base days before his shooting rampage. He purchased several lap dances, took a personal interest in the strippers’ personal lives, preferred blondes, drank moderately, was a good tipper.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.