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KSM and the MSM

By David Swanson
November 18, 2009

Editor’s Note: As the U.S. Justice Department finally prepares to bring the alleged 9/11 mastermind and four accomplices to trial for killing nearly 3,000 people, the American mainstream media continues to frame the issue in the most bizarre ways.

Rather than assessing issues like motive, evidence and government misconduct that has delayed this trial for six years, the MSM has obsessed over Republican complaints that a trial is being held at all, as David Swanson notes in this guest essay:

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the corporate "mainstream" media make quite a pair.

We're hearing a very "balanced" debate over whether KSM should be tried in New York City, and whether the most insane objections to that proposal are really insane or not. But what are we not hearing?

We're not hearing that trying criminals for the crime of 9-11 ought to have been what we did years ago, rather than waging wars in response to a crime.

We're not discussing the possibility that had alleged 9-11 criminals been tried years ago rather than being imprisoned and tortured together with hundreds of innocents depicted as subhuman monsters, the "war on terror" might have been replaced with simply the wars on Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis.
What effect might that have had on Americans' willingness to surrender their Bill of Rights? We aren't hearing about that.

Aside from a column by my friend Ray McGovern, not of course published by the corporate media, what are we hearing or seeing about KSM's motive?
Isn't motive a traditionally important element in a criminal investigation? We're told that putting KSM on trial would give him a platform for propaganda, but we're not told what that propaganda might be.

If it were really so pernicious, why not expose it and refute it? Isn't that what societies that believe in free speech do with misguided speech? Don't they defeat it with more and better speech? Or is that only when it can be done without using the word "Israel"?

Outside of progressive blogs, we're not hearing that giving a somewhat fair, if less than speedy, trial to those most likely to plead guilty or be convicted, and a less fair military trial to others, and no trial at all to others still, reveals this show of justice to be a sham.

If KSM were acquitted, President Obama would order him imprisoned outside the rule of law until he dies. If he is found guilty, as everyone universally expects, he may be officially murdered by the United States, motivating others to take up arms against a nation that wages and funds illegal wars, imprisons people without charge, tortures, kidnaps, renditions, and executes. 

If the justice system is bent to ensure that KSM is convicted or permitted little opportunity to speak, will that bending have any permanent repercussions for our justice system? Or, to move in the other direction, having determined that "military justice" is not good enough for alleged mass murders, must we continue to pretend that it is good enough for members of the military?

Can we not admit everyone into a single and improved justice system? We're not hearing that discussion.

An improved justice system would require the admission into court of videos of all confessions and interrogations. This would not include admissions made to a journalist prior to imprisonment, as in the case of KSM and Al Jazeera, but would include all interrogations since that time.

And in KSM's case it might include video of the "interrogation" of his children. Years ago, allegations were made that the United States had tortured his children, including in little-heard-of manners, such as locking a child in a box with a supposedly deadly insect.

More recently, secret memos emerged showing the United States to have authorized just those techniques. If this were a story about missing sex tapes, the media would be all over it. A story about the possible torture of children is far less interesting.

It might open up difficult questions, such as whether someone who has been endlessly tortured, and whose children may have been tortured, can -- while still in the custody of the torturers -- give an un-coerced confession. 

Questions might even have to be asked about leniency in sentencing for someone who has already served time and been horribly tortured.

If this were a story about a singer or actor or athlete, we'd see investigations of the time KSM spent attending college in North Carolina. Why didn't the Americans he lived among persuade him of how horrible it would be to murder people in this country?

Our media pundits are completely incapable of asking such a question without either blaming KSM's American acquaintances for his crimes or declaring KSM to be an inscrutable monster whose thinking is of absolutely no interest.

Other questions might be asked as well, such as why Dick Cheney and his supporters never talk about the two memos anymore. Remember the two memos that Cheney claimed would show that the torture of KSM and others revealed important information that saved lives.

The memos are now public and show nothing of the sort.

Nor was torture needed in order to prosecute KSM himself. In fact, as Marcy Wheeler has pointed out, the ability of the government to prosecute him without using evidence obtained through torture demonstrates that torture was not needed for that purpose.

But why are we not talking about the two purposes torture actually serves? We know it does not produce useful information, but we also know that it produces desired lies, such as agreement to false rationales for war. And we know that it scares people, both people who fear they might be tortured and people who fear the wild beasts depicted as reachable only through torture. 

As Glenn Greenwald has touched on, behaving as though terrorized, irrationally unable to believe an alleged terrorist can be held in a cell and tried in a court, is to give in to the terrorism. Worse, it is to advance it. 

More Americans are more terrorized following TV discussions of KSM's possible prosecution than were beforehand, because the voices on the TV promote the terror rather than the prosecution.

We are hearing about the need to avoid evidence obtained through torture. But at the same time we are hearing absolutely nothing about the need to prosecute the torturers and the creators of the torture program, at least one of whom, John Yoo, is given a platform as one of the disinterested media commentators in the MSM. 

This failure is an ideal way to create more KSMs. Why don't we talk about it?

David Swanson is the author of the new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press.  You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: [This article previously appeared at]        

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