Some commentaries, including our own editorial, have suggested that it would be a terrible thing to try the 9/11 plotters here in Manhattan, because that would give the terrorists an opportunity to air Islamofascist propaganda. But let me ask this question: Wouldn’t this, from the standpoint of our national security, be a good thing? It is frequently alleged that the American public, not to mention the public in foreign countries, lacks a serious understanding of the terrorist threat. Wouldn’t having a bunch of coldblooded murderers of 3,000 innocents proclaiming live on TV how proud they are of what they have done, and asserting that what God wants most is for them to get out of prison and murder even more thousands of innocents, be a very effective way of teaching America — and the world — about the true character of our enemies?
Another aspect of this issue that disturbs me is the assertion made by some opponents of this move that America (and specifically New York) is somehow not strong enough to endure the emotional trauma of having this public trial. Now, I don’t want to come across as Mr. More-Patriotic-Than-Thou, or a swaggering NYC guy — I recognize that there are weaknesses in our national character, and the character of our city — but this strikes me as a rather unfair criticism of the American people, and the people of New York. So let me speak only for myself on this: I was an eyewitness of 9/11, and watched the Twin Towers fall; I favor a strong war effort against the terrorists, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and any other place they are hiding; and, again speaking just for myself, I welcome bringing people I believe are among history’s worst villains here to our city to face a jury. Can twelve good people find the truth, and proclaim it to the world? Can the average American rise to this challenge? I urge people to think twice before answering too swiftly with “No.”
There’s another serious issue here, of course, one that I will leave to the experts on intelligence collection and the trial process. I saw Attorney General Holder on TV today saying that parts of the trial will be closed to the public. Will that be enough to safeguard our intelligence sources? I do not want to dismiss lightly the concerns expressed on this score. I think this debate over the trial is, in itself, helpful – because it, too, is an opportunity to discuss the character of the enemy, and that of our own country, in a very public way. In that contrast, America wins.