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Obama Squanders a Leadership Moment On Military Tribunal for 9/11 Mastermind

At the very moment he needed to inspire the American people, Obama capitulated to authoritarian demands for a military trial even a CENTCOM general thinks is wrong.
 
 
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As the White House blames Congress for the resurrection of Guantanamo Bay in the headlines, the Muslim world is reminded of the worst of America. Ironically, this is happening just as the Arab spring is identifying with the best of America, as young revolutionaries face their tyrant's guns, fighting for the rights we claim to stand for.

Eric Holder's announcement this week that 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheik Mohammed will be tried by military tribunal instead of a civilian court coincided with the president's unsurprising message that he is running for reelection in 2012. The attorney general's lame excuse for Obama's capitulation to authoritarian demands could not have struck a more dismal note -- especially at a time meant to inspire the millions who voted for Obama in 2008 but who sat out the 2010 election.

Obama was swept into office with a surge of hope for change in an election in which 140 million voted. Just two years later the Republicans swept back into power in the House with merely half that number (75 million voters) participating, thus winning by default.

In a nutshell, that describes the fundamentals of American politics; one party makes sure all of its people show up and wins a majority by peeling off just enough disillusioned Democrats with unlimited funds and aggressive advertising. The other party -- the one with a natural majority -- often fails to inspire its voters to go to the polls because apparently its leaders are better at running against the disastrous results of Republican misrule than they are at defending their own achievements.

So faced with a choice to revive the worst of America, or make a stand for the best of America, what did the president do? He folded, and instead of the teachable moment, we got a tawdry capitulation to bigotry, ignorance and defeat.

Nobody hates defeat more than the military. Perhaps that's why it took former CENTCOM Commander General Hoar to point out the shame of putting KSM on trial at Gitmo: The murderous little creep is not a warrior; he doesn't belong to an army. He's a common criminal!

The president and the Democrats have missed an opportunity to reverse decades of doubt about them as stewards of our national security. Democrats have always been on the defensive about whether they stand tall in the saddle and whether or not they are soft on Communists or, now, soft on terrorists.

Again, they missed the teachable moment despite the fact that the recent evidence is clear that Bush and Cheney and the right wing have been disastrous for America's security. Rather than fight the right on its catastrophic record of the reckless endangerment of America and the precipitous decline in our power, Obama has caved into their bombastic idiocy, thus taking a further step with the serial missteps in the calamitous war on terror.

From 9/11 on, thanks to Bush-Cheney, we have been wrong-footed and have played into Bin Laden's playbook. First by going it alone, Bush elevated this criminal as an equal player on the world stage, smoking him out like a Western gunfighter to face off against the Lone Ranger.

Goaded into an endless war by a hopeless cave-dwelling fanatic, the Bush Administration promoted Bin Laden as the next Hitler. From day one we dignified these criminals by calling them jihadis, which is a noble concept in Islam, meaning a person of faith on a spiritual quest.

But the initial follies were compounded by the catastrophic misapplication of our military power in unnecessary wars. And the dissolution of our treasury in futile pursuits has resulted in Bush/Cheney running up a third of our national debt in a mere eight years out of the entire life of the Republic.

Unless the America people are told the truth about who are the more suitable stewards of our national security and why, they will continued to go along with the jingoistic John Wayne nonsense that has served the Republicans so well.

It is past time for the real narrative of who weakened America and what continues to bleed us. But our chicken-shit, gutless leaders continue to capitulate to the loudest most bigoted ignoramuses and thus dignify and perpetuate their disastrous record.

Given that a majority in the Muslim world blame the Israelis for 9/11 and a tortured minority in America think it was an inside job pulled off by those geniuses Bush and Cheney, it would have been very instructive to put the 9/11 mastermind on trial for all to see in a setting that is open, transparent and credible. That way we might learn something about what happened before and during that terrible day and not allow the black holes of open source information to be filled by despicable denial or delusional conspiracy mongers.

If you are not brave enough to lead, and instead you cower before the fatuous attacks of your foolish opponents, in doing so you make their mistakes your own. In doing so you not just betray your constituents, you betray America and it's tattered and torn values that surely need reviving not reversing.

Ian Masters is the host of "Background Briefing" on KPFK radio 90.7 FM in Los Angeles and at IanMasters.com
 
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