How does a just and civilized country conduct the trial of the self-confessed mastermind of 9/11? Is he an enemy combatant? Is he a civilian who is deserving of a civilian trial? And what happens if, despite his confession, the rules of civilian justice require that evidence against him is inadmissible?
In trying to answer these questions William Shawcross refers to the famous Nuremberg Nazi war crime trials after WWII because they set a precedent for a new kind of justice. Previously, winners of many wars have conducted trials, but the Americans wanted to do something different. In 1945 the Americans, against the wishes of some of their allies, declared that they would not conduct simple sham or show trials at Nuremberg. In a speech to the American Society of International Law in 1945 Justice Robert Jackson said that, “You must put no man on trial under the forms of judicial proceeding, if you are not willing to see him freed if not proven guilty. If you are determined to execute a man in any case, there is no occasion for a trial; the world yields no respect to courts that are merely organized to convict.”
Since 9/11 these same questions of justice have vexed the government, the military and many individuals. How do we keep the public safe from self-avowed terrorists who promise to attack any target in their power, and at the same time ensure justice for the accused? With a sketchy knowledge of both Nuremberg and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed I was interested to learn how these newsworthy events and people are connected. I have to admit that even with an interest in the topic I was doubtful about starting a tome with such a weighty title, but I found that William Shawcross has a very readable style.
This book highlights fascinating background for the events that are in the news all the time. For example, the book states that only three prisoners were ever waterboarded by representatives of the U.S. government. Perhaps this is three too many, but from the controversy and vitriol surrounding the issue, I thought it must have happened to dozens, if not hundreds of people.
Author William Shawcross is the son of Chief British Prosecutor at Nuremberg, Hartley Shawcross. He obviously grew up hearing about the trial and occasionally inserts what his father said. This book is sure to be controversial and you may disagree violently with Shawcross’s conclusions, but it is definitely still worth reading to consider some depth behind the headlines.
Check the WRL catalog for Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11, and the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed