A Tale of Two Courtrooms

Are the New York Post and the NY Times covering the same Guantanamo Bay trial?

The US military tribunal in Guantanamo began a milestone procedure on May 5.  Under arraignment are five Muslim terrorists captured several years ago.  The most notorious is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the self-confessed mastermind of 9/11, who proudly proclaimed that he personally decapitated Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl with his “blessed right hand.”   The others are co-conspirators.  Some family members of 9/11 victims, and a select group of journalists, watched the proceedings in the courtroom or via live video feed.

In an earlier FrontPageMag.com article, Rick Moran discussed the subversive tactics of the defendants’ lawyers, filing hundreds of motions to delay process and undermine the legitimacy of the entire procedure.  The present writer examines another aspect of the arraignment, the difference between two newspapers’ coverage and the significance of that difference.

The New York Times  describes the detainees’ behavior as defiant but mostly quiet: passively ignoring the tribunal’s president,  Col. James Pohl, refusing to wear headphones (for simultaneous Arabic translation), or kneeling to pray in the courtroom.  The article notes that the five terrorists did display some aggressive disruptions during the pre-trial motions,  but neglects to describe them as other than “frequent outbursts.”  One terrorist was in the courtroom in a restraining wheel chair for reasons unknown. The Times reporter failed to note that by removing their headphones, the detainees effectively brought the proceedings to a halt because international legal custom since the Nuremberg trials (1946)  requires simultaneous translation. [i]

Their action, therefore, was obviously intended to torpedo, or at least delay, the court proceedings. To circumvent this sabotage, Col. Pohl intrepidly used a translator with a loudspeaker.  The defendants’ lawyers complained, but neither the lawyers nor the reporter seemed to notice that the inconvenience was the result of the detainees’ own actions.

Another attempt at sabotaging the proceedings, mentioned but not explained in the Times account, was the refusal of one terrorist to leave his cell and come to the courtroom.  His lawyer sought a court order to prevent prison guards from forcibly extracting him from his cell, but Col. Pohl refused, noting that no detainee had the right to not appear before the court.  This same lawyer, Cheryl Borman, appeared before the court wearing Muslim garb covering everything but her face.  She also admonished women on the prosecuting team to “consider dressing more modestly so that the defendants would not have to avoid looking at them ‘for fear of committing a sin against their faith.’”   The reporter, and apparently Ms. Borman as well, failed to note the striking irony that while looking at an immodestly clad woman would be a sin against their faith, mass murder of almost 3,000 innocent civilians apparently was not.

The article also mentions the terrorists’ claims of torture at the hands of their captors in Guantanamo, but neglects to point out that captured el-Qaeda manuals instruct terrorists to always complain of torture  and accuse the captors of mistreating them.  It also fails to note that the American forces involved in the capture and detainment of these terrorists strenuously deny having tortured them.

The Times also ran a short article on the victims’ families present in the courtroom or watching via live video feed.  This report was as muted as the one described above, except for one note that  “defendants repeatedly and persistently disrupted the courtroom…”  In a follow-up article in the NY Times of May 7, 2012,  we learn that the defendants’ lawyers claim that the terrorists’ non-cooperation was really a justified protest against an “unjust system;” although there is no indication of what exactly is unjust about a military tribunal for terrorists who proudly proclaim their guilt.

In sum, all three NY Times articles describe the behavior of the defendants at the tribunal as, for the most part, passively non-cooperative with occasional passive resistance, and a few understandable noisy outbursts.

The articles on this same tribunal in the New York Post describe a situation so radically different from that detailed in the NY Times that one might think they were covering different court proceeding.

The screaming headlines on the cover of the May 5 Post, “’I Spit on their Graves: KSM and pals mock victims, turn courtroom into circus,” sets the tone for the articles.  The NY Post is clear and detailed in its description of the terrorists’ violent outbursts in the court, frequent attempts at disruption that were far from passive,  doing all they could to defy the court, using obscene words and gestures to harass and insult the 9/11 victims’ families[ii],   taking actions to delay the proceedings, and demonstrating that they were proud of what they did, and eager to do more.

Some specific details are noteworthy.

According to one New York Post article, one of the defense attorneys called for the court’s forbearance regarding KSM’s violent and rebellious behavior because of  “all that Mr. Mohammed has been through,” a reference to her acceptance as fact KSM’s assertions of torture at the hands of the CIA.  The NY Post reporter highlights the absurdity of such a request in light of what KSM proudly admits he put his 9/11 victims through.

In similar examples of more detailed and comprehensive NY Post coverage, one reporter indicated that when one of the terrorists took off his shirt to show the scars of his torture, it was not clear that he had any marks on him at all.  As noted above in the NY Times article, guards brought one terrorist into the courtroom in a restrainer wheel chair.  The Times indicated that the reason for this was not known.  According to the Post, the guards needed to use a restrainer chair  because the terrorist, in an act of defiance and mockery,  had refused to leave his cell.  Rather than drag  him to the courtroom kicking and screaming, they used the wheel chair.

Perhaps most revealing of all, the NY Post series includes an article which goes into detail about the torture accusations, accusations left unexplored by the NY Times.  The two-page spread, with detailed descriptions of water-boarding and other physical impositions, highlights KSM’s arrogant cruelty, disdain for human life, and unrepentant desire to kill more non-Muslims. It also makes clear that no torture that could cause extreme pain or organ failure (the military definition of illegal torture) was used.  The CIA used water boarding, not yet illegal at the time (President Obama declared it so only in 2009); but knowing from his el-Qaeda training that US interrogators would not let him drown during water boarding sessions, KSM withstood the process.  However, after 180 hours of sleep deprivation, not considered torture by the USA, his strength and will were broken and he gave up large amounts of information that enabled the CIA and other law enforcement and security agencies to apprehend el-Qaeda operatives and prevent terror attacks.  It is impossible to know how many scores, hundreds, even thousands of lives were saved by this one success of sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique.

On the one hand, the New York Times, aka the “Gray Lady,” is, or rather was[iii],  the gold standard in American journalism, the most trusted news organization in America.  So one should not expect to find sensationalism.

On the other, the violent incidents, arrogant disruptions, and any explanation of their significance, that are omitted in the NY Times but included by the New York Post, are critical to the American public’s understanding of the nature of the enemy with which we are at war.   The Times seems intent on sanitizing the terrorists, thus attributing to them more the appearance of  maltreated and thus uncooperative criminals, rather than dangerous hard-core terrorists who rejoice in mass murder and now have the mammoth global stage provided them by the tribunal hearings as the podium from which to glorify jihad and to broadcast their disdain for all things non-Muslim and their fervent and savage desire to attack the West.

The Times’ refusal to reveal to the world the psychotic hatred, sheer savagery, and ugly brutality of these terrorists creates the impression that our enemy, that group of Muslims who want us all either dead or Muslim or Dhimmi and will kill as many of us as it takes until we submit to Muslim rule and Shari’a law, is really not so bad:  they pray,  defy an “unjust system,”  and have “been through so much.”

To misrepresent the reality of our enemy’s nature is to aid and abet that enemy in its war against us.

[i] Francesca Gaiba, The Origins of Simultaneous interpretation: The Nuremberg Trial, University of Ottawa Press,  1998, pp. 32ff.

[ii]  See also the New York Daily News, May 7, 2012, “Tough N.Y.er has answer for sneering 9/11 killers,” pp. 4-5, for detailed coverage of  some victims’ relatives’ response to the outrageous behavior of the detainees.

[iii]William McGowan, http://grayladydown.net/,  Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America, Nov. 2010, Encounter Books.

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