Alexander's Column

Justice for Jihadis

Mark Alexander · Mar. 22, 2002

One phase of America’s war against Jihadistan, Operation Anaconda, officially ended this week, but fighting continued in eastern Afghanistan. And other fronts around the world are just warming up. The Federalist has warned previously that Jihadi fighters of Osama bin Laden’s worldwide terror network are an “adaptable enemy” capable of combining high tech and big bucks to advance their cause of hot hate. What we are facing is a force of determined and effectively structured guerrilla fighters.

“If you saw some of these guys that we killed, they were outfitted better than most coalition forces, including us,” Operation Anaconda’s commander, Major General Frank Hagenbeck, said. “They were outfitted in $200-plus Gore-Tex jackets. …[T]hey were all dressed extraordinarily well, in virtually new outfits.” Gen. Hagenback further described how the Arab, Chechen and Uzbek al Qaeda forces holed up in the mountain fortresses above the Shah-e-Kot valley connected satellite phones to laptop computers and sent out e-mail appeals for reinforcements as U.S. and allied forces began the initial Operation Anaconda assaults March 2.

On Capitol Hill this week, CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee in testimony, “You’re entering into another phase here that actually is more difficult because you’re probably looking at smaller units who intend to really operate against you in a classic insurgency format. … There is no doubt that there have been contacts and linkages to the al Qaeda organization. As to where we are in September 11th, the jury’s out. And … it would be a mistake to dismiss the possibility of state sponsorship, whether Iranian or Iraqi, and we’ll see where the evidence takes us.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced finalized details of the military commissions that will mete out justice to captured Jihadis, such as those detained down Guantanamo Bay way in Cuba. Mr. Rumsfeld remarked, “This is a dangerous and determined adversary for whom September 11th was an opening salvo in a long war against our country, our people and our way of life. Our task, our purpose must be to stop the terrorists; to find them, to root them out and get them off the street so that they cannot murder more American citizens. One of the tools at our disposal to meet that challenge is the use of military commissions to try some of those who are captured in the conflict … in a manner that would be consistent both with our national security interests and with the traditions of fairness and justice under law, on which this nation was founded, the very principles that the terrorists seek to attack and destroy.”

The tribunals are unlikely to convene any time soon, and will be able to consider death sentences on a unanimous verdict of three to seven officers sitting as judges. Conviction of other crimes would require only a two-thirds majority of the tribunals. As in courts-martial, defendants will be given military lawyers but may also hire civilian attorneys. However, evidence may include hearsay statements and other materials that prosecutors obtained through “unorthodox” means. Appeals will go to a special review panel consisting of three members, including a military judge.

Elsewhere on the home front, last week The Federalist noted those Immigration and Naturalization Service figures of “absconders” who are known to be here illegally and are on the to-be-deported list. INS Commissioner James Ziglar had put the total at 314,000 in December testimony, but the real figure may be closer to 1 million. (That would be a one and six zeros!) Their visas are probably in the mail!

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