I’ll get to Lindsay Graham in a few paragraphs, and to why I can’t seem to stop wishing somebody would punch him in the face. But first, let me explain why New York City has such a big stake in seeing Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, put on trial not in Guantanamo, but blocks from Ground Zero.
New York’s stake in
Abu Ghayth’s fate
It seems like every New Yorker knew someone, or at least knew someone who knew someone, who died in the 9-11 attack. And even if you were simply passing through, at the time, you’d have to be devoid of any of your senses not to be aware of the attack’s impact on the lives of New Yorkers.
The walls of many subway station stairwells were papered with scores of heartbreaking home-made handbills, run off on computer printers, showing faces of missing loved ones and pleas to help find them. The handbills would give desperate descriptions: the missing man or woman’s name, age, weight, the company they worked for, the tower they worked in. The photographs alone could make a strong man weep. You’d see a daddy playing with his two little girls. A young couple, close together, clearly in love. A young woman holding her cat. A grandmother. A father. A son. A daughter.
And after a while you knew they were dead, all dead. Some were lucky enough to die almost instantly. Others were roasted to death in the debris. Or crushed to death. Or burned to death. They were our friends. Our family. Our colleagues. Our neighbors.
Downtown, at the Ground Zero site, firemen, and rescue workers, and ironworkers picking through the debris would find pieces of those people. A severed foot still inside a smoldering shoe. A grotesquely wounded human head, separated from a still-missing body. An arm. It got so bad for the guys lifting concrete and girders by hand to get to body parts, that in the St. Paul's church where they fitfully napped between shifts on lower Broadway, these big, hardhat working guys had to be given teddy bears to hug as they lay weeping on cots or pews trying to shut the images out of their minds and sleep.
What would a “New York Jury” do?
This week, Sulaiman Abu Ghayth was captured. And transported in chains to New York. And arraigned in a Federal Court to a charge of conspiring to kill Americans – Americans who, in this particular case, were mostly New Yorkers.
New Yorkers deserve the right to listen to the evidence, then declare a verdict, and hand that verdict over to a New York judge who will toss Sulaiman Abu Ghayth into some dark hellhole of a maximum security prison where he can spend the rest of his miserable life rotting in the chilly gloom.
We earned the right to do this. We earned it by losing friends. By losing relatives. By losing colleagues. By living with the horror, and the grief, and the loneliness, and the rage that followed 9-11. And by stepping out of our front doors, for months after 9-11, and smelling the awful odor that was something like burning rubber or melting insulation, coming from the World Trade Center site whenever the wind was blowing in the right direction.
We earned the right to have our proxies on the jury stare narrow-eyed at Abu Gayth, and come back from the jury room, the air reeking this time not of melting insulation but of sangfroid and vengeance served cold.
Senator Graham, butt out
But leave it to the Republicans, not atypically led by the simpering Senator Graham, to complain about trying the accused criminal where the crime was done. Although he and other Republicans fumble for a rationale to lock the guy away in Guantanamo, where he will be perceived by many as a victim of a lawless state, the Republicans’ real reason is simply to make propaganda against the President. Which is remarkably similar to what Abu Gayth did for Bin Laden.
"We believe the administration's decision here to bring this person to New York City, if that's what's happened, without letting Congress know is a very bad precedent to set," Graham sniveled the other day during a press conference with one of his co-snivelers, Republican Senator Kelly Ayote of New Hampshire.
Ayote added, “the last thing in the world we want to do, in my opinion, is put them in civilian court. This man should be in Guantanamo Bay.”
Right. Where he can be either forgotten or perceived as a martyr to a lawless government. Where the world’s press cannot conveniently cover his trial and conviction and help spread word to those who would do us harm that if you choose to destroy us, we will either kill you as we did Bin Laden, or throw you in a hole for the rest of what only a very few would thereafter call a life.
Trust New Yorkers. We will see to it, if America leaves it up to us, thatAbu Gayth will find his hole. It’s just too bad we can’t throw Lindsay Graham in there with him.