Moral Low Ground

War & Peace

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Is Right

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s death toll is but a drop in the bucket when compared to the millions killed by the United States.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States in 2001, spoke before the military court that will decide whether he lives or dies on Wednesday.

Addressing the controversial Guantánamo military commission at a pretrial hearing, KSM accused the United States of killing far more people before and after September 11 than the 2,976 people, most of them Americans, he stands accused of murdering.

“When the government feels sad for the death or killing of 3,000 people who were killed on September 11, we also should feel sorry that the American government… [has] killed thousands of people, millions,” he said in Arabic.

“Many can kill people under the name of national security, and to torture people under the name of national security, and to detain children under the name of national security,” he continued.

“The president can take someone and throw him into the sea in the name of national security. He can also legislate assassination under the name of national security, [even assassination of] American citizens.”

“Your blood is not made out of gold and ours… out of water. We are all human beings,” he added.

While nobody in their right mind can defend the mass murder that KSM stands accused of, every word of his pretrial statement rings true. The US response to the 9/11 attacks resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent men, women and children not only in al-Qeada-harboring Taliban Afghanistan but also in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, countries that had nothing to do with 9/11.

KSM said “millions” had been killed, and if one takes into account all the wars of choice waged by the United States since World War II, arguably the last war of necessity, that figure appears to be accurate. Two million civilians perished during the Korean War, a similar number were killed in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during the long Indochina conflict. US chemical warfare (Agent Orange) claimed hundreds of thousands of lives; the horrific effects are still killing and maiming people to this very day. More than 80,000 Iraqi civilians died as a result of the US-led Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and the United Nations estimated that UN (read US) sanctions killed more than half a million Iraqi children during the 1990s. Add in the dead from the War on Terror and the many smaller and proxy wars the US has waged over the decades and KSM’s “millions” remark proves true.

KSM’s comment about the US torturing in the name of national security is also true. KSM was himself brutally tortured by his American captors in order to elicit a confession. He was waterboarded 183 times, and despite Republican arguments to the contrary, waterboarding is tortureSusan J. Crawford, a conservative federal judge who once served as a top lawyer for the Army under Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney, decided not to proceed with military prosecution of would-be 20th 9/11 hijacker Mohammed al-Qahtani because he was tortured while in US custody. Yet a military judge has refused to allow any discussion of KSM’s torture during his impending trial.

As KSM pointed out, children have been imprisoned by the US during the War on Terror. At least a dozen detainees at Guantánamo Bay were minors at the time of their imprisonment. At the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, a teenager was raped by a US Army translator.

The Obama administration has also approved the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, just as KSM said, and has even murdered an innocent American child, 16-year-old Colorado native Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is right. That does not mean he shouldn’t be punished for his role in the 9/11 attacks. Nor does it mean that the murder of 3,000 people on 9/11 was justified. But the glaring US hypocrisy highlighted by his remarks deserves closer examination– especially as the door has been slammed shut on justice for the thousands of mostly innocent victims of illegal US imprisonment, torture and even murder during the War on Terror.

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