Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried to use 9/11 to send a message to the world; Let’s use his trial to send a higher-minded one back
|BY DAVID RICKEY — Whoever put the words “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” into God’s mouth may have thought they were attempting to remove revenge from the human heart, but they just switched the battle ground. With that quote, humans can believe that God will send wrath on the “enemy” and probably do a better job of it than we could hope for. Yes, we continue to hope for revenge on our “enemies.” We can just trust that God will do it for us.
I bring this up in response to the recent outcry around the Obama Justice Department’s announcement that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the operational director of the 9/11 attacks, will be tried in federal civilian court rather than in a military tribunal.
Jesus’ words “Love your enemy,” from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Chapter 5 , speak more to the point. Jesus is calling for a transformation of consciousness beyond the more tribal mindset of vengeance and vendetta, most famously framed in the code of the ancient ruler of present-day Iraq, Hammurabi (karmic loop, unavoidable).
I have heard too many people say, “He does not deserve to have the same rights as an American citizen.” On the surface, the sentiment poses as moral justice. Beneath, it derives from a primal, collective fear.
The expressed fear is that, through some loop-hole in American judicial procedure, this man and his co-conspirators might actually escape justice. Example: if even one juror fails to vote “guilty” then the death penalty will be voided. Or, the defense will use waterboarding at the Guantonimo military prison where KSM and others have been held without trial to have his confessions thrown out (notwithstanding that KSM fessed up to the details of his 9/11 authorship in an Al Jazeera interview before his 2003 capture).
America through a glass, darkly? That’s the prism through which al Qaeda and Iraqi paramilitaries want the world to see
It raises a much bigger question. Which picture of America will we the people collectively choose to project to the watching world, especially to those whom we consider our enemies?
Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth, describes his difficulty with the whole “war on … FILL IN THE BLANK” approach. As soon as we declare war, whether it be on a country, on “Terror,” on “Poverty,” or on “Drugs,” we have set ourselves up against the “other”.
We implicitly positions ourselves as combatants, and explicitly position the “other” to fight back. We can see the dynamic from Iraq and Iran, to Gaza and Afghanistan.
An “enemy” can gain resolve and recruits by pointing out the worst that we do, or are even perceived to do.
The best way to end “Terror” is to undermine the terrorist’s position by being compassionate
For example, perhaps we should look at our behavior, either towards other countries or even the sub-classes of our own country, and ask: “What does this specific action say to other people about what we value?” Then, work to change that behavior and the perception. There would be less foundation among those who claim to hate us on the merit of their talking points.
There will always be twisted minds that seek power over others. But they only ever succeed because they can recruit others who are wounded, or psychologically open to a message about a bad “enemy.”
A similar teaching of compassion can be found in the Dalai Llama’s response to the Chinese occupation of Tibet, which did not invite an armed insurrection like that of, say, the Kashmir-coveting Lashkar e Taiba, which was responsible for the terror in Mumbai in 2008.
We cannot engender compassion in the world if we do not live by the same teaching. As Ghandi said: “Be the change you wish to see.” This doesn’t mean that we don’t seek justice, but it means that justice must be combined with compassion.
Consider the world’s response to Obama’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize. The world is watching, and has high hopes that he will lead this country and the world in peaceful efforts that will take us all beyond the war, fear and judgment of the recent past, presenting a strong, compassionate message to all.
By treating even the alleged “masterminds” of the 9/11 terrorist attack with the best the American judicial system has to offer, we demonstrate to the world the highest values of law and of compassion that we hold. It is highly unlikely that we would allow a loop-hole that would end in a mistrial or an aquittal. Perhaps, the death penalty would not be imposed, but would that be a bad thing? Isn’t the death penalty itself an outmoded expression of tribal vengeance and Hammurabi’s eye-for-an-eye code?
I believe we can be far more persuasive in the world if we seek constantly seek to demonstrate to the world the highest values we espouse. This will take a lot of soul-searching, but it will also cause a lot of soul-searching on the part of others. As the UC Berkeley classicist Michael Nagler has articulated so eloquently, there is remarkable evidence that non-violent compassion, communication and action actually changes not only ourselves but others.
It is the way we evolve, and it is the way to bring others along on the evolutionary journey. You cannot beat others into higher consciousness. You can only love them into it.
David Rickey is an Episcopal priest, Soul’s Code co-founder and counselor in San Francisco who does a weekly ministry at a residence for the elderly in northern California. Follow David on Twitter.
If this spoke to you, here are five similar articles.
- Lockerbie bomber: live and let die
- Palin, Obama, and Eckhart Tolle
- Memorial Day: A spiritual way to honor makers of peace
- Killing Osama: Our joy reflects how afraid we really were
- Why “saving” another can be your worst option