What do you call a trial where the outcome is rigged from the get-go? Where the rules have been tilted heavily in the prosecution's favor? Where the burden of proof is low, the chance of conviction is high and the rules diverge from those that would be used on ordinary citizens?
Well, if you're a right-winger and obsessed with keeping Guantanamo Bay open, it's called a military commission.
Oh yes. Those wondrous military commissions with their grand conviction rate of three in more than eight years. THOSE military commissions, the prosecutions for some, justice for none and where nothing ever gets done because the Supreme Court keeps declaring that one thing or another about them are demonstrably unfair or unconstitutional. Yes. The answer to your prosecutorial nightmares is ... an actual prosecutorial nightmare.
But civil trials, the ones that are actually pretty good at separating the guilty from the innocent? The kind that have worked for American Justice since our country's inception, the kind that have successfully prosecuted and convicted 195 terrorists since 2001? Those, according to Dick Cheney, et. al., are "show trials." Because, you see, they would be all about "showing" the world that we believe in our justice system and BY GOLLY we can't have that! We can't have the world thinking we not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. No! We must cower in fear and give the terrorists what they want, America delivering justice for some with a beleaguered military judicial system that has already failed.
Perhaps they don't know about the numerous military attorneys who've come out and said even they didn't think the military commissions system worked. Perhaps they're just into making terrorists' dreams come true and elevating them to the level of warriors, rather than mass murderers and criminals. Or maybe they're just really, really afraid.
After all, it's easy to say you believe in the Constitution, then dump the whole thing the minute someone challenges you on it with death and destruction. It's easy to say "justice for all" and Democracy equals freedom and a bunch of other bumper sticker slogans, but to have faith in the American system takes more than platitudes and talking points.
Believing means living it, even in the face of what you fear most. Believing means living fearlessly, steadfast in the notion that in the end the principles that have held this country together through civil war and strife will once again put us back on top. If we don't have our values what is our system based on? This isn't a country of cowards. We can't legislate and prosecute from under our beds without our eyes covered. We have to look fear in the face and tell it that we will not conform to fit its warped view. We have to stare fear down and say you will not move us.
There is a proverb that no one pays attention when the wolf howls at the moon, but if the moon were to howl back that would be the talk of the town. These mass murderers and criminals would love nothing more than to bring the most powerful nation on Earth to its knees out of fear. They are merely treacherous wolves, braying at America's bright, shining moon, daring us to flinch, waiting for us to capitulate our justice system to fit their distortions and lies.
They call them "show trials," but the only thing they show is the blinding truth. All they do is shed light where the terrorists dare not want to look -- that we will not be moved.
This post originally appeared on New Security Action. New Security Action is a new organization dedicated to fighting for a progressive, smart national security policy. We are fighting to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.