Magazine article The Spectator

Rats and Heroes

Magazine article The Spectator

Rats and Heroes

Article excerpt

New York

Howard Lutnick, head of Cantor Fitzgerald, the firm that lost more than 600 employees at the World Trade Center on 11 September, would have made the greatest Scrooge ever, and that includes Scrooge the original. Days after the tragedy, the notoriously hard-edged Lutnick wept and promised to take care of the families of his 657 dead employees. Then he stopped their payroll. But like the Dickensian Scrooge he has now changed his mind. (Having been spat upon concentrates a man's mind.) All's well that ends well, but I'll believe it when I see it.

They say that this is the time for counting our blessings. The trouble is that we now have so many blessings that previous generations could hardly have dreamed about, we take them all for granted. In fact, we are more likely to count our grievances and the ways that others have been unfair to us.

Take, for example, the hustlers who are crying murder over President Bush's decision to invoke his power to establish military commissions to try enemy belligerents who commit war crimes. This is a given. They spare American jurors and judges the grave risks associated with terrorist trials. The order covers only foreign enemy war criminals. Yet the hustlers are up in arms. It's as if the constitution had been abolished and Bush had declared himself a tyrant for life. This in a country that prosecuted thousands of dissenters during the first world war, detained 120,000 JapaneseAmericans during the second, and used military tribunals to try to execute German saboteurs landing on these shores. However, military commissions during the second world war acquitted some German and Japanese defendants. The suggestion that these military tribunals will afford only sham justice is like saying the Clintons don't lie. It's a canard, a ploy, an outrage - and politics as usual.

Although it doesn't sound very Christmassy, why should the masterminds of 11 September deserve constitutional protection? I'll try my luck in front of honourable soldiers than in front of a jury any day. We know all about juries here in America. O.J. Simpson murdered two white people in cold blood and walked free because his shyster lawyers packed the jury with blacks. It's called jury nullification for past wrongs. Does anyone in their right mind believe that if Osama Bouf Kaka was in the dock, Mohammed Ahmed and Abdul Hamid will vote for him to fly? …

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