This editorial by Prof. Bowen was published in the News Leader (Staunton VA: March 17, 2007): A9.
by Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
(Professor, Dept. of Political Science, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401)
Transcript of military tribunal proceeding, March 10, 2007: http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/pdf/ksm_transcript_031407.pdf
Report of the 9/11 Commission (2004).
Since it sometimes is difficult to read every word of a scanned article (as above), here is a clear copy of the original version of this editorial for readers' reference:
“My bad.” For readers unfamiliar, this is how one apologizes insincerely in contemporary American slang. Often when used “my bad” conveys even less than an insincere apology. In its usual context “my bad” means that the speaker is taking credit for some misdeed, and lightly brushing off whatever negative reactions his deed may have created.
In this way Al Qaeda’s third in command, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, on March 10, 2007, in effect said “my bad” about the attacks of September 11, 2001. Since his capture in Pakistan in 2003, KSM (as he is known) has been in U.S. custody. On March 14, the Department of Defense released an unclassified transcript of his hearing before a military tribunal at the U.S. military camp at Guantanamo Bay. Attentive Americans already knew about KSM: in its 2004 final report, the 9/11 Commission fingered KSM as the mastermind of the mass murder of nearly 3000 Americans that day. But until this week we had not heard him say, as he did at page 21 of the document “I’m not happy that 3000 been killed in America. I feel sorry even. I don’t like to kill children and kids.”
Some gullible Americans may be moved by these crocodile tears; after all, KSM said this while comparing his cause to George Washington’s! This filthy man is familiar with the soil of these United States: he graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro in the 1980s. At his hearing he displayed knowledge of our culture’s basic emphasis on fair play by trying to manipulate the hearing officers into releasing some of his fellow detainees, pleading “I’m asking you to be fair with other people.” This, from a man whose organization nine years ago openly declared: “To kill Americans and their allies, both civil and military, is an individual duty of every Muslim who is able, in any country where this is possible.” Then, they did just that. And now they demand of us: “be fair.”
Saying “my bad” about 9.11 apparently frees a killer to go ahead and keep on killing. Without the slightest hesitation, KSM admitted involvement in other plots to kill children… and other living things. He admitted planning to burn two famous skyscrapers that certainly had thousands of children and adults in them, one in Chicago, the Sears Tower, and one in New York, the Empire State Building. The 73 story Library Tower in Los Angeles, the tallest U.S. building west of the Mississippi, was on his hit list for hijackers to ignite with further fiery crashes. He admitted to trying to blow up a dozen airliners over the Pacific, planes that also would surely have “children and kids” in them. He admitted he tried to kill both former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Nor were Americans his sole targets. He admitted he tried to kill Pope John Paul II, and that his plots nearly felled President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. He proudly proclaimed his role financing four 2003 bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, outrages that murdered Turkish Jews, desecrated synagogues, and blew up British citizens, killing 57 and injuring more than 500. He took credit for bombings that murdered Australians and Indonesians –men, women, and yes, children– on the island of Bali. But on March 10, 2007, momentarily he “feel[s] sorry” about the dead American babies. My bad, indeed.
These empty “my bad” gestures are worse than apologies. They insult our intelligence. But more than that, they insult our memories. Faceless numbers of us did not die that day. Christine Lee Hanson, age two, of Groton, MA died as United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles, slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. So did David Brandhorst, age three, of Los Angeles, CA, and Juliana McCourt, age four, of New London, CT. If fairness to Mr. Muhammad requires us to be attentive not to mis-spell his name –he instructed the tribunal that Shaykh is a no-no–, then a fair apology from Muhammad would reflect genuine atonement for his involvement in the murder of these three specific “kids.” Then he could begin to express what would be a “fair” statement to the family of Dana Falkenberg, the three year old from University Park, MD, whose life was ended when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. After that, he’d still have nearly 3000 to go.
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