AG Eric Holder's statement that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will remain in custody no matter what the verdict in his upcoming Manhattan trial, coupled with Obama's instructions to the jury that KSM be "convicted and executed",
reveals the entire exercise as a show trial, a ritual effort intended not to achieve justice, but to make a public political point. The question is, what could that point possibly be?
A closer look at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Apart from his involvement in murdering nearly three thousand people, what is he known for? Well, above all, he's the most prominent victim of Bush administration "torture", under the new definition of the term, that is, being made excessively uncomfortable for repeated short periods for purposes of breaking resistance to interrogation.
That's where we find our answer. The KSM show trial is not aimed at terrorists, or at an international audience. It's aimed, in the classic sense, at domestic enemies. Holder has been transparently eager to prosecute Bush officials involved in "torture" but was evidently told to low-key the effort -- little has been heard of it since the first announcement last Spring. But here he has a workable substitute. There's no question that torture will come up -- really, it's the only thing that the defense has. Endless discovery requests will be made for classified material concerning KSM's interrogations. These requests will be subject to interminable public debate. The material that is provided will be leaked, to appear in the media and provide Democrats with opportunities to attack the GOP. The entire exercise will be turned into an indictment of the Bush administration, with the actual facts of the case -- the terrorist murder of thousands of Americans -- relegated to the background.
And if the prosecution collapses (a distinct possibility), why, it's all Bush's fault.