9/11 trial: If Flight 93 had hit the Capitol

America is in great danger. With the decision to move the 9/11 trial to a New York courtroom, the Obama administration has made it clear that it does not understand the war being waged on the United States. The likelihood that politics swayed the decision only points more to the president’s deadly ignorance of the nature of this war.

The 9/11 attack was not focused on the World Trade Center. It was a multi-pronged attack meant to cut America’s head off, hitting our financial strength in New York and our military strength at the Pentagon, while also hitting our political system. Flight 93 was headed to Washington with the likely target being the Capitol building, the very seat of our democracy.

This was no “crime.” But for the true heroism of a few Americans (who knew an existential threat when they saw one), we may have lost our Capitol building, with all its glorious history and symbolism, not to mention the terrible loss of life.

A few terrorists on an airliner could have extinguished a crucial part of our national identity and seriously damaged our ability to govern ourselves. What if they succeeded? Can you imagine holding a trial in a civilian court near the place where our Capitol building used to be and calling that honorable?

How the radical Muslim world would laugh at such a scene. Remember, they see 9/11 as a victory in a larger war. And they’re right.

This was not a crime, and we make fools of ourselves to pretend otherwise. This was an act of war – thousands of people died horrible deaths. America suffered massive destruction to our military headquarters and our major financial district, and much more was planned. So we must ask ourselves soberly, what is the criminal “penalty” for that? What jury of their “peers” do we have in mind that Muslims around the world will respect? Obama mocks the seriousness of this war when he treats this deadly enemy to a civilian trial and all that attends to it, including global propaganda opportunities.

These were not “street thugs,” and these were not “murders.” This was a new kind of soldier, acting out a new kind of war. While our military and our political leaders have studied “asymmetrical warfare” and the jihadist ideology, our public has not. We’ve never seen a war like this (or an enemy like this) so it is hard for us to know how to respond as voters – the ultimate guardians of our security.

Yes, we can see it’s a global war but not at all like World War I or World War II. This is an “unknown war” better represented by an “X.”

It is “unknown” because there’s no way to attack the enemy to end the struggle once and for all. There is also no way to defend against “attack,” not only because it could come at anytime, anywhere in the world and using any number of methods, but because destruction or conquest of territory is not its primary aim. The strategy is pain and fear, and the immediate goal is America’s submission to a new order in the Middle East, beginning with turning on our staunchest ally there – Israel. With that betrayal, we would betray our honor as well, and this too would please our enemies and vindicate their strategy.

Our only way to win this war is to wage it with an indomitable will – to present our enemies with the iron fist of American might, and the open hand of freedom as the ideological alternative to jihadist tyranny. They must believe they can never win. They must believe that the harder they fight, the more we’ll resist. They must come to see that their war is an absurdity, and thus that their jihadist religion is false. Traditional Muslims around the world must see that, and know that choosing freedom is choosing the winning side.

However, when we answer jihadist determination to wage war with civilian trials, we only tempt them to mock our lack of seriousness with further and greater attacks, which will only make our criminal court system more and more ridiculous. Remember, they want the Muslim world to see America as a paper tiger.

So they will up the ante if they can and force us to answer this question: How do we handle larger terrorist attacks? What about “catastrophic terrorism”? Can any of us imagine a trial for terrorists who set off a dirty bomb spreading radiation all over our five major financial districts? Or let’s go the distance to WMDs. How about biological or chemical terror?

Back in the 1990s the Journal of the American Medical Association warned that 100,000 dead and 100,000 wounded was something municipalities were likely to face. In fact, the AMA journal said it was not a question of “if,” but “when.”

What would be the court procedure for that crime? One hundred thousand counts of murder? Now how about the horror of horrors? How about a nuclear device which could come near to destroying a whole city? Or how about an EMP attack, which could shut down the national power grid? Sen. Jon Kyl warned us of such an attack years ago, listing it as one way our enemies could actually “defeat” us. These are real warnings by serious people. Do we put such terrorists on trial near the city or region they destroyed and call that a victory for civilization?

The American public should see the Obama administration’s 9/11 trial decision for what it is. This makes the elections in 2010 and 2012 a desperate moment in American history. We need a wartime Congress and, most importantly, a wartime president. Clearly we do not have one now.