I am honored and humbled to have been selected as an observer for the IU-McKinney U.S. Military Commission Observation Project. This week I will monitor the hearings of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. I’m excited to contribute to the betterment of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual.
I take very seriously my duty, in this historic project, to be the eyes and ears of the outside world, and to report on these commissions “independently, impartially, accurately, and with integrity.”
As a member of the “9/11 generation,” this project is particularly special to me, because it allows me to directly participate in promoting the liberty and security of all mankind. Terrorism, war, and international crime in a global world are things with which we — the United States — must deal. But how we proceed is crucial to fostering that liberty, peace, and security for generations to come.
If we are to be a force for good in this world, then we must be vigorously devoted to our principles of fairness and justice—even in the hardest of circumstances.
That is achieved through a steadfast commitment to the rule of law.
In his defense of the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre trials, John Adams eloquently argued that:
The law, in all vicissitudes of government, fluctuations of the passions, or flights of enthusiasm, will preserve a steady undeviating course; it will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations, and wanton tempers of men.…The law, no passion can disturb. ‘Tis void of desire and fear, lust and anger. ‘Tis mens sine affectu; written reason; retaining some measure of the divine perfection. It does not enjoin that which pleases a weak, frail man, but without any regard to persons, commands that which is good, and punishes evil in all, whether rich, or poor, high or low, ‘Tis deaf, inexorable, inflexible. On the one hand it is inexorable to the cries and lamentations of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder to the clamours of the populace.
The IU-McKinney U.S. Military Commission Observation Project helps hold our government to high standards, of which we can all be proud. This accountability encourages improvement and it provides us with an opportunity to set a good example for the rest of the world, which in turn emboldens the United States with the necessary credibility to be brokers of peace and diplomacy.
Mike Cunningham, J.D. Candidate (2017)
NGO Monitor, U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law