Saturday, June 11, 2011

Did we care about terrorism trial?

Chicago can be so parochial at times.

We are, after all, the city that initially greeted the idea of a genuine Picasso statue outside our civil courthouse by suggesting it be replaced with an image of Ernie Banks in all his Cubbie-ness.

WE’RE ALSO NOW the city that had a criminal trial related to an international terrorist conspiracy take place in our federal court district – only for us to get more worked up over Milorod, the Sequel.

Whether or not our former governor’s nonsense and stupidity rose to levels that are criminal was more important to us than whether terrorist plots were somehow coming out of our fair city.

For the record, Tahawwur Rana was found guilty of charges related to plans made to attack a newspaper in Denmark that puiblished cartoons that Islamic religious extremists took to be offensive to their religion.

Rana is a long-time Chicago resident, although he actually has Canadian citizenship.

HENCE, ANY ACTIVITIES he did were coming from Chicago, which is why the G-men of the Second City who usually spend their time going after mob bosses and third-rate political hacks were now involved with trying to prosecute a case.

The most serious charges against Rana were the ones for which he was acquitted – the ones that said he helped plan a series of bombings in 2008 in Mumbai, India, on behalf of Pakistanis who are eager to have the conflict between their two nations turn into a global conflict.

Those are the ones that would have ensured that the 50-year-old man would have spent the rest of his life locked away in a federal correctional center with so much attention drawn to him that the rest of his life would have been a hell-ish experience.

We once thought Ernie Banks more significant than Pablo Picasso. Do we now really believe Rod Blagojevich to be more ineresting than Tahawwur Rana? Illustration compiled with help of photograph from State of Illinois.

Not that it’s going to be that pleasant anyway. Because the charges for which he was convicted could get him up to 15 years each in prison, with some legal observers speculating that the judge will wind up giving him consecutive sentencing.

THIRTY YEARS. AT his age, that could be a life sentence too.

You know it is bizarre when some attorneys speculate that Rana “won” this legal battle by only getting the potential for 30 years in a federal prison. But that is the level of high stakes that were at play in this particular trial – which locally got little more public attention during the newscasts than the Chicago Sky typically do during the sports segment.

I’m sure a part of Rana is pleased that Blagojevich got all the public attention, and that he wasn’t immediately turned into Public Enemy Number One on the streets of Chicago. Chances are most people will move on after Friday and forget about this particular round of legal activity.

After all, that jury considering the fate of Blagojevich began its deliberations, which led to such detailed reports about how they would have to sort out their notebooks and pick a jury foreman before they could even begin to start discussing the 20 charges and voting on their verdicts for each.

IT’S OUR PAROCHIAL attitude, which is just as much a part of Chicago’s character as the summer heat and the bad baseball perennially played at Clark and Addison streets.

I suppose I am just as guilty, on account of the fact that I didn’t seriously contemplate writing anything about the trial while it was ongoing, while I wrote several commentaries about the mind-numbing testimony that emanated from el proceso Blagojevich.

For most of us are used to thinking of the Dirksen Building as the place where Outfit guys and aldermen wind up if/when they get caught in the act of whatever mischief they were trying to commit.

In fact, about the only other legal proceeding at the federal courts in Chicago I can recall as comparing to this in terms of international scope was the libel trial of journalist Sy Hersh – who offended former Indian Prime Minster Morarji Desai by writing in one of his books about Desai’s CIA ties.

THAT LAWSUIT GOT heard in the federal courts in Chicago because of an Indian custom that required Desai to try to “shame” Hersh – a suburban Evergreen Park native – in the place of his birth. That was the trial that saw former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former CIA Director Richard Helms (both of whom had their own distrust for Hersh) appear on the witness stand to testify that Hersh was wrong about Desai.

It means even that relatively-minor case had “bigger” names than did this particular case. Which is sad. Because it reinforces the idea that too many people in our society don’t seem to care about the problems associated with terrorism until it hits our back yard.

It almost seems like too many people who live in this country think that “terrorism” was invented on Sept. 11, 2001, and that any violent acts committed in other parts of the world just don’t matter as much.

The lesson we ought to learn from the Rana trial is that there may be actions in our own back yard that impact the greater world, and we really are all tied in together whether we want to admit it or not.


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