How We Made Justice Impossible for the 9/11 Accused

Nancy Meyer

A retired editor and technical writer living in Nebraska, USA, addressed the audience of this year’s American Muslim Voice Multifaith Virtual Peace Picnic, held online on September 11. She is a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and proofreader of English language for our project, LinguaHiroshima.

Slide 1 Peaceful Tomorrows website

My organization, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, is a non-profit comprised of family members of those killed on September 11th 2001. We seek to break the cycles of violence caused by war and terrorism.                              

We are especially concerned about actions taken as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks. This includes the now nearly-forgotten ongoing process of trying the men accused of involvement in the attacks at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, or more simply “Gitmo”. In October of 2019 I had a chance to spend a week at Gitmo to observe the military commissions pre-trial hearings.

Slide 2 The Enemy a Book about Peace

There is a beautifully written and very relevant children’s book called The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch. I’m showing a photo of the book’s cover as I invite you to travel with me to a bizarre part of the world called Gitmo. I begin with an excerpt from my diary.                                                                          

He was smaller than I expected. The man who probably designed the plan to murder my sister-in-law was quite short, only 5’4”, my height. I asked about this, and was soon handed a list of heights and weights of all 5 of the accused sitting in that courtroom. The man whose height matched mine, matched me precisely in weight as well.

And so I found myself, a person with zero presence on the world stage, staring at someone whose out-sized international stature was at utter variance with his physical presence, thinking, “We are the same in this respect. We would fit into the same clothing. We would literally see eye-to-eye if standing together.”

Slide 3 9/11 Accused

The courtroom we both occupy is at Gitmo, the location of the most infamous prisoners of modern times; 5 men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.             

It might surprise you to know that the Gitmo military commissions proceedings are public. But the only public who can attend them in person are 9/11 victims’ family members, or members of a select group of 25 global non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. A dozen or more NGO observers and journalists have been visiting Gitmo weekly for more than a decade for this purpose. Peaceful Tomorrows members are both because membership in our NGO is restricted to 9/11 victims’ family members.        

Slide 4 Back of Red Shirt, iguana ignoring sign, soldiers entering camp

Why did I go? Did I go to see justice served? It certainly would not be served in a week, as it has not been for nearly 20 years. And there is no realistic expectation that it ever will be. Did I go to make a difference in any way for others? I was told that my presence there as an observer was to “see and be seen”, to hold my government accountable and “keep ‘em honest”. I was also told that I should tell my story when I returned.

Slide 5 KSM images

Khalid Shek Mohammad was far from the robust, even burly, swarthy man I’d seen in the infamous photo published at his capture. I knew him immediately from the turban and long red beard depicted in drawings of the courtroom. The beard is dyed for religious reasons. KSM uses orange juice and berries for the purpose, the only things he can get.          

His physical size is certainly no match for his global reputation. I kept going back to this in my mind.

Slide 6 The Courtroom – Gallery Perspective

“They all look so normal,” gasped the young woman sitting next to me when the 5 prisoners filed into the courtroom on the first day. I knew exactly what she meant. But by any measure, everything about Gitmo is unconventional.

Slide 7 Cost of Guantanamo Bay

Gitmo has the unique status as rented US territory, and as such, there was a deliberate decision to hold these specific kinds of prisoners there – at a cost of $13 million dollars per prisoner, per year – in a place that one US government official called “the legal equivalent of outer space”. In other words, when jurisdiction is complicated by international ambiguity, anything goes. And indeed, it does.

Slide 8 ACLU Military Commissions Act

The 911 accused are at Gitmo to face justice. What would or could that ever be? The trial, whenever it does begin, is a capital one, meaning that conviction carries the death penalty. The accused are being tried as “non-privileged enemy combatants”, a special term meaning that they committed their acts within the context of a military conflict. In other words, their legal status is based upon the contrived notion that there was a war in place on September 11, 2001, but they are not entitled to the automatic protections accorded to soldiers or civilians in a theater of war. The “non-privileged enemy combatants” designation, created especially for these prisoners, is important because that is what allows the possibility of a death sentence.

Here are some of the questions I submitted to one of the 9/11 trial attorneys about the accused:

  • Assuming they are guilty, have they already been punished enough via the years of brutal torture they endured at black sites? Would death be more punishment for them, or a release from punishment? Would it be a reward in their world view?                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  • How does trying these men and then putting them to death square with not trying Osama Bin Laden, but simply putting him to death? I have never understood the difference in due process between these cases.

Not surprisingly, I did not get answers to any of these questions. Beyond the fact that a defense attorney would be unwise to give any kind of substantive response, I rather suspect that none of the attorneys, regardless of the side they are on, really could come up with reasonable answers. No one can.

Slide 9 Torture drawings

“The fact of torture changes everything”, Ammar al-Baluchi’s Lead Defense Attorney James Connell told me. Torture affects every single aspect of the trial, from evidence gathering to witness processing, to sentencing. It’s not just that it’s internationally illegal and morally wrong to torture people, nor that it is, in a very real and practical sense, of no useful value. Torture has a hidden cost to due process in that it absolutely ruins the ability to ever properly carry out justice.

Slide 10 The Report film

BTW, I’d like to recommend a film called The Report, which came out in October, 2019, on the topic of torture of those rounded up after 9/11, how the US government tried to cover it up, and how it has spoiled any chance of justice for the 9/11 accused.

Slide 11 Prisoner Counts

Right now well over half of the prisoners at Gitmo have not even been charged with a crime. Realistically, the Gitmo trial system is a hopelessly complicated legal, moral, physical, and philosophical quagmire.

Slide 12 Justice defined

Military commissions were intended to sort out what happened, and to properly process those accused of a massive horrible crime so that some kind of justice can be served. Yet one thing is well-understood and tacitly accepted by all who work inside these trials and observe them first-hand from the outside.                      

And that is that justice will never be served. It cannot be. Even without all the other challenges, there simply isn’t any version of justice that could ever be acceptable as appropriate to both the vengeful and the merciful, the law-abiding and the law-bending, the fundamentalist Christians and the fundamentalist Muslims, the victims’ families and those who lost no one. 

Slide 13 Gitmo Camp Justice

The trial at Gitmo is fascinating. It’s also infuriating, devastating, confounding, interminable, and as widely ignored as it is maddeningly misunderstood. But it is, without any doubt, profoundly historic.   

KSM and the 4 accused co-conspirators who daily sit in that courtroom allegedly did something that changed the world in so many, many ways for billions of people. But these men are remarkably unremarkable, just normal-looking middle-aged Arab men. Broken men from excessive and brutal torture, but ordinary human beings of flesh and blood nonetheless.

And this, I think is one of the significant things I learned at Gitmo:  that no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you live, or what you believe; what you choose to do with your time on this earth matters.

And we all want to do something that matters. Many of us feel a daily desperation to make a difference, a real difference in the world. Something big, and long lasting. I know I do.

But how do we do that?

Slide 14 Triumvirate of existential threats

Today, you get your pick of existential threats to work on. Anything you can do to avoid or mitigate nuclear war, global pandemic, or the climate crisis undoubtedly changes the world. 

Slide 15 Google results “How do I Change the World?”

But just because what we do is not something big or earth-shattering, or earth-saving, or with worldwide impact, doesn’t mean it won’t have an effect beyond our lifetimes. It doesn’t mean we won’t leave a legacy of good, because we never know the ripple effect our actions take.

Slide 16 Anything War can do Peace can do better

How about by simply recognizing and honoring the humanity of others in every single interaction? That absolutely changes the world!

To be clear:  I have no sympathy for the extremist ideology and actions of those involved in the 9/11 attacks. But I do see the accused as human beings, as opposed to something bigger or scarier, an entity to be feared or reviled, as the media promotes. And in doing that I change their image, an important first step in promoting peace.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

And that’s something I never expected to find out, much less announce publicly:  Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and I are, in some ways, alike. We are two rapidly aging human creatures with strong ideologies and a big passion to do something important. Both of us have graying brown hair and weary brown eyes and stand at the same height in the same-sized mortal bodies. Importantly, he is no more or less powerful than I am, and never has been.                                                                                                                                     

“We are so similar,” I thought while looking at a notorious mass murderer who shattered so many lives. “I really want to change the world too. Just NOT the way he did.”

Sadako Kurihara’s rare book, BLACK EGGS, is now available free online

Sadako Kurihara
Richard Minear

Richard Minear*, the translator and commentator of BLACK EGGS, let us share this information.  He first met Sadako Kurihara, a poet, essayist, and activist**, in 1983.  Since then, they had exchanged letters until Kurihara’s death in 2005.

*Richard Minear, a retired Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, taught a survey course of Japanese history and a Hiroshima seminar.  He is an adviser for the literature section of our database, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki:  A Multilingual Bibliography”:

**From Minear’s tribute to Kurihara for Japan Focus.

Download a free e-book <<BLACK EGGS>>[nav_00]!/4/4/1:0

Poems by:
Translated with an Introduction and Notes by: RICHARD H. MINEAR
Published by:

<Why there are two editions?> There are two Japanese editions, a privately published work in 1946 and a complete work in 1983.  Minear’s translation, BLACK EGGS, published in 1994, is based on the second edition.

1. Original work published privately. 詩歌集 黒い卵 ( Shiikashu kuroi tamago)/ 著者名:  栗原貞子 (Kurihara, Sadako) / 出版地名:  広島 (Hiroshima)/ 出版社:  中国文化発行所 (Chugoku bunka hakkosho) / 1946.

2. A complete work published after ***Kiyoko Horiba’s finding of Kurihara’s draft of BLACK EGGS in 1981, which show how the poems were censored by GHQ.  They are held by the Gordon W. Prange Collection, located in Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland. ***Kiyoko Horiba is a researcher of women’s history.  She made a copy of the draft held by the Prange Collection and gave it to Sadako Kurihara.  It led to the publication of the complete work.

Title:  黒い卵 占領下検閲と反戦・原爆詩歌集(完全版)Kuroi tamago:  senryoka ken’etsu to hansen・genbaku shiika kashu /  Author  栗原貞子著 Kurikara, Sadako /  Publisher 人文書院 Jinbun Shoin /  Place  Kyoto /  Date  07/20/1983 /  Pp. 153

“THIS VOLUME is a complete edition of Kuroi tamago, the collection of free verse and tanka I composed in the period from 1940 through 1945, from before the Pacific War to the early days after the defeat.” (Introduction by Sadako Kurihara, translated by Richard Minear)

For further information, refer to “Part One Black Eggs, Forward” (pp. 41-45) and “Occupation Censorship and Kuroi tamago” (pp. 27-30) in BLACK EGGS.

<Introduction to Minear’s translations and writings> LinguaHiroshima’ s database contains 16 publications of his works.  He has contributed his share to atomic bomb literature as a historian and translator.

Global tour of the Marukis’ visual account of A-bomb tragedies

In the early 1950s, Iri Maruki (1901–1995), born and raised in Hiroshima, and Toshi Maruki (1912–2000), born and raised in Hokkaido, toured around not only Japan, but also abroad, to hold art exhibitions of The Hiroshima Panels, a visual testament to the A-bomb experience.

The exhibitions were held in European countries, including those in the Communist bloc, as well as China, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, from 1954 to 1964. In addition, the Marukis’ exhibition toured the cities in the United States in 1970 and 1971. Even after the 1970s, international exhibitions continued.

The LinguaHiroshima database contains publication information for 25 catalogs on the Marukis’ exhibitions. These catalogs are in 11 different languages, which provides an important clue to tracing the route of their educational exhibition abroad. Further examination of the catalogs from the LinguaHiroshima database will provide more details about the valuable visual account of the A-bomb tragedies that the Marukis’ exhibition revealed to the world.

Database—Hiroshima and Nagasaki:  A Multilingual Bibliography

Dower, John W., John Junkerman.  The Hiroshima Murals: The Art of Iri Maruki and Toshi Maruki. Tokyo, Kodansha International, 1985.

جِن الحافي Why books | Barefoot Gen

Youssef Mamdouh, a young Arab YouTuber and third-year student of Cairo University, introduces an Arabic version of the manga series “Barefoot Gen” drawn by Keiji Nakazawa, a manga artist, and translated by Prof. Maher Elsherbini of Cairo University.  

Youssef Mamdouh has read approximately 100 books about which he has posted articles and book reviews on Instagram.  Since the beginning of this year, he has introduced 15 books, including “Barefoot Gen”, through YouTube.  

In this video, after introducing the artist and the translator, he reviews the series, saying, “Nakazawa’s visual impact helps readers draw concrete images of atomic bombings in their mind.” He also says, “The Arabic translation strikes my fancy.  The contents seem to be rushing straight at me, so I would not think that it is a translation.”  Furthermore, he says that he would like readers to read the whole volume because he could not find any other manga series of the same caliber as this one.  He also mentions that this is one of the best books published by Dar Mahrousa.

Our co-researcher’s results ②

Mr. Mohammad Moinuddin, LinguaHiroshima’s co-researcher in Hindi, published the results of his study on atomic bomb literature in Genbaku Bungaku Kenkyu (Journal of Genbaku Literature) No. 18, Society of Genbaku Literature, December 2019.

Mr. Moinuddin’s study is titled “Radioactive Contamination, Anti-nuclear Movements and the People Exposed to Radiation: With Reference to 21st Century Hindi Literature “Marang Goda Neelkanth Hua.”  The study is a critique of Mahua Maji’s 2012 novel “Marang Goda Neelkanth Hua.”  The novel’s subject is the anti-nuclear movement led by indigenous people in East India.  

Moinuddin notes that while the United States has produced many literary works on the issues of nuclear sites, there are fewer produced in European countries and almost none in India and Pakistan.  Maji’s novel was published after the Fukushima Nuclear Accident on March 11, 2011, and has been reprinted twice.  Moinuddin surmises that Maji’s novel has been a great influence on the approximately 400 million native Hindi speakers. 

Half of Maji’s novel, approximately 200 pages, refers to atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Sagen Laguri, the main character, is the leader of an anti-uranium mining movement.  Laguri was able to fully grasp the reality of casualties caused by radioactive substances after reading about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Moinuddin concludes that Maji’s novel successfully informed the lay public about the conditions of Marang Goda and the effects of radioactive contamination by including the actual history of the bombings. We hope that her novel will be published in other languages, including Japanese.

Our co-researcher’s results ①

We are pleased to report our Portuguese co-researcher Cristiane Izumi Nakagawa’s excellent results.  Ms. Nakagawa presented her dissertation defense at Sao Paolo University.  The title of her dissertation in English is “Trauma and meaning, guilt and forgiveness, shame and honor in hibakushas:  a study of testimonies and its paradoxes.” Nakagawa interviewed more than 200 atomic bomb survivors with the aim of analyzing their trauma and feelings of guilt in the context of Japanese culture.  One of the judges suggested that she publish her dissertation in three languages: Portuguese, English, and Japanese.

Miraculous Paintings of Atomic Bombing by Henry Ichikawa (1925-2012)

   By the kindness of the Konos, who are heirs of Ichikawa’s paintings, we had an opportunity to look at his paintings of atomic bombing at “Salon in Kojimachi,Tokyo” where he and his wife, Taeko Kono, novelist, Akutagawa Prize winner, used to live. Henry witnessed the horrible scenes in Nagasaki and Hiroshima as a soldier.
   They lived in New York City for 12 years from 1992 to 2004. He saw the tragic events of September 11 there in 2001. The smell of burning there reminded him of the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he says in his note on his abstract painting, entitled “September 11, 2001”.
   We hope a book of his paintings will be published in various languages such as Iri and Toshi Maruki, “HIROSHIMA PANELS”.
For further information, please visit this site (English, Japanese):


American POW Killed in Hiroshima

Aloysius Kuo (1)

When atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, perhaps there were a dozen of American POW at Ground Zero.  They were surviving crew of crashed American Army B-24 Bombers, “Lonesome Lady” and “Taloa,” as well as 10 Navy Aircraft-Carrier Planes raided near the Kure Imperial Naval Base, 20 km from the Hiroshima City, on July 28, 1945.  Three POW were brought to Tokyo for interrogation and remaining POW were interned at the Chugoku (Western Japan District) Military Police Headquarters and other various military facilities and met an unfortunate fate.

The only documents concerning American POW were 20 out of 2,313 pictures drawn by the atomic bomb survivors collected by NHK Hiroshima in 1974 and 2002.  These 20 depicting American POW pictures, except two (They are NG288-02 and SG-0185 which were duplicated by the author, Aloysius Kuo.  A wounded Japanese soldier was the main subject and the American POW was in the background.

It is apparent that half of the POW died instantly in the prison cell of wooden building collapsed and burned. The other survived POW were handcuffed. Some Japanese atomic bomb survivors witnessed that they saw two POW on the Aioi Bridge near the epicenter.  The other two POW were on the Western Imperial Japanese Army Headquarters on the Hiroshima Castle Ground, 700 meters from the epicenter.  Two were later transferred to the Kure Naval Hospital, met other shot down B-29 Crew, could leave messages to their families in the United States, and died on August 18, 1945, 3 days after the surrender of Japan. (2)


(1) The author of this video is Alyoisus Kuo, a retired medical doctor and adviser for the medical sciences section of LinguaHiroshima’s database.

(2) Cartwright, T. C.  A Date with the Lonesome Lady: a Hiroshima POW returns. Austin, Tex, Eakin Press, 2002.

Raymond Wilson’s Comment on Harold Agnew’s Interview with Hibakusha in 2005

Raymond Wilson,

a physicist and adviser for scientific section of LinguaHiroshima’s database.

TBS News in 2005—Please watch this video before you read this article:

I believe most younger American physicists would think otherwise; if they have thought at all about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Harold Agnew’s entire adult life was centered on nuclear weapons and the superior defense of the United States. He seemed to carry the attack on Pearl Harbor in his mind until he died (in 2013).

Agnew is quoted as saying, “I have always felt that science and the military should work together. And they have, from Day One, whether it was Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo or whoever. They were always designing things for the people in charge.” He was actively involved in the design of nuclear weapons, all his life.

How did he become that way? page 46, in my book.

Download PDF version of Nuclear War: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and A Workable Moral Strategy for Achieving and Preserving World Peace (23 MB, 256 pages)

“People say, ‘What did you do in those days?’ And my answer is, ‘Whatever I was told to do.’ I guess I wasn’t learned enough or sophisticated enough to appreciate what it meant in the long run for the future of the world.”— Harold Agnew, Enola Gay scientific observer and later Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Here is how it happens in the military, American or Japanese: page 47 in my book:

“Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.”  —Major General Smedley Darlington Butler. USMC (Ret.), “Old Gimlet Eye,” “Hell Devil Darling,” “The Fighting Quaker,” and “Old Duckboard.”  Brevet Medalist, Congressional Medal of Honor (twice).

Agnew never left “service to the military.”  And it seems he never recognized that an atrocity is just that, no matter who commits it, or why it was done. Apparently he has not thought too deeply about his participation in the atrocity. But he did say that future use would be irresponsible. Maybe Agnew did not have enough time to really understand Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Setsuko Thurlow’s Memoirs

Many of you may remember these sentences, “EACH PERSON HAD A NAME. EACH PERSON WAS LOVED BY SOMEONE.” in Setsuko Thurlow’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech when the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) received the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2017. We have registered four editions of memoirs, “For Those Who Pray for Peace”, published by Hiroshima Jogakuin Alumni Association. Japanese and English versions, published in 2005 and 2015, contain Setsuko Thurlow’s memoir. The Japanese versions, published in 2005 and 2015, contain a name list of 350 staff and students of Hiroshima Jogakuin who lost their lives at the bombing.