Justice and the Enemy

Nuremberg, 9/11, and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed


By William Shawcross

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Since the Nuremberg Trials of 1945, lawful nations have struggled to impose justice around the world, especially when confronted by tyrannical and genocidal regimes. But in Cambodia, the USSR, China, Bosnia, Rwanda, and beyond, justice has been served haltingly if at all in the face of colossal inhumanity. International Courts are not recognized worldwide. There is not a global consensus on how to punish transgressors.

The war against Al Qaeda is a war like no other. Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda’s founder, was killed in Pakistan by Navy Seals. Few people in America felt anything other than that justice had been served. But what about the man who conceived and executed the 9/11 attacks on the US, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? What kind of justice does he deserve? The U.S. has tried to find the high ground by offering KSM a trial — albeit in the form of military tribunal. But is this hypocritical? Indecisive? Half-hearted? Or merely the best application of justice possible for a man who is implacably opposed to the civilization that the justice system supports and is derived from? In this book, William Shawcross explores the visceral debate that these questions have provoked over the proper application of democratic values in a time of war, and the enduring dilemma posed to all victors in war: how to treat the worst of your enemies.
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  • “The examination is elegant and fast-reading… Many things make Justice and the Enemy a worthy read, starting with the author’s recitation of the history.”
     New York Times Book Review"A reminder that critical contemporary judgments about wartime justice do not always persist." Washington Post
    “Brief but immensely useful.” Sunday Telegraph“This is a clear-minded, thoughtful and unsentimental book that succeeds brilliantly in showing that it is not the job of overpaid, posturing lawyers to removed every element of lethal risk on behalf of fanatical mass murderers.”
     Policy Review“A probing analysis grounded in history, law, and politics…By clarifying the dilemmas that America faces in justly defeating its jihadist enemies and by putting into perspective both America’s achievement and errors in the struggle against Islamist terrorism, Shawcross shows himself a true friend of freedom and democracy.” The National“a daring plunge into a debate that has become an emotional minefield… Credit Shawcross for striving to guide readers through a moral labyrinth out of which he makes no definite claims to know the path.” 
  • Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas Blog, October 28, 2011
    “[Shawcross] has written the best book yet on the dilemmas Western governments face in dealing with Islamic terrorists…Shawcross writes carefully, without bluster and exaggeration, and the effect is a damning indictment of much of the popular rhetoric of the decade after 9/11 that insisted we had no legal or moral right to deal with al Qaeda kingpins as we had in the past with other such terrorists and criminals.”Booklist, December 1, 2011
    “Shawcross here addresses the timely and thorny question of how best to prosecute international terrorists… Those seeking a more policy-focused review of recent developments should start with this work.”American Spectator“Shawcross makes telling points on a variety of issues and sub-issues, from waterboarding and the hard intelligence it has provided, to the ramifications of warfare by drone, to the reasons for the kid glove treatment afforded by the West to Islamic fanatics.” Wall Street Journal“Mr. Shawcross vividly surveys the score of issues arising from the war on terror, and his judgments are sound, because they look to history and practice, not ideology.” Lawfare (blog)
  • Evening Standard
    “[Shawcross] returns to the political fray with a vital contribution to the ongoing debate over how Western democracies should deal with terrorists… This subject, and book, will be controversial. But it will also be of increasing relevance in the years ahead. Shawcross's work distinguishes itself not just by taking on a subject most other writers have shied away from but by reaching answers. It should be read by policy-makers and public alike.The Spectator
    “Thoughtful, challenging and deeply depressing… [Shawcross] argues a compelling case… This book is lucidly argued, well informed and exceptionally well written”The Guardian
    “Shawcross is a voice worth listening to in today's tongue-biting culture because he is not frightened to call things by their proper names… Readers who rely on the liberal media for their opinions should seek out a copy of Justice and the Enemy. Opinions that are never tested are mere prejudices, and Shawcross presents a sober account of debates you are unlikely to hear.”Daily Mail
  • Kirkus, October 10, 2011
    “A controversial intervention into the ongoing political and legal argument about whether and how to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators for their role in the 9/11 attack… Shawcross (The Queen Mother: The Official Biography, 2009, etc.) takes a no-holds-barred approach to the issues involved in putting the alleged perpetrators of 9/11 on trial for their crimes… Sure to cause further heated debate on the Mohammed situation and other similar scenarios.”Publishers WeeklyOctober 3, 2011“Shawcross explores what form of justice the al-Qaeda defendants should receive, the pros and cons of military versus federal courts, the admissibility of evidence gained under the CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ and the differing policies of the Bush and Obama administrations regarding ‘unlawful combatants,’ the Geneva Conventions, Guantánamo, and justice…. This thoughtful, passionately right-wing study underscores the thorny difficulties the U.S. has faced in bringing the September 11 attackers to court.”

On Sale
Jan 8, 2013
Page Count
272 pages

William Shawcross

About the Author

William Shawcross is a distinguished journalist who has covered international conflicts and conflict resolution, and bestselling author of many books including Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia; The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust, and Modern Conscience; Deliver Us from Evil: Warlords, Peacekeepers, and a World of Endless Conflict; Allies, and The Queen Mother. He is a chairman of Article 19, a London based charity and pressure group which defends the rights of free expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Declaration of Human Rights; a board member of the International Crisis Group; and was a member of the High Commissioner for Refugees’ Informal Advisory Group from 1995-2000.

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