Thursday, August 7, 2008

Who is more dangerous? Bin Laden's driver? Or the guy on the corner smoking crack.

Today Osama bin Laden's driver was sentenced to spend the next five months in prison (he's already served about five years waiting for a trial.) Now this is big, front page news because it's a nice and tidy important judicial victory that comes tantalizingly close to global fear-or-ist number one himself. But one huge glooming thing stretches over this conviction for me. The man is being sentenced, really, for his proximity to bin Laden. The actual charge-this guy is now a war criminal for this-is "providing material support to a terrorist organization." This man was no terrorist mastermind, no idelogical firebrand. He was a driver.

But there's a double-take-worthy sort of twilight justice going on here. On the one hand, the courts declared this guy a war criminal. On the other hand, they don't see his war crimes as eliciting any more than five years in prison. Just to put that into perspective, that's the mandatory minimum sentence for the possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine. In fact, the average sentence for someone convicted of first-time trafficking of crack cocaine is ten years. So your local rock-slinger is TWICE as dangerous as Osama bin Laden's driver. Who is a war criminal. Isn't that a bit strange?