For the moment, America is engaged in military and covert operations against the Taliban and al Qaida, to protect itself and the world from more atrocities. Whatever the course of armed action, the criminals and their supporters will eventually face a non-lethal weapon of deservedly fearsome repute:
The American legal system awaits.
Civil attorneys and their law firms will have an opportunity to play a role in the justice part of the effort that is now, necessarily, concentrated on self-defense and protecting the world from more violence. Properly, attorneys for the families of the victims are biding their time. But legal action will come. And there will be many debts to be paid.
From what we in the public know at this point, the payments to Americans and other victims ought to come from many foreign sources. Suppose, just for starters, that the reports are true that Osama bin Laden phoned his mother shortly before the attacks and spoke of something big. We don’t know how much of the family fortune may legitimately be targeted by courts in this country and abroad (the bombing victims came from all over the globe). But let’s just guess that the bin Laden businesses might be very smart to start contributing voluntarily and massively to providing for the orphans of the ignoble, cowardly massacre launched by a kinsman still in close touch with his mother. It would be an act of charity in keeping with their great religion — and a smart business investment in minimizing legal costs.
To be sure, we don’t know the state of international law on such issues. But we’ll be mightily surprised if there aren’t enough brilliant American lawyers to assure that justice — and retribution — has a civil face. The efforts may be long and difficult, like everything else in the fight against terrorism, but the chances for long-term success should be good.
In fact, in the midst of everything else, it’s sort of a pleasant diversion to imagine how the attorneys might operate and who they might be. Maybe Osama bin Laden’s brother who disowned him the other day will be done with his American law school education soon enough to lend a small hand. And let’s assume that some of the avenging attorneys will be products of similarly great educations — who happen to be the liberated American women so despised in some regions of the world.