Common Criminals or Enemy Combatants?
- From: jose el fontanero <josefsoplar@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 14 Feb 2010 12:15:18 -0800 (PST)
Common Criminals or Enemy Combatants?
By Miryam Lindberg
President Obama ascended to the seat of America's political power by
promising a thorough departure from his predecessor's terrorism
doctrine. One year later, Obama is looking a lot like his nemesis. Or
can it be that after taking over Bush's place, the young president has
come to the conclusion that the old man was not so wrong after all?
After so much backpedaling lately, the Obama camp is giving that
impression. Obama the president must be regretting what Obama the
candidate often said so eloquently, and even candidly, against Bush's
policies. The candidate never wasted an opportunity to fiercely
criticize the Texan as one more way to distance himself from the
former president's stance on almost every issue. By doing that, Obama
painted himself into a corner.
Reality bites like nothing else does, and pragmatism is in America's
DNA, but the beleaguered current White House tenant is really between
a rock and a hard place. The American public is overwhelmingly against
a civilian trial for KSM. Many Democrats are complaining that the Bush
administration successfully tried terrorists in civilian courts, and
today's brouhaha is just anti-Obama rhetoric. Regarding those who dare
to differ, John Brennan wrote recently that "[p]olitically motivated
criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-
Qaeda." Ouch! Close ranks, and no dissent allowed. Yet Obama's
circumstances are different from Bush's. The latter didn't have the
benefit of hindsight; 9/11 happened unexpectedly and became a horrid
call to action. The U.S. political and legal systems were not prepared
for the onslaught. Passenger planes as human missiles? The strategy
against jihadism had to be delineated from scratch and on the go.
Today we know the jihadist enemy and his intentions much better.
Bush's untested and much-maligned normative approach kept the country
safe and provided new instruments to deal with jihadism, yet Obama
came to power on the wings of anti-Bushism.
One year after his historic election, the latest poll indicates that a
whopping 75 percent of American voters are "angry" at the Obama
administration's policies -- 89 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of
Democrats, and 78 percent of independents. The plans for the trial of
KSM in New York and the Mirandizing of the Christmas terrorist have
hurt Obama; it's been too much to stomach for a public that wanted
change, but not that specific kind of change. During the campaign, the
candidate looked so sure in his righteous assessment; now the
president gives the impression of being constantly caught by surprise,
improvising last-minute solutions, or backtracking. Campaigning has
always been different from governing.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said recently, "We made a decision
after 9/11 that I think was crucial. We said, 'This is a war -- it's
not a law-enforcement problem.'" Well, Obama always saw it the other
way around. Bush wanted to treat terrorists as enemy combatants and
not your regular shoplifters; Obama wailed because he considered that
this approach compromised "America's most precious values." In the war
vs. law enforcement approach, we can't see the forest for the trees.
We are so focused on the details -- the cost of the trials, the
security issue, the funding, American values, the terrorists' dog and
pony show, you name it -- that we fail to see the picture as a whole:
The United States has a legal system designed to protect the citizen
against the crushing power of government, and very strict standards
were set to guarantee that protection. The framers of the Constitution
were very clear in their intent; not in their wildest dreams would
they have envisioned the possibility to extend the same civil rights
and protections for American citizens to foreign enemies pursuing the
Here's the latest proof showing how some are missing precisely that
point: On Tuesday, none other than the Chairman of the Judiciary
Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and the Chairwoman of the
Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), wrote to
President Obama "to endorse the use of our federal criminal courts to
prosecute and bring terrorists to justice ... We disagree with those
who contend that our investigators, prosecutors, courts and the men
and women who protect our courts and prisons are not up to the task of
bringing these terrorists to justice." That's not the point; the issue
here is that the criminal court system was never engineered to deal
with jihadists arrested on battlefields or coming from abroad to
attack the homeland. American criminal laws are based on the
deterrence model; since the jihadist's ultimate goal is martyrdom
through suicide, deterrence becomes almost utopian when the enemy is
more interested in the Hereafter. The enormous strain for choosing a
criminal defendant approach for jihadists is painfully evident. Worse
yet, those martyrs-to-be incessantly insist that they are waging war
and seek our annihilation. That's why it was so urgent to find another
way. Other nations have developed an array of legal tools and
procedures to deal with their domestic terrorist groups because they
have suffered the scourge of terrorism on their soil much longer than
the United States has. That's what Bush attempted to do after 9/11 --
and the rest is history.
Terrorism may be as old as mankind, but it has evolved over time. The
contemporary version of the terrorist enterprise is new to us. We are
dealing with a new type of enemy, but some are pretending that we are
completely able to confront him with our old legal tools. Bush's way
of dealing with jihadism wasn't Obama's cup of tea, so the newcomer
asked for a chance to do it in pure Sinatra style: his way. Although
Obama got his wish and has attempted to apply his recipe, his
endeavors have ineluctably clashed with reality. Many of his voters
already have a bad case of buyer's remorse at this early stage of his
presidency. Obama's approach to the legal treatment of terrorist
suspects has much to do with those sinking poll numbers. Seen the
"Miss me yet?" billboard? It all goes back to Bush again because he
tackled the issue as a new challenge that required a new modus
operandi -- while others have clung to less pioneering approaches.
Obama, the anti-Bush candidate, now goes on television to say that
he's no different from Bush. Who would have thought it?!
What the weak head with strongest bias rules, Is pride, the never-
failing vice of fools.
Author: Alexander Pope
- Prev by Date: Climategate's Phil Jones Confesses to Climate Fraud
- Next by Date: The hopey-change thing as capitalist tool
- Previous by thread: Climategate's Phil Jones Confesses to Climate Fraud
- Next by thread: The hopey-change thing as capitalist tool