June 18, 2008

The American Military: Threat... or Menace?

Hatched by Dafydd

An illuminating argument has erupted between Democratic (de facto) nominee, Barack H. Obama, and Republican (de facto) nominee, John S. McCain. Simply put, Obama said in an interview that we should go back to the Bill Clinton policy of only going after terrorists in the courts, with writs and subpoenas, and not by force and violence; McCain said this was naive, that we had already tried this approach -- and it brought us 9/11; and Obama has ripped him for engaging in the "politics of fear."

Fear. This reminds me... in a BBS discussion I was just involved in, one very leftist participant sneered something (I don't rememeber the precise wording) to the effect that, "I'm not afraid of old men in turbans living in caves," and accused me of being a frightened, sniveling coward.

I asked him whether he had ever wondered why they're now living in caves, instead of Afghan training camps and Iraqi palaces... but he didn't respond, of course; having run rings around me logically, he had already moved on.

The answer should be clear with a little thought: Because military action by President George W. Bush drove them out of those camps and palaces, harried them up and down the land, until finally the only place they could find to hide -- was in a hole, whence they can no longer direct terrorist campaigns against the United States or our allies.

Keep this in mind as you read the following:

At issue were Obama's comments Monday in an interview with ABC News. Obama was asked how he could be sure the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies are not crucial to protecting U.S. citizens.

Obama said the government can crack down on terrorists "within the constraints of our Constitution." He mentioned the indefinite detention of Guantanamo Bay detainees, contrasting their treatment with the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

"And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo," Obama said. "What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks - for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center - we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

"And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, 'Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims....

"We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws," Obama said.

What conclusions can we draw from this unguarded admission by Sen. Obama?

  • Obama as much as admits that under his presidency, America will no longer go after terrorists militarily, but only through the courts.
  • He thinks that 1990s policy worked out much better than the current one. Evidently, he is completely ignorant of the numerous terrorist attacks on United States interests during that period... and he has even forgotten 9/11 itself.

(Or perhaps Obama thinks that 9/11 only happened because terrorists thought Bush was weak; had Algore been president, they would have been quaking in their boots so that they would never have attacked us! But that's a bit hard to swallow, considering how comfortable they had become with the Clinton policy -- which allowed for one major terrorist strike against the Great Satan every 2-3 years.)

  • As well, Obama has never even heard of any of the terrorist prosecutions conducted by the Bush administration -- including those of "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla, "failed shoe-bomber" Richard Reid, and "twentieth hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui

John McCain finds the Obama/Clinton/Carter "law enforcement" policy dangerously naive and unworkable:

The McCain campaign responded with a call in which McCain's senior foreign policy adviser Randy Schuenemann said, "Once again we have seen that Senator Obama is a perfect manifestation of a September 10th mindset. He brings the attitude, the failures of judgment, the weakness and the misunderstanding of the nature of our adversaries, and the dangers posed by them to a series of policy positions."

He added, "I have no doubt that we will hear in the course of the day that the Obama campaign will say we're practicing the, quote, politics of fear, and the reality is what Senator Obama's statement reflects last night is that he's advocating a policy of delusion that ignores what happened in the failed approach of the 1990's which allowed al Qaeda to thrive and prosper unmolested and that policy clearly made America less safe and more vulnerable."

For this attitude -- treating mass Islamist terrorism as war, not a criminal conspiracy -- Obama accuses McCain of just reiterating the "failed policies" of President Bush; failed presidential nominee John Kerry charges McCain with "defending a policy that is indefensible;" and Bush hater and presumed National Security Advisor under the Obama administration, Richard Clarke, called McCain's anti-terrorism policy the "big lie technique." Clarke thus directly compares John McCain to Josef Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

Obama continued his tirade:

"These are the same guys who helped engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could have pinned down the people who actually committed 9/11," Obama said on his campaign plane.

Presumably, Obama was referring to how some of the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing were prosecuted during the Clinton administration... but was not referring to, or even recalling, the utter failure ever to arrest anybody for any of the other mass Islamist terrorist attacks against the United States during the 1990s and into 2000.

It is true that some terrorists were prosecuted under Clinton; but in fact, Obama appears completely ignorant of the fact that far more terrorists have been criminally prosecuted -- in civilian courts -- during the Bush administration than during Clinton's tenure. The three high-profile cases mentioned above, Padilla, Reed, and Moussasoui, are just the tip of the ice cube.

In fact, according to a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) out of Syracuse University, there have been 579 terrorism prosecutions from September 11th, 2001, through August, 2006, or 116 per year... compared to only 115 in the previous five years under Bill Clinton, or 23 per year. The rate of criminal-court terrorist prosecutions more than quintupled under Bush from what it was under Clinton.

Sure, maybe Clinton didn't go after the terrorists by force of arms; but don't forget, he didn't prosecute them, either! Does Obama really want to go back to the that failed policy?

Even more important, there are far more failed terrorist prosecutions than there are successful ones. The TRAC study, released in 2006, found that only 1% of defendants actually convicted in terrorism cases received sentences of 20 years or longer; and more than half of convicted defendants received only time already served -- or no prison time at all.

And this doesn't even include terrorists who cannot be tried because, as an integral part of the attack, they killed themselves: Not a single person who carried out the actual hijackings on September 11th, 2001, was ever tried, because all 19 of them died in the bestial orgy of murder.

Why are criminal prosecutions so dicey? The point is that the government's most important task is to prevent terrorist attacks... not sit around, wait for them to happen, and then prosecute the perpetrators (those who happen to survive). Thus lawn-forcement officers try to arrest the terrorists before they commit the attack; and this necessarily weakens the legal case. From the International Herald Tribune:

"There are many flaws in the report," said Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra. "It is irresponsible to attempt to measure success in the war on terror without the necessary details about the government's strategy and tactics."

For instance, Sierra said, prison sentences are "not the proper measure of the success of the department's overall counterterrorism efforts. The primary goal ... is to detect, disrupt and deter terrorist activities."

Because prosecutors try to charge potential terrorists before they act, they often allege fraud, false statements or immigration violations that carry lesser penalties than the offenses that could be charged after an attack, Sierra said. This "allows us to engage the enemy earlier than if we waited for them to act first."

But wait; maybe it's just the Bush administration that incompetently handles terrorism cases. Perhaps the Clinton administration was just much better at it. But that's not what the evidence appears to show:

TRAC totaled the cases that prosecutors labeled as terrorism or antiterrorism no matter what charge was brought. It found only 14 prosecutions in fiscal 2000. That rose to 57 in fiscal 2001, which ended three weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks [and which included the last four months of the Clinton administration]. The figure then soared to 355 in fiscal 2002. But by fiscal 2005 it dropped to 46. And in the first eight months of fiscal 2006, through last May, there were only 19 such prosecutions.

Even in FY 2006, the year in which the IHT sniffs that the Bush administration failed to prosecute enough terrorist cases, there were more prosecutions in the first eight months than in all of FY 2000.

But surely such prosecutions are the best method of preventing terrorist attacks... right? Hardly. During the last administration, there were several major Islamist terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda and affiliates: The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993; the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996; the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and the USS Cole bombing in 2000. In addition, you have to count 9/11 itself in 2001, because the Bush administration had not yet shifted from the Clinton-era "law enforcement" response to terrorism to the more robust policy of military interdiction and of law enforcement driven by intelligence gathering (such collaborations were forbidden by "Gorelick's Wall" until after 9/11).

After we did shift strategy, however, from December 2001 to today, there have been exactly zero successful Islamist terrorist attacks on us, except for attacks on our military in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of "asymmetrical combat operations" in those wars. From five major successful attacks by radical Islamist terrorists to none at all... that's a pretty good argument for the McCain approach, rather than the Obama approach.

And here is yet another: Yesterday in the U.K., the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ordered the Ministry of Justice to release on bail Abu Qatada, the highest ranking al-Qaeda affiliate they currently hold -- and a direct clerical counsel to Osama bin Laden himself.

So why are they releasing him? As near as I can make out, Qatada was being held on an immigration charge:

  • He is a Jordanian, and he was tried and convicted in absentia (twice!) in a Jordanian court for "conspiracy to carry out bomb attacks on two hotels in Amman in 1998, and providing finance and advice for a series of bomb attacks in Jordan planned to coincide with the Millennium."
  • But because he had these two convictions pending, which presumably could result in a sentence of death in Jordan, he could not be deported back to that country... because the U.K. refuses to recognize the validity of executions.
  • Therefore, reasoned the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, since he could not be deported, that meant the entire immigration case against him collapsed.
  • Therefore, he could not be held indefinitely without a criminal charge.
  • But the moment Qatada was charged with a regular civilian crime, the judges told the Ministry that they had to offer Abu Qatada bail;

It seems that in the U.K., this is an even more fundamental right than here. For one difference, we do not set bail for a prisoner deemed a flight risk; and evidently, the U.K. does.

Therefore, Qatada walks tomorrow. I wonder how long it will be before he is spirited out the U.K. by his al-Qaeda friends? But in any event, that is another reason why America is much better off treating mortal combat as "warfare," rather than a mere "crime" that needs to be investigated, and a flurry of papers that need to fly out in response to the next 9/11.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 18, 2008, at the time of 4:30 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Rein

Great analysis. But what I found most telling was Obama's colloquialism for terrorists --
"these folks."

The above hissed in response by: Rein [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2008 8:27 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 06/18/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2008 9:55 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

The Bush policy regarding prevention of terrorist attacks in the U.S. seems to be waking pretty good.

And McCain is opposed to Gitmo, so how can Obama paint him with that brush?

Obama seems like a superficially attractive candidate with really stupid policies. It will be interesting to see how he eventually does.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2008 10:32 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dishman

It seems to me that there's a high probability of Barack Obama regretting winning with the campaign he's run.

He just doesn't realize it.

The above hissed in response by: Dishman [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2008 2:16 PM

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