August 24, 2009

The War Against the War Against Terrorism

Hatched by Dafydd

I stand (well, sit) in awe: I never believed that even this administration would have the huevos to immolate itself upon the altar of terrorists' rights. But it appears that the liberal imperative to damn America and support every anti-American movement in the world -- even al-Qaeda! -- is stronger than any sense of political or national survival, no matter how feeble:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided to appoint a prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they allegedly threatened terrorism suspects, according to two sources familiar with the move.

Holder is poised to name John Durham, a career Justice Department prosecutor from Connecticut, to lead the inquiry, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.

I think they've stepped into it; Eric Holder is going to pull the trigger. He's actually going to -- let's be brutally frank here -- prosecute CIA agents for violating the rights of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaidah, and Abd Nashiri... presumably their right to keep silent about current pending terrorist attacks against the United States.

BREAKING UPDATE: ABC reports that current CIA Director (and former liberal California congressman) Leon Panetta was so enraged by the Holder decision that he threatened to resign; today, both the White House and Panetta's office deny the published reports.

There are only three possible outcomes to such an investigation:

  1. It might, like a previous investigation during the Bush administration, result in a finding that clears CIA agents and their civilian superiors of all charges.

The earlier team of prosecutors, including Robert Spencer, who had successfully prosecuted Zacharias Moussaoui, examined 20 cases of possible illegal interrogation; it found no evidence that could justify prosecution in 19 cases. Only one accusation led to a grand jury indictment -- of a CIA contractor; David A. Passaro was convicted of assault, but not murder, even though the suspect later died (the death could not positively be tied to the assault). Passaro was convicted of using a metal flashlight as a weapon against a detainee in Afghanistan.

Oddly enough, this would probably be the best outcome for Team Obamunism: Holder might have to fall on his sword, but he's only the attorney general... he's not critical to what Obama wants to do to the country. He could simply start appointing unconfirmed "Justice czars" to give him the legal rulings he demands, as he has already appointed numerous "foreign-policy czars" to debase and undercut Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

  1. Holder's investigation might find a number of minor incidents that are prosecutable but nothing major, allowing both sides to claim victory.

Note that such incidents must be so clearly wrong that a majority of American voters are disgusted by them; beating a suspect to death with a flashlight is a good example. Case-2 won't help the administration at all if, when voters hear the actual charges, they react by saying, "So what? Who the hell cares if the CIA frightened Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- a man who wanted to kill thousands of Americans?"

While such a string of legitimate but petty convictions may partially save Eric Holder's face, it's also likely to further damage the Obama administration's moral credibility -- and Democrats in general -- by feeding the mounting impression that Democrats quite simply oppose every program to defend the nation; that they're more concerned about our international "image" than protecting Americans from harm.

I believe folks still generally remember leftists complaining about lopsided battle victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, whining that it's just not fair for us to use overwhelming force against our military enemies. Groups such as International ANSWER, egged on by mainstream Democrats, argued that morally, American forces ought to suffer far more casualties, so we wouldn't look like bullies against al-Qaeda.

The spectacle of the Justice Department prosecuting interrogators for slapping, shaking, or threatening terrorists, in an effort to thwart plots of mass butchery, cannot help but fuel the belief that Democrats' concern for terrorists' rights is absurdly inflated, compared to the looming threat posed by militant Islamism.

  1. Or the investigation can turn into a Soviet-style show trial, where the threshold of "torture" drops lower and lower, to the point where CIA agents and contractors are being indicted and prosecuted for virtually every effective technique that has kept America safe from further terrorist attack since 2001; and the conflagration begins burning up the chain of command to drag in political appointees and even elected officials... criminalizing mere policy differences on the issue of national defense.

The third is the most likely outcome, in my opinion; when an administration appoints a special prosecutor to investigate some alleged crime, pressure becomes almost insurmountable on the appointee to find something "substantial" to justify the millions upon millions of dollars he is spending.

He tends to follow leads wherever they go, and especially when they lead up the chain, rather than down; the investigation ranges farther and farther afield, sometimes even spinning out of control into an overtly political attack -- as when the investigation of the Iran-Contra "scandal" by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh culminated in an "October surprise," when Walsh indicted former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger less than a week before the 1992 election... likely playing a large role in President George H.W. Bush's defeat by Bill Clinton.

In the present case, the dynamics of special prosecutors means that the investigation may begin with a "relatively narrow" mandate "to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees." But it will quickly skitter off course into an attempt to indict, to "get," some really big fish -- enumerated here in decreasing probability but increasing desire on the part of the Left to "nail" and "frogmarch into jail":

  • The pair likeliest to be enmeshed in the spiderweb of political investigation would be former head of the Office of Legal Counsel (and now federal appellate-court judge) Jay Bybee and his top subordinate, John Yoo; they were largely responsible for producing, at White House request, a memo examining the legality of enhanced interrogation techniques; their conclusion that American law allowed many enhanced techniques is now decried by various professionally outraged left-liberal groups, and is now being investigated by Spain as a "crime against humanity."
  • Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who accepted some of the enhanced techniques discussed in the Bybee memo and rejected others; or his Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith (author of the seminal Bush-era memoir, War and Decision).
  • Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence (then Director of the CIA, as the title reverted to its original form) Porter Goss, and former Director of the CIA (and former Director of the NSA) Gen. Michael Hayden -- just because they headed up the CIA, and it's politically impossible to charge CIA interrogators following instructions with "war crimes" without likewise indicting the agency heads.
  • Former Directors of National Intelligence John Negroponte and Mike McConnell (the latter is also a former Director of the NSA). "Just because."
  • And of course, the big cheeses: former Vice President Dick Cheney, former President George W. Bush, and former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove -- just because "everybody knows" they routinely bombed orphanages and nunneries, engaged in cannibalism, and locked completely innocent terrorists in a room with a caterpillar.

Holder's decision to throw red meat into the maw of the special prosecutor exposes Obama and congressional Democrats to the threat of political catastrophe: If moderate American voters conclude that the investigation has turned into a "witch hunt," where good and decent men and women are put on trial for daring to aggressively defend the United States from terrorist attack (voters already have the latent belief that the Left wants to criminalize national defense) -- then the collapse of support for the administration and Democrats in Congress will be swift, thorough, and enduring.

Given the drawn-out nature of such investigations and prosecutions ("the law's delay"), they're likely to come to a head shortly before the 2010 elections; and a case-3 inquisition could well lead to a debacle greater than that of 1994, perhaps closer to the 1930 and 1932 elections, where Democrats gained a two-cycle total of 149 House seats and 20 Senate seats.

The current angst among voters -- which has led to a stunning drop in Barack Obama's job approval in every major poll conducted, from Gallup to Rasmussen -- has so far been driven almost entirely by domestic gaffes, miscalculations, and proposed policies that are antithetical to exceptional American virtues and threaten the lifestyles, perhaps even the lives, of the American people. National-security and foreign-policy idiocies have not even entered the equation yet.

If successful CIA terrorist interrogators are indicted and put on trial for keeping us safe (against all immediate post-9/11 predictions), and if these investigations morph into a series of show trials, then fear of economic collapse will be joined by fear of dreadful terrorist attack... all due to liberal anti-business, anti-defense ideology. With that "perfect wave" of Democratic delegitimazation, all normal limits on political upheavals, carefully written into our Constitution, would be suspended. Republicans would win races they have no business winning, and the gains would last longer than they have a right to last.

Democrats would find themselves back in the wilderness, as they were from the 54th through 60th Congresses; Republican domination lasted from the 1894 to the 1908 elections in the House, and to the 1912 election in the Senate. To climb back out again, Democrats would likely have to evolve into a much more mainstream party.

Thus Eric Holder's mad, political payback against America's first line of defense against attack could actually achieve what Republicans themselves could only dream of: finally make plain to voters just how radical and anti-American the Democratic Party has become.

I have never supported the scheme of anti-liberals voting for liberal, even radical Democrats like the Obamacle; the theory is that the Left will inevitably overreach, horrify the electorate, and precipitate a backlash that will sweep Republicans (some of whom are conservative) back into power. But my objection was never that there wouldn't be a backlash; it's that the damage caused in the interim, while liberals control all the levers of power, may well be irreversible. Even if the rosy scenario of movement conservatives comes true, the country may already be so ravaged by the insanity of the taxaholic, technophobic, and terrorist appeasing New Left that we can never recover even to the point we were before the debacles of 2006 and 2008.

That said, now that we're already in the terrible position we are, I would obviously rather see the reign of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%), and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), quickly truncated than see them abide on and on. I also believe that no prosecutions will succeed, except perhaps for obvious cases of abuse by peripheral characters; the political show trials will serve only to damage the administration, not the freedom or reputation of CIA agents -- and certainly not of Bush-administration lawyers, cabinet members, or the president and vice president themselves, who demanded that the CIA protect the United States as aggressively as legally allowed.

The electoral damage is already done, and the best strategy going forward is to end the nightmare as quickly as possible.

Therefore, I rejoice that the attorney general has chosen to sacrifice the remaining shreds of the administration's credibility in a futile, thuggish attempt to punish its predecessor for successful national defense. Go ahead, try to pin that tar baby with a flying tackle; dig that political hole so deep, you'll see darkness at noon.

In other words, bring it on.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 24, 2009, at the time of 7:37 PM

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