Isolated Extremists, Inc. Dec 29, 2009

Now we see the price of the Obama administration’s “we’re not George Bush” approach to terrorism.  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tries to ignite a bomb hidden in his Y-fronts, and thanks to the courage and quick reactions of the crew and, in particular, one Dutch passenger, a mass murder was averted.  Then what?  As soon as he lands, he’s whisked off to a holding cell, gets lawyered up, and promptly clams up.  The feds want a DNA sample and they can’t even get that.
How about a little old-fashioned interrogation?  Wouldn’t it be nice to know who helped him find the PETN he hoped to use to blow up the plane?  Who else was in on this plot?  Al Qaeda has already claimed him as one of their own, and from what his father apparently has said (appealing to Western authorities to no real effect that his son had become dangerous) this seems plausible indeed.
But the administration’s first words show how they continue to operate in a September 10 mind set.  Janet Napolitano described it as evidence that the system was working properly – except that, barring certain circumstances that had nothing to do with the administration, the tragedy would have gone off as planned.  How did this guy get past security with a bomb in his undies?  How is it that he was known to the feds but not only allowed on the flight but granted a multiple-entry visa?  And now, with questions hanging in the air, the answers to which might help prevent a similar, perhaps successful, attempt, we give this guy all the rights and privileges of a street criminal from South Chicago.  He is, of course, the “alleged” bomber.
And Obama, in his remarks today (finally, on the third day, saying something about a near-miss mass murder) refers to him as an “isolated extremist.”  Once again, we see Obama standing before the cameras, saying with certitude something he can’t possibly believe.  An isolated extremist is the guy who commits arson at an abortion clinic, as Charles Krauthammer has said.  This guy was not isolated at all – he went to Yemen for training, ended up at Skiphol airport with ordnance he had no business wearing, and apparently was accompanied by a distinguished gentleman who both lied about Abdulmutallab’s country of origin and also his passport status.
The Yemen connection is fascinating, and may well be the reason why Obama is so trying to downplay thie significance of this attempted terrorism.  The two heads of Yemen’s branch of al Qaeda in Arabia are alumni of – two guesses – the University of Guantanamo!  They were released, admittedly, under the Bush administration, so no glory there, but the current crop of Gitmo detainees has more Yemeni’s than any other nationality.  And Obama wants to send them home.  So this whole thing complicates Obama’s drive to close the prison in Cuba.
And let me add a parenthetical observation here: although I live in Illinois, it does not frighten me to have the Thompson Correctional center become Gitmo North.  Detainees transferred there are not going to break out of there, any more than any other high-security prisoner could.  But that’s not the point.  According to Team Obama, the bad guys have been able to recruit new jihadis because we have this insidious prison in Cuba, where terrorists go and are tortured and held for years without trial, all that violation of rights stuff.  So what’s going to happen at Thompson?  Will they not be held indefinitely without trial?  Because if they are, it will not make al Qaeda (or the rest of the world, for that matter) look any more kindly on us because the prison is stateside.  Ditto if we make Thompson the site of military tribunals.  And if they are going to get the full Monte of criminal rights and court trial, as we are about to lavish on KSM and his co-plotters, then we have  gone wholesale into the notion that terrorism is a police matter.  You can be assured that the moment the first detainees arrive at Thompson, there will be leftie civil rights lawyers trying to get them released.  And you can likewise be assured that off in their caves in Western Pakistan, the al Qaeda folks are chortling up their sleeves.
As I’ve written before, the animating philosophy of our criminal justice system is that it is better for a criminal to go free than that an innocent man be convicted.  And we as a society grudgingly pay the price with lots of criminals on the street who by rights should be behind bars.  With a clever lawyer, a cock-up among the police, a mistake by the DA, or any one of a dozen other exigencies, the bad guy walks.
We have no business risking that with Abdulmutallab or any of his ilk.  That’s why, whether it’s Gitmo or Gitmo North, we should keep these guys behind bars until we’re damn good and ready.  He is not an “alleged” terrorist – his hands were on the detonator.  This is not a police matter.  It is a state of war, against an inventive, persistent, and ruthless enemy.  We need to go after these guys with the gloves off, or at least the shackles (on our guys, not them) loosened a bit.  They do not deserve the protections of the Geneva Conventions, never mind habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights.  The laws of warfare have a term for guys like this – they are illegal combatants.  That puts them beyond the protections that organized militaries enjoy, and it is for a very good reason.
I imagine that the Obama folks believe in two things that make this course the appropriate one.  First, that our normal police procedures are adequate to protect the populace from further attacks.  Thanks to the Patriot Act (reviled by so many on the left), that is more true than it used to be.  But if we catch someone like this and unilaterally give up our ability to interrogate him, you can’t possibly say that we’re doing everything we can.  To the contrary, we’re leaving a major hole in our intelligence that could haunt us at a later time.  The second thing is, and I believe this is the trump card, Obama seriously believes that if we show ourselves to be so rule-of-law noble, to the point that we jeopardize our own citizenry while expanding the definition of rights beyond all original intent and offering Constitutional protections to those who manifestly do not merit them, we will win a larger battle.  People we look at us and say, there is a country that truly believes in its ideals.  And – importantly, because without this the whole idea is insane – because we are admired so, we will find more friends around the world who will help us pursue our interests.
In a word, hogwash.  It may be nice to have others think highly of the US.  And it’s true that global surveys show more kind thoughts about the US now than under Bush.  But public opinion is one thing.  Policy is another.  Governments around the world will help us pursue our interests when it is in their interest to do so – no matter who is President.  I have not noticed one jot more co-operation among either ally or adversary as a result of Obama’s charm offensive (with the sole exception of the Nobel committee).  Russia is still obstreperous on Iran; China is still prickly, and frankly won an important showdown at the Copenhagen climate summit.  Iran thumbs its nose at us with more impunity than ever; so does Venezuela.  Israel and the Palestinians remained locked in a death grip.  Our European allies are showing little if any willingness to follow America’s lead on such issues as financial regulation.  And look how many troops were committed to Afghanistan after the President’s momentous surge decision – the usual numbers from the usual allies.  So the score on Obama’s campaign to restore America’s luster is pretty disappointing.
And of course, the Islamo-fascists have not backed off an inch.
So what’s the point?  If Obama thinks that this Justice Department approach to the war on terror is worth it on its own terms, he may have some ‘splainin’ to do to the family members of the next airline bombing victims.
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