Jun 13 2009

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As You Want It To Be

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Each of us bends reality in one form of another in our daily lives; discounting a bad habit, overlooking excess, enabling a failed relationship.

The Obama Administration is active doing this on an international scale regarding the War on Terror.

Through word and deed, the Administration is diligently dismantling the protections put in place after September 11th to justify a world were Islamic terrorism is little more than a subordinate clause to a cosmic misunderstanding between Islam and the West.

The Obama approach, perhaps steeped in his experiences as a community organizer, is reminiscent of how municipalities deal with gang violence. The Administration does not see Islamic terrorism as a continual frontal assault on our values and institutions, but rather as a misguided, though malicious nuisance, to be dealt with by force when necessary and processed through our court system, with equal protections under the law for the violators.

Obama set the broad outlines for this reality adjustment in his early days in office, with a flurry of Executive Order that closed Gitmo, extended international legal privileges to detainees and revoking grounded, legal opinion regarding the questioning and treatment of detainees.

There was push back.

Congress refused to fund the closing of Gitmo without a plan in place to relocate the detainees; something that, six months into the Administration, Obama officials still do not have. The Europeans, while hysterically happy to have Obama in charge, immediately refused to take Gitmo detainees, even though European governments are the loudest critics of the facility. The Euros have never been ambivalent about their own hypocrisy.

The President also got into a public scuffle with former Vice President Cheney on the wisdom of his terrorist policy changes, which probably swayed no committed partisans, but tellingly, improved Cheney’s approval ratings by 6 points nationally.

And after an initial ambivalence regarding the release of photos taken during interrogations, Obama sensibly took the counsel of his senior military and intelligence officials and came out against release of the photos as they would present a clear and present danger to American forces in the field.  The ACLU and Nancy Pelosi have still not articulated a reason for releasing the photos, beyond an esoteric need for the people to know, and remain silent regarding arguments that the photos could put the lives of Americans at risk.

This is pointless and irresponsible.

But if anyone thought that the Administration was reevaluating its terror policies, they bet too early.

In Cairo, the master of the spoken word wove a mosaic of common purpose and shared values. By stating the obvious in what divides Islam from the West and the long standing/long simmering disputes, he appeared to be saying something consequential, but without any discernable solutions beyond platitudes.  Importantly, he marginalized and compartmentalized terrorism as an active fringe that needed to be addressed, but apparently not as a central component to the dialogue between the West and Islam.

But constructing the new reality and narrative for terror was only the beginning. The Administration shortly thereafter, began to practice what it preached. The Administration began by transferring Ahmed Ghailani from Gitmo to New York City for trial in federal court.

Now, this isn’t simply another murder case on the docket. Ghailani was one of the most wanted Al Qaeda operatives.  He was captured in Pakistan after a 12 hour fire-fight. Ghailani was charged by the US for his role in the attacks on US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Urban legend has it that he was a driver/body guard for Osama bin Laden.

Now, this man has been intentionally moved by the US government from a secure, maximum security facility – intentionally built to be away from the United States – to the same island where Ghailani’s comrades deliberately killed 3,000 Americans.  It is nothing short of surreal.

Instead of being tried by a Military Commission, Ghailani will appear in Federal Court in Manhattan, with all the legal rights and privileges that would be extended to American citizen. But Ghailani isn’t a US citizen, and this isn’t a run of the mill case of domestic extortion or fraud. Ghailani aided and abetted a terrorist organization that killed hundreds in the name of holy war with the United States.

Look closely. Ghailani is a poster child for what a “foot soldier” looks like in this new conflict that we’ve been fighting. No formal uniform.  No understood field of battle. No distinction between civilians and soldiers. No dedicated nation-state to be held accountable. It is a kind of conflict that the Geneva Conventions did not anticipate, and as such, has led Obama and the Left to the arguable conclusion that this is not a war, but at most, a messy police action.

Don’t believe me?  How about this.

The FBI has now been instructed to read Miranda Rights to captured terrorists in Afghanistan.

No joke here.

According to Congressman Mike Rogers of the House Intelligence Committee, law enforcement officials have been ordered to “Mirandize” terror suspects.  As a refresher, in case you’ve missed “CSI” re-rerun, Miranda rights are provided to US citizens in advance of arrest, and are spoken as a variation of:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”

The implications for the United States and American citizens are nothing short of breathtaking.

The new posture and criminal procedures not only frames the capture of a terrorist as law enforcement issue, but vitally, it puts the final stake in any credible intelligence gathering on the field of battle, already gravely neutered by the Administration’s Teletubby interrogation techniques. Adding insult to injury, not only are taxpayers now paying for the weapons we use against terrorists; they will also foot the bill for terrorist defense counsel.

When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks was captured and handed over to the US authorities, he told American interrogators that he would not answer any questions without a lawyer, confident then as the Obama administration is apparently now, that his actions constituted nothing more than a law enforcement matter for the Americans.

Mohammed was one of three detainees meeting the requirements of Justice Department guidance on the use of all Enhanced Interrogation Techniques on enemy combatants. His confession to planning 9-11 and other, valuable information on Al Qaeda and its operations, information that the Obama administration will not make public, was the result. It helped keep America safe.

In the run up to the 2004 election, Democrats were frothing with indignation that President Bush had been asleep at the switch and that the Administration had failed to “connect the dots” to prevent the attacks of September 11th. The charge was churlish and unfounded then, and certifiably laughable given the actions and comments of leading Democrats since.

But now, nearly 8 years after September 11th, the Obama Administration’s concerted efforts to rebrand and restructure a war on terror as a Mob take down creates an alarming possibility for unconnected dots.

As much as we bend and even deny reality, we ultimately cannot run from it.

It is not a September 10th world.

In a vernacular that it finds itself most comfortable with, the Obama administration may consider itself so advised.


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