Saturday, January 09, 2010

It Came Upon a Midday Clear

Only three weeks ago, if a group like CAIR yelped “That’s profiling!”about some national security effort or other, many Americans would gulp self-consciously and mutter amongst themselves, “Omigod!! Please, don’t think we’re like that!”

But ever since Christmas Day, when groups like CAIR yelps, “That’s profiling!,” Americans cross their arms and answer back, “You got a problem with that?”

CAIR isn’t getting us down this time. There’s been a sea-change since Christmas in the awareness of Americans of Islamist intentions to attack us. Now Ibrahim Hooper and Nihad Awad are barely treading water. What Major Hasan failed to do to re-focus America’s attention on the global jihad coming against us, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did with his underwear bomb. Seventy-one percent of Americans polled want Farouk handled by the military, not civilian prosecutors. Fifty-eight percent of Americans polled want to see him waterboarded.

Three weeks ago, the only ones daring to utter terms like “profiling” and “waterboarding” were Leftists trying to scare us that boogey-men like Dick Cheney were going to get us.

Today profiling is being widely discussed as a valid weapon, even a common-sense one, in national security. The Obama administration’s selection of the nationals from 14 countries is a subtle, but definite, form of profiling.

The difference from then till now is that, before Christmas, time and the Democrat’s anti-Bush anti-anti-terrorism campaign lulled the country into forgetfulness that the actions of Hasan and Abdulmutallab and Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were not events in a crime wave, but in a war. It’s been said a million times by a thousand commentators, but it bears repeating: we don’t fight wars the same way we fight crime.

For example, maybe we should, or maybe we shouldn’t, have interned West coast Japanese Americans in WWII, (though Michelle Malkin thought we did the right thing). Maybe Roosevelt shouldn’t have tried 8 Nazi saboteurs arrested here in 1942 before a military commission, and then executed 6 of them. Maybe they should have had their day in court, so that we didn’t become “no better than our enemies.”

But what isn’t debatable is that after Pearl Harbor we weren’t required to carve giant letters in the beach at Malibu reading, “Zeroes Welcome!” Thank God, we had FDR in 1941 instead of Jimmy Carter.

Our wires got crossed on all this when we started confounding the rules of war (and there are rules) with the rules of our criminal justice system. Partly this was the fault of the Clinton administration, which treated growing jihadist belligerence in the 1990s as a crime wave instead of a war. This remained the case for Clinton even after Osama bin Ladin told us Al Qaeda was at war with us, and even after they proved it, among other ways, by attacking the U.S.S. Cole. Confusion is deepened by the “asymmetrical warfare” our enemies engage in, where they don’t wear uniforms, they hide amongst civilians, and they don’t fight with organized armies or for any state.

Our criminal justice system is predicated on the idea that the government is just as likely to be wrong in prosecuting a defendant as right, wrong either through incompetence, or malice. The Constitution provides an adversarial system that tilts toward defendant rights, in hopes things turn out the way they should more often than not. Even so, both sides are entitled to a fair trial. The fundamental principle is that in an imperfect system, it’s better to let the guilty go free than to wrongly punish the innocent.

At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s not like that in war. In war we don’t have to give the enemy a fair chance to kill us. There’s no principle that it’s better to suffer invasion, enslavement, and destruction rather than accidentally kill an innocent person traveling under the enemy’s colors. Where the criminal justice system requires a presumption that a defendant is innocent until proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt, there’s no presumption in war that our enemies deserve to beat us until we can come up with a good enough justification for fighting back. No sane nation contemplates war with the motto: “May the better side win.”

One of the tragedies of Obama’s election at this critical moment is that he, and the army of ideologues with whom he’s surrounded himself, don’t believe America is in a war. And if over the past year some of his advisers have begun figuring out that we are at war, then they’re hobbled by years of Leftist preconceptions that there’s no war America deserves to win.

The Obama administration justifies its worst national-security decisions--about closing Gitmo, about trying KSM as a criminal defendant, about siccing the Justice Department on the CIA--with claims that while “making every effort” to insure our national security, we must do it in a way consistent with “our values” and the “rule of law.” Obama and his cohort on the Left repeatedly resort to this false dichotomy between national security and the rule of law, creating greater moral confusion when greater moral clarity is what’s needed. This confusion is evident in comments like these from the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, (admittedly a haven of moral confusion) when asked yesterday if excessive public resources are going to the criminal defense of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab:
“For us not to give him his day in court, for us just to cut him off at the knees ? without a hearing, if we do that, then we become what our enemies are," Anthony said. "They get the victory; we do not.”
How absurd. It’s ridiculous to suggest that if we denied Farouk three public defenders and he had to make do with only one or two, we would “become what our enemies are.” What our enemies are are people who prayed to Allah to help them deprive 289 passengers on Flight 253 of their lives in a fiery mass murder above Metro Detroit. Even if we decided to place limits of public funding for defendants with billionaire dads, Al Qaeda would not “get the victory”--victory for Al Qaeda is our enslavement, or else our annihilation.

But I digress. My point, and it’s an optimistic one, is that America is being re-awakened. And it happened without a second conflagration like 9/11.

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