Saturday, January 23, 2010

Is This a War or a Crime Wave?

According to the Detroit News: “There were 379 homicides in Detroit last year, up from 375 in 2008. But from July to December last year, there were 179 -- a 20 percent decline from the same period in 2008.” (“Detroit murder toll rises slightly to 379”).

But 2009’s total would have doubled and then some on Christmas Day, if 290 more people on Flight 253--plus untold numbers on the ground--had been killed as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his handlers in Yemen, and in Hell, had planned.

A strange way to look at it, I guess. Who would consider what would have been a 9/11-style act of war as just a large number of homicides?

The Obama administration, that's who. And seeing acts of war as law enforcement cases is one difference between approaching the organized jihad against the United States as a law enforcement problem instead of a war.

Andrew McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor who put the Blind Sheikh Omar Rahman in prison for life, has a lot of the same questions we do about the way Flight 253 bomber Abdulmutallab’s case has been handled as a civilian crime. (“Still Time to Get It Right”). “All the decisions were made by agents and prosecutors on the ground. So who decided to take the case to the civilian system? Whose call was it to Mirandize Abdulmutallab? Whose heads ought to roll over this tragicomedy of errors?”

All worthy questions, he agrees, but not the main point:
The germane decisions are not the ones that were made in Abdulmutallab’s case. The big decision is the one made at the beginning of the Obama administration, by the president and nobody else: It is the default position of the administration that law enforcement is the preferred approach for dealing with international terrorism. The standing rule is that, if a person is apprehended in the United States — even if he is an al-Qaeda operative unleashed here to kill massively — he is to be regarded as a criminal defendant, not as a prisoner of war.

We are at war, yet it’s the attorney general — not the commander-in-chief, not the secretary of defense — who decides whether someone is an enemy or not. And under Obama’s approach to counterterrorism, the first priority is prosecution. Nothing is to be done — especially not aggressive interrogation — if it would compromise the terrorist’s due-process rights, be frowned on by federal judges, or otherwise interfere with “bringing the ‘defendant’ to justice.” And so, despite all the criticism of how the Christmas bomber was handled, he is still being treated as a defendant. Obama hasn’t reversed course and designated him an enemy combatant. The interrogation has ceased, and the case goes on.

If you’re going to get angry over something, get angry over that. It’s going to cost lives.

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