Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why Obama Let the Christmas Bomber Take the Fifth

Rich Lowry had this to say today about the decision to give Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab constitutional protections:
It literally didn’t even occur to the administration to do otherwise. Top terrorism officials weren’t consulted. The director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the director of National Intelligence, the FBI director, and the secretary of Homeland Security were all out of the loop. Some as-yet-unidentified top Justice Department official, who probably is known around the office as “general,” made the call. ("The Abdulmutalab travesty").

Enough already with the rhetorical outbursts: “Are they crazy?! What are they doing?! Why would they do this??!” etc., etc.

I’m beginning to wonder if the decision to swaddle Abdulmutallab with the Bill of Rights, (or at least Earl Warren’s botched-up paraphrase of the 5th and 6th Amendments known as Miranda vs. Arizona) wasn’t a deliberate choice to spare Farouk aggressive interrogation. President Obama is spared, too. He’s spared the heavy responsibility, and worse yet, the moral burden that George W. Bush shouldered for seven years after 9/11.

Right up until Christmas Day, Obama used every opportunity to bludgeon the Bush administration’s counterterrorism efforts as immoral, ineffective, and in direct violation of the rule of law. Obama, and his alter ego in this effort, Attorney General Eric Holder, portray the administration as bringing us back from where we had “lost our way” under Bush, and, by extending civil liberties to our most dangerous enemies, restoring “American values” and winning back the alienated affections of the rest of the world.

Constant repetitions of the terms “waterboarding,” “Abu Ghraib,” “torture,” kept the Left riled up, and confused many other under-informed Americans about what actually happened in aggressive interrogation, and, more important, why. Obama’s repudiation of Bush’s aggressive approach to terrorists, which was proved effective where it counted, against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Zubaydah, could not have been more total. Beyond his insufferable rhetoric about it, Obama leapt before he looked into ordering Guantanamo shut, a dramatic and stupendously thoughtless gesture to prove to the Left that he would risk losing a war rather than offend the ACLU.

He hated Bush and his antiterrorism so much he even turned loose his attorney general to find ways to prosecute Justice Department lawyers and CIA interrogators for doing their jobs. For doing their jobs, and, as far as anyone has ever shown, for doing them lawfully.

Posturing this way was easy enough for Obama during the campaign and the early months of his administration. Thanks to the diligence and focus of the previous administration he despises so much, al-Qaida’s second shoe was never able to drop after 9/11. Bush had done such a good job in holding off al-Qaida, through aggressive interrogation, through the Patriot Act, through NSA surveillance, through scaring the bejeezus out of some of the Middle East’s most war-like dictators by his determination in clobbering the Taliban and deposing Saddam, that the America that elected Barack Obama felt safe enough to overlook the primping Senator’s dizzying lack of qualifications to be Commander-in-Chief. The jihadist threat was only an abstraction for Obama, which is the only way his people could have dared used terms like “Overseas Contingency Operation” and “man-caused" disasters”.

Americans understand waterboarding if it saves other Americans’ lives. But who can tolerate nameless acts of “torture” meant to protect us only from an overheated phobia of “Overseas Contingency Operations”?

Obama’s terrorism strategy has been to jam national security into Reverse gear. Obama and Holder could only sermonize about a “dark and painful chapter in our history” because the context of that chapter was several years in the past—in the dim, dim past. That's the one place too many Americans hate so much to visit, and rarely can describe with accuracy.

Obama could keep reducing the number of detainees at Gitmo, because the number being captured wasn’t growing. He could keep dissing the war in Iraq, because Bush won it before Obama’s ascension.

The three most potent symbols used to show America had “lost her way” in fighting terrorism were waterboarding, the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. But we haven’t waterboarded anyone since 2003, and it was the CIA under the Bush administration that discontinued the practice. The Abu Ghraib abuse lasted a couple months and was uncovered by the Army in 2003, investigated by the military, and the offenders punished before the end of 2005. And still the urban legend explains Abu Ghraib as an ongoing torture regime that only ended thanks to the brave reporting of the media. Millions of liberals on their futons each night still lull themselves to sleep picturing Donald Rumsfeld personally phoning in orders to every cell block in the U.S. military detention system, commanding prisoners be phtographed naked. Guantanamo, which the likes of Senator Dick Durbin stupidly compared with “Soviets in their gulags,” is the only symbol that actually still exists in the present. And no one, on the Left or Right, has any serious challenges that the prison meets Geneva Convention standards at present. And it always has.

Here’s the thing. I think Obama really doesn’t want to be responsible for the interrogation of a high-value detainee. It’s one thing to blow al-Qaida guys into Pakistani rubble with Predators. But to have a guy under custodial interrogation after you and your Attorney General have spent a year locking the interrogators’ arsenal and throwing away the key is a problem.

Obama can’t be tough on captured terrorists, or the Left will accuse him of being like Bush. And if he takes the other tack and interrogates Umar according to his own present restrictions, (which means Umar can be asked questions slightly less intrusive than what’s needed to fill out Facebook’s Profile page), it’s quite likely to be a failure. And he can’t afford that failure right now when polls show American in favor of waterboarding Umar, and against allowing KSM to stage his interpretation of New York, New York in a federal courtroom. Obama is just now figuring out that the failure at Ft. Hood was his failure, and the failure of the Christmas bomber was his failure. And the growing problem of the al-Qaida infection in yet one more Arabian quagmire--Yemen--is his problem.

He’s blamed everything on George Bush he can’t fix, which, so far, is everything, . But he can’t blame Abdulmutallab on Bush. According to the Left, Bush and Cheney were never happier than when they were profiling guys like Abdulmutallab and disappearing them into CIA secret prisons, where at least they couldn’t blow up a plane full of Dutchmen over Detroit. According to the Left, Donald Rumsfeld would have personally participated in the waterboarding of Major Hasan, rather than stood by and let this jihadist son of a bitch shot up Fort Hood.

These days, those aren't comparisons Obama wants to suffer through.

Better to hide Umar under the Fifth Amendment, and save himself the flak.

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