Monday, February 15, 2010

See No Evil

It's a crazy world. The weekend featured a TV duel between Vice Presidents on handling terrorism while in Vancouver, an American gold medal skater was threatened by anti-fur terrorists. Johnny Weir's comment shows some much-needed common sense:
Weir, who plans to join the fashion world once he has hung up his "leather skates made of cow" for good, felt he was unfairly targeted.
Speaking of common sense, the screaming message from Dick Cheney's weekend appearance was that the administration doesn't understand the conflict with radical Islamists. It's pretty clear the administration chose Attorney General Eric Holder to spearhead their return to a 'law enforcement' approach to anti-terrorism and the decision to move KSM's trial into a civilian court was the linchpin. Perhaps it's no coincidence Holder has yet to appear on any Sunday shows since being confirmed.

But common sense appears to be lacking. Obama has thousands of troops currently on the offensive in Afghanistan (we await CNN to get a reporter embedded with a Taliban sniper team as in Iraq) fighting a battle whose stated goal is to free a country from terrorist-facilitators who would surely allow the real terrorists to set up training camps to pull off more 9/11s. Obama has been steadfast on the need to win this battle, repeatedly pointing out that it's the global front in the war on 'violent extremists' that just happen to be 100 percent Muslim.

The disconnect is that when these same individual Arabs enter America with the goal of bringing the war to the homeland the administration suddenly considers them no more than common criminals (unless they attack a naval vessel). It's hard to wrap the brain around.

Granted, each administration comes into office with an ambitious agenda of domestic change--few have 'fighting a war on terrorism' at the top of the to-do list. Holder was there in the 90s serving under Janet Reno when terrorism was boiling--they treated it as a crime; apparently he believed the Bush folks caused the pot to boil over and as soon as the good guys returned the problem would fade away.

How do we know this? Because the NY Times did a long piece on him today, which included this morsel on page three:
At home a few weeks later, on Christmas Day, Mr. Holder had just taken an iPhone snapshot of a turkey when one of his children called out: the Justice Department Command Center was on the line. There had been an incident aboard a jetliner bound for Detroit.

Soon after, he told subordinates to recalibrate their thinking about terrorism issues. “It’s a new day,” Mr. Holder said.
No, actually it was a new day on September 11, 2001. Or closer to present, it should have been a new day when a self-described jihadist assassinated a Little Rock recruiter; or when Mohamed Zazi was arrested before he could pull off a cyanide attack; or when Major Hasan opened fire in one of the most crucial military bases in America.

Holder is aware of the threats. His 'new day' likely referred to the scuttling of their approach highlighted by KSM. As the story laments:
Some administration officials spoke in despair about the apparent freefall of the effort to restore what they see as a rule-of-law approach to combating terrorism.
Bingo. And that's exactly what Dick Cheney has been saying for a year now. The problem cannot be wished away by happy rhetoric blaming non-Muslims or by simply choosing venues used for carjackers. It's not that simple.

Holder, Brennan and others are correct in their assessment of handling fear--we cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated by terrorism to the point of throwing away our values and our system. But hiding our heads in the sand or closing ears and eyes and humming or sucking up to the fundamentalists isn't a strategy, either. The commission option was gained through using the system itself and allows us to treat non-citizen unlawful combatants aiming to kill civilians appropriately.

Obama can even send a hellfire down the throat of an American citizen overseas if he believes them to be the enemy. Based on recent domestic actions one has to wonder whether that option would be dropped if it suddenly got in the way of passing universal health care.

No comments: