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The War on Civilians

January 4, 2010
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On the ongoing terrorism zoo, a couple of observations:

I) Max Bergmann at The Wonk Room got all over Krauthammer, and Yglesias got on The Washington Post, for printing that “Obama may have declared the war on terror over”:

It is true that the Obama administration has dropped “war on terror,” a phrase that is so broad and ill-defined that even Donald Rumsfeld sought to abandon it. Instead of declaring war against a tactic, the President has actually sought to define the enemy – repeatedly saying that the US was specifically “at war” with Al Qaeda.

He then goes on to list a number of quotes that show the President saying that we are indeed at war with al Qaeda.  So, just because he has dropped the “ludicrous” term “war on terror” does not mean that he has gone soft what some of us still call our enemies.  If that’s true, though—if we are indeed at war with al Qaeda—then how can we give civilian trials to al Qaeda operatives such as KSM and Abdulmutallab?  Is the President suggesting that we are at war with (gulp) civilians?  If that’s the case, then we’re doing our best William Tecumseh Sherman right now, and we’re worse off for it.

II) Bill Burck has a great post at NRO about the possibility that Abdulmutallab may be released, including what we should have done:

Had Abdulmutallab been designated as an enemy combatant from the start, we would not have had to offer him anything at all in exchange for the information he possesses. He could have been interrogated immediately by professionals without Miranda warnings, without a lawyer, and against his will.

And he wouldn’t have had to be “tortured”.  It’s ridiculous that we have to offer something to an enemy that we have in captivity to be able to question him about his association with a group with which we are supposedly at war.  Not to mention that this is the way we’ve decided to try to illicit information from him:

Presumably, then, the White House has authorized the Department of Justice to begin negotiating with Abdulmutallab’s lawyer to find out what kind of deal he wants. This means that the Obama administration may be contemplating recommending to a judge that Abdulmutallab get a reduced sentence, or perhaps no sentence at all.  Yes, folks, they may actually be thinking about setting this terrorist free at some point.

Well, that’s comforting.

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