Tuesday, January 05, 2010

It's time to drop our comforting delusions

After the attacks on 9/11 woke us up to the hatred of radical Islamicists who would kill themselves in order to strike a blow against a western civilization they hate so intensely, people searched to try to understand why these people behaved that way. As President Bush went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and mounted our first pushback in the war on terror, many liberals felt that such a violent reaction against terrorists was a faulty measure. In their eyes, we needed to figure out why they hated us so much and then not do those things. It seemed handy, and politically beneficial, to connect Bush's actions as exacerbating their hatred and thus counter-productive. The Democrats came to argue that if we could just rid ourselves of Bush and elect someone with Obama's exotic background and ties to the Muslim world, the hatred of the Islamicists would die down. All Obama had to do was be the anti-Bush and we would all be safer.

Well, as Rich Lowry points out today, we now have evidence that the Democrats' comforting argument was all bunk.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab couldn't ignite the bomb in his underwear on Flight 253 on Christmas Day. All he managed to blow up was a worldview.

His failed attempt put paid to the notion that terrorism is the byproduct of a few, specific US policies and of our image abroad. This view dominates the left and animates the Obama administration. It informs its drive to shutter Guantanamo Bay, to get out of Iraq and to cater to "international opinion." If we are only nice and likable enough, goes the theory, the Abdulmutallabs of the world will never be tempted to violent mayhem.

Only the young Nigerian didn't appear the least bit moved by President Barack Obama's commitment to close Gitmo in a year. He didn't seem to care that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will get a civilian trial in New York. He didn't appear to be fazed at all by Obama's Cairo and UN speeches, or a year's worth of international goodwill gestures. He just wanted to destroy an airliner.

It shouldn't be hard to fathom why. Abdulmutallab was in the grip of a violent ideology with an existential hatred of the United States at its core, an ideology promoted by a global terrorist conspiracy under the loose rubric of al Qaeda. This is the essential fact that the left tends to minimize or deny. Obama called Abdulmutallab an "isolated extremist" in his initial statement on the incident, and left the same impression about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the terrorist of Fort Hood. How coincidental that we are beset by isolated extremists believing the same things and inspired by the same people -- in the cases of Abdulmutallab and Hasan, the radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

A totalist rejection of the United States, this ideology will never lack for particular reasons to hate us. For years, we were told that the Iraq War was al Qaeda's best recruiting tool. Now, new recruiting tools are at hand. Hasan reportedly was disappointed that Obama stayed in Afghanistan. In taking responsibility for Abdulmutallab's attempted attack, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed it was in retaliation for a US-sponsored strike against its leadership in Yemen.

If we pull our troops from Afghanistan, they'll object to our missile strikes in Pakistan. If we stop the missile strikes, they'll object to our training of foreign militaries. If we stop that, they'll object that we have the temerity to maintain a blue-water navy. Nothing short of suicidal abdication will suffice. The other great reputed recruiting tool was Gitmo. But what's worse -- holding terrorists in a facility condemned by the world's scolds, or releasing them to re-invigorate al Qaeda's franchise operations?
But the Democrats still reject what should be so clear. They continue to act under the delusion that it is the existence of Guantanamo that is the problem. That is why they are so insistent that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab not be treated as an enemy combatant but should be tried in the criminal system even if that means he will lawyer up and we won't gain any useful intelligence from him. If we treated him as an enemy combatant, where could they hold him? They certainly don't want to send him to Gitmo. In their eyes, it is crucial that we close Gitmo even if it means sending more of the detainees there back to the same Yemen where other released detainees have jumped right back into terrorist activity.

In their eyes, the crucial goal is not doing everything possible to destroy these terrorists, but to close Gitmo and get out of the detainee business. The Obama administration doesn't understand that Gitmo isn't the problem. If Guantanamo had never existed, they'd still be trying to kill us. It didn't exist during the Clinton years or before 9/11 and they planned the terrorist attacks of the 90s as well as the attack on 9/11. As Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted the blind sheikh who planned the first attack on the World Trade Center wrote a couple of weeks ago, Guantanamo didn't cause terrorism.
We are talking about people who live in sharia states where they still stone women for adultery, apostates for daring to abandon Islam, and homosexuals for breathing. We are talking about people who riot and murder over cartoons — people who use mosques to hide weapons and Korans to transmit terrorist messages and then murder non-Muslims for purportedly defaming their religion. It makes no difference to these people that we detain Muslim terrorists in military brigs under the laws of war rather than detaining them in civilian prisons after trial in our criminal justice system.

After 17 years of attacks, we should have learned the difference between causes of terrorism and pretexts for terrorism. Terrorism is caused, and terrorist recruitment is driven, by Islamist ideology and by American weakness in the face of terror attacks. In that sense, Senator Durbin causes more terrorism than Gitmo ever will. Terrorist organizations are encouraged when they come to believe they can win — when they come to believe they can outlast America because we lack resolve.

The Blind Sheikh, echoed by Osama bin Laden, has promised for years that if “battalions of Islam” keep reprising Hezbollah’s 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, and al-Qaeda’s orchestration of the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia, then the Americans will pack up and go home. The terrorists tell their recruits we’re soft and won’t defend ourselves if it gets ugly. When a U.S. senator takes to the floor of the chamber and compares heroic American troops to Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, he confirms Abdel Rahman and bin Laden’s views. When he suggests that terrorism is somehow caused by locking up terrorists in a secure, offshore military facility, where they can no longer threaten Americans or anyone else, the Islamic world’s fence-sitters start thinking, “The jihadists are right: America doesn’t have the stomach to tough it out. If we just make it bloody enough, we can win.”

The only part of Gitmo that causes terrorism is its front gates, when we allow terrorists to walk out of them so they can go back to the battle. Gitmo is a pretext for terrorism. Terrorists use it because, unlike us, they know it’s irresponsible not to study and understand the enemy. They know the Left exercises outsize influence on the media and that the Left’s key characteristic is projection.

Leftists don’t like Gitmo (or the PATRIOT Act, or warrantless surveillance, or military commissions, or Bush, or Cheney, or . . . ) so, presto, Gitmo becomes a “cause” of terrorism. Perversely, jihadist murderers become the vessels of our values: They’re noble savages and they don’t murder because they believe their religion commands them to. They do it, we’re told, because of national-security policies that just happen to be the ones despised by the Left. The terrorists are onto this game even if we’re not. So they snicker and say, “Oh, yes, of course, it’s been Gitmo all along — that’s why we do it!” They know some pointy-headed intelligence analyst, some ambitious general, some craven U.S. senator, or even some pandering American president is bound to repeat the canard until it becomes received wisdom. And the press will play along, never pausing to ask: “Well, then, how come 9/11 and the Cole and the embassy bombings and Khobar and Bojinka and the Trade Center bombing all happened before there ever was a Gitmo?” (To which the answer, of course, would be “Israel!”)

Long before there was a Gitmo, Muslim terrorists also plotted to accomplish the release of their captured confederates, either through escape plots or extortionate terrorist attacks — like the massacre at Luxor. For them and their millions of sympathizers, the issue isn’t where the jihadists are detained, or under what theory (law of war or civilian prosecution) this detention is justified. The issue is that we detain them, period. In the Muslim world, where illiteracy is rampant, there are not many scholars of American law. And, as we’ve already seen, even the ACLU is saying there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Gitmo and the new Gitmo North at Thomson. If that’s what the lefty lawyers are saying, what do you suppose the jihadists think?

From the prison where he serves his life sentence, Abdel Rahman was able to announce to the world: “The Sheikh is calling on you, morning and evening: Oh Muslims! Oh Muslims! And he finds no respondents. It is a duty upon all the Muslims around the world to come to free the Sheikh, and to rescue him from his jail.” That he was in a nice civilian jail after a nice civilian trial didn’t make any difference. Of Americans, the sheikh decreed: “Muslims everywhere [must] dismember their nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, and shoot down their planes, kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them.” Osama bin Laden later called this the green light — the necessary Islamic fatwa — for the 9/11 attacks. It was four years before there was a Gitmo for Dick Durbin to blame. So should we shut down all the civilian prisons, too?
We need to drop our delusions. Until we do, we are fighting a war on terror with both our hands tied behind our backs. This is going to be a long, difficult war and we can't afford to fight it if we don't understand what we're facing.