The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Charles Krauthammer has declared Holder’s actions “almost criminal.” Senator Lamar Alexander called for Holder to “step down” for failing to distinguish between “terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up planes, and American citizens who are committing a crime.” Rudy Giuliani, who like Holder is a former U.S. Attorney (and should therefore know better), has ridiculed Holder’s decisions to allow Mohammed a fair trial and Abdulmutallab an opportunity to consult with counsel. Dick Cheney has accused Holder of giving “aid and comfort to the enemy.” The list goes on.
Ironically, no useful intelligence was gained from either Padilla or al-Mari while held in military detention. By contrast, Abdulmutallab immediately confessed and provided useful intelligence to FBI agents who questioned him for fifty minutes under the “public safety exception” to the right to remain silent. He is now cooperating extensively with the government in the course of his criminal case. That he was Mirandized and provided with counsel has not prevented him from further cooperating. In federal criminal cases, defendants routinely cooperate in the hope of obtaining a more lenient sentence. A carrot often carries more weight than a stick.
Another important measure . . . in our overall strategy is applying the rule of law to terrorists. Terrorists are criminals. They commit criminal actions like murder, kidnapping, and arson, and countries have laws to punish criminals. So a major element of our strategy has been to delegitimize terrorists, to get society to see them for what they are -- criminals -- and to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law against them.
The federal court system is simply better equipped, in most cases, to handle these trials. It has been the venue for international terrorism cases since President Reagan authorized them in the 1980’s, and for other terrorist cases long before that. Federal prosecutors have at their disposal a wide array of criminal statutes, all with very clear sentencing guidelines, which can reach not just the terrorists themselves, but anyone who provides material support for, or who aids and abets, the terrorists. According to a study by NYU Law School, since 2001 U.S. criminal courts have convicted over 150 suspects on terrorism charges, while Bush’s military commissions have convicted just three, two of whom were since released and returned to their native countries while Bush was still president. Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a former al-Qaeda propaganda chief, received a life sentence after he boycotted his military commission trial. The other two, Salim Hamdan, Osama bin-Laden’s former driver and confidante, and David Hicks, an Australian who joined al-Qaeda, served sentences of six months and nine months, respectively (over the time already served in custody), before being returned to their native countries. (For a terrific article on these matters, see Jane Mayer’s recent piece in The New Yorker.)
The express policies of the right-wing Ronald Reagan -- "applying the rule of law to terrorists"; delegitimizing Terrorists by treating them as "criminals"; and compelling the criminal prosecution of those who authorize torture -- are now considered on the Leftist fringe. Merely advocating what Reagan explicitly adopted as his policy -- "to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law against" Terrorists -- is now the exclusive province of civil liberties extremists. In those rare cases when Obama does what Reagan's policy demanded in all instances and what even Bush did at times -- namely, trials and due process for accused Terrorists -- he is attacked as being "Soft on Terror" by Democrats and Republicans alike. And the mere notion that we should prosecute torturers (as Reagan bound the U.S. to do) -- or even hold them accountable in ways short of criminal proceedings -- is now the hallmark of a Far Leftist Purist. That's how far we've fallen, how extremist our political consensus has become.
Military commissions do serve an important purpose. We are at war, and for Qaeda terrorists caught on the battlefield who did not commit crimes inside the United States, or who killed American civilians abroad, military commissions are appropriate. But for terrorists like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who plotted to murder the innocent on United States soil, federal courts are not only more suitable, they’re our best chance at getting the strongest conviction possible.
…Instead of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed making his case, we will see the full measure of the horror of 9/11 outlined to the world in a way that only methodical trials can accomplish. Historically, the public exposure of state-sponsored mass murder or terrorism through a transparent judicial process has strengthened the forces of good and undercut the extremists. The Nuremberg trials were a classic case. And nothing more effectively alerted the world to the danger of genocide than Israel’s prosecution in 1961 of Adolf Eichmann, the bureaucrat who engineered the Holocaust.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Discharged not for misconduct, but for a sexual orientation that is biologically and psychologically ingrained, we have lost to prejudice and ignorance some of our finest and most decorated soldiers; those who have served their country admirably and with honor, simply because they are gay. The damage to our national security and military readiness from this unjust policy is substantial. Among those discharged since 2003 are over 300 Arabic and Farsi translators, without whom success in Iraq and Afghanistan is not possible. Although gay service members, like all of our troops, face the threat of death every day, merely because of their sexual orientation they must forever look over their shoulders and live with the fear of being “found out.”
It is a policy based on prejudice, not performance. By singling out a group of Americans for second-class treatment, by forcing them to hide who they truly are and to live in fear of accusation and discharge, the law harms the nation; it makes the military weaker by depriving it of a large number of loyal and talented Americans.
The present policy places our military out of step with many of our allies, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, and Australia, each of which allows gays to serve openly with no impact on military readiness, performance, cohesion, or the ability to recruit and retain troops. It is also out of step with public opinion. As noted in The Economist, a recent Gallup poll found that 69% of Americans believe that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. And a 2006 Zogby poll of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan found that over 70% of service members are personally comfortable around gays and lesbians, and only 37% believe that gays should not be permitted to serve openly. It is undisputed that gays and lesbians have been serving side-by-side with distinction for decades in our military forces.
Air Force Colonel Om Prakash, who won the 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay competition with a thoughtful and scholarly article published in the Joint Force Quarterly, contends that the law has been a “costly failure” whose stated premise – “to protect unit cohesion and combat effectiveness – is not supported by any scientific studies.” Because the law does not explicitly prohibit gays and lesbians from serving in the military – as long as they keep it a secret – it “has led to an uncomfortable value disconnect” as service members must “compromise personal integrity.” The psychological toll alone is too great for many to withstand, as an estimated 4,000 soldiers leave the military every year due to discomfort with an unjust policy. It also places commanders in the difficult position of being expected to know everything about their troops except for one important fact. As explained by Colonel Prakash, the 1993 law:
…was a political compromise reached after much emotional debate based on religion, morality, ethics, psychological rationale, and military necessity. What resulted was a law that has been costly both in personnel and treasure. In an attempt to allow homosexual Servicemembers to serve quietly, a law was created that forces a compromise in integrity, conflicts with the American creed of “equality for all,” places commanders in difficult moral dilemmas, and is ultimately more damaging to the unit cohesion its stated purpose is to preserve.
In 2006, McCain told a group of college students that he would drop his objections to having gays serve openly in the military “the day the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy.’” That day came last Tuesday, when Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates stated as clearly as possible, in McCain’s presence, that it is time to end an unjust, unworkable, and ineffective law. Senator McCain, however, appears to no longer value the opinions of the Generals, as he remains an outspoken opponent of repeal.
Even General Colin Powell, who strongly opposed President Bill Clinton’s attempt to end the discriminatory policy by executive order in 1993, now agrees that the policy needs to be re-evaluated. So does General John Shalikashvili, another former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently declared, “as a nation built on the principle of equality, we should recognize and welcome change that will build a stronger, more cohesive military.”
In 1948, President Harry Truman ordered the desegregation of the armed forces, recognizing that a policy that is based on prejudice and fear, that devalues the humanity of an entire class of military personnel and treats them as second-class citizens, is simply wrong. In 2010, these same principles apply to gay and lesbian service members who desire to serve our country with honor and integrity. A military committed to equal rights for all who desire and are capable of serving is a moral imperative.