Friday, January 08, 2010

Terrorism Revisited

Recent energetic discussions with The Sole Heir (live) and Charlie Stella (via web comments) have prompted a re-evaluation of anti-terrorist policies here at The Home Office. Neither TSH nor Charlie will find me in full agreement with either of them, but they did get me thinking.

Homeland Security had all the information needed to stop the Christmas Day (attempted) bomber. (That’s how I’ll refer to him. His name is too much trouble to type and he’s beneath acknowledgement in civilized society, anyway.) A guy (whose own father has warned you about) who pays cash for a one-way ticket from Yemen (where there is a known terrorist plot underway) to Detroit and has no luggage (no winter coat in December), deserves at least a friendly, “Please step over here, sir, so we can look in your shorts.” Doesn’t matter if he’s Muslim, black, Arab (he isn’t), white, Protestant, Polish, Catholic, Zen Buddhist, or pagan solstice worshipper. That’s not profiling; it’s common sense.

Remember when Dubya created the Department of Homeland Security, so there would never again be silos of potentially useful intelligence? How bringing intelligence and security agencies under the same umbrella would allow them to share intelligence? I said then (though it was pre-blog and I can’t prove it) that it wouldn’t matter. The president should be able to order the respective agency heads to work out ways to make sure everyone got what they needed, or he’d find someone for the job who would. Creating another layer of bureaucracy wouldn’t help. Now it’s eight years later, we’ve spent over a trillion dollars on this cluster fuck, and guess what? The security agencies still don’t coordinate their data. I’m shocked—shocked!! Let’s not worry about more invasive security measures until we can actually handle the ones we have.

Charlie Stella has another provocative post over at his Temporary Knucksline blog. (Scroll down past the Patricia Highsmith stuff to get to what I’m talking about, though the Highsmith info is worth reading for those so inclined.) He and I had a lengthy discussion last week about whether terrorists should be tried as criminals or in military tribunals. We pretty much agreed to disagree, though he’s wearing me down on some points.

What I’m about to say seems inconsistent, even to me. Feel free to smite me about the head and shoulders for this; I’m refining my argument. It now occurs to me that the justice meted out to alleged terrorists should be suited to the circumstances and location of their apprehension. If they’re caught here by the police or FBI (Border Patrol, ICE, or some other domestically authorized agency), then they go to court. We’ve prosecuted spies from real countries like this for years; it works.

On the other hand, if the military or CIA catch them abroad, tribunals are fine. Hold the trial on a military installation, under established protocols. We’re killing them by the handful whenever we can; there’s no point being hypocrites about it. Considering the level of outrage not heard over collateral damage (read: dead innocents), the American people as a whole should be good with this. I’m still not down with torture—probably hypocritical, since I’m willing to kill them without due process—but that’s my fig leaf for civilized company.

One caveat: American citizens are American citizens, no matter where and how we catch them. We’re no better than the terrorists if we allow the government to start disappearing citizens without consequence.

Blatant self-promotion alert!

Lawyer and author JD Rhodes writes a liberal and entertaining blog titled, “What Fresh Hell is This?” Earlier this week he picked up a comment I made in the Murderati blog as his Quote of the Day. He and I don’t always agree, but his arguments are always well thought out and have merit. Getting acknowledged there is flattering.


Charlieopera said...

What is scary about the post I made today was that it came from Bill O'Reilly (up that to very scary).

KSM was caught by the Pakistani ISI (I think) ... the issue for me is are we going to talk the talk or walk the walk (one way or the other). Not that this stuff is always black and white, but if we're concerned about our image abroad, we can't keep invading countries (or occupying them) while killing innocents, etc. and expect the world at large to accept us as some beacon of democracy and/or good because we provide some jamoke trying to blow up a plane a defense attorney.

What went a long way to turning my head about all of this has to do with Generation Kill (the HBO series and then reading the book). The screw-ups that are inherent in any military operation are self evident (there is plenty of documentation throughout history). But seeing how many lives of innocent Iraqis were dispatched are what brought me to believe Bush, et al, should still be tried as war criminals (and certainly should have been impeached here).

I'm still trying to get over O'Reilly coming up with something I had to think about ... but he did.

Dana King said...

GENERATION KILL was a great series; I haven't read the book.

Too many people believe too much of the Tom Clancy "surgical" concept of warfare. I've never been, but anyone who pays attention should be able to figure out war is a mess. Nothing ever goes as planned, and unexpected bad shit happens all the time. That's the nature of the beast, and it's not going to change. Especially in a wars like Iraq, Afghanistan, or Vietnam, where the enemy and civilians look so much alike.

Instead of believing we can kill only bad guys and not damage civilian infrastructure, we should be a lot pickier about when, where, and why we go to war.

Charlieopera said...

Absolutely. And I was totally guilty of supporting both wars under Bush. Once it became obvious they were not only a mistake (for me about 2005-6), at least one was an outright criminal act, those responsible should have been held accountable, impeached and brought up on war crimes.

What we have instead is an extension of the same old political bullshit; one party sees its chance to seize the day and lets the other one off the hook.

Then the back and forth useless fingerpointing goes on while NOTHING changes.

It was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time so why the ____ are we still there?

And if we're not at war with terrorists, what the ____ are we doing in Afghanistan?

He had a campaign speech that served his purpose (wrong war, etc.) and now he doesn't have the balls (or sense) to back away from a mistake. Deploy the 100,000 at airports if he's so intent on looking tough, but get them the hell out of Afghanistan already.

That isn't anger above, just passion. We'll never end terrorism ... ever, but if we were building up terrorist recruiting under Bush (one version), we're still doing it under Obama (it has to apply here to).