The Man Behind the Tendrils
Andrew McCarthy’s takedown of Attorney General Eric Holder is relevant for a number of topical reasons — the war on terror, generally, the strategy of treating the war like a criminal action, the decision to give terrorist masterminds access to the American civil courts, even as an international police organizations are freed from accountability. On a political level, though, this part ties in with something that I’ve found to be increasingly applicable across layers of government:
We have been at war with Islamist terrorists for over eight years now–about half as long as they have been at war with us. In that time, they have committed all manner of atrocities. But of the thousands of jihadists who have been killed, captured, or detained since 2001, the 9/11 plotters stand out. To submit them to the civilian justice system makes a mockery of the war, betrays its victims, and turns the American courts into a weapon by which the enemy can gather intelligence and broadcast propaganda. It is inconceivable that civilian trials would have been permitted in any previous American war. In those conflicts, war was understood as the military and diplomatic resolution of a geopolitical dispute, not the judicial disposition of a legal controversy.
But the Obama administration views the war as a legal matter. And its maneuvering to insulate the president from this unpopular ideological decision has been comically transparent: The president was, conveniently, en route to the Far East when Holder announced the civilian-court transfer; the White House maintains that the decision was a call for Holder alone to make (in fact, the attorney general has no authority to order war prisoners out of military custody–that’s a presidential call); and Holder purports not to have consulted the commander-in-chief on this momentous matter, instead seeking the counsel of his wife and his brother.
To further the myth of a fully detached Obama, the administration projects a fully engaged Holder, hitting the books, agonizing for long hours over the most difficult decision of his career. But at the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) exploded the myth by asking the most elementary legal question: What is the precedent? “Can you give me a case in United States history,” he asked, “where an enemy combatant caught on a battlefield was tried in civilian court?” After several seconds of excruciating silence, Holder stammered, “I don’t know, I’d have to look at that.” What, pray tell, has he been looking at, if not that? Senator Graham, an experienced Air Force lawyer, informed the nation’s top law-enforcement official that there has been no such case.
Whether it be national administrative “czars” or state-level boards and commissions, this transfer of authority — at least as far as the public is led to believe — is an insidious thing. I find the elevation of a man like Holder to his current position disconcerting, but not as worrisome as the fact that he’s clearly not an administrative rogue.
But while I’m quoting from the piece, here’s part that’s directly related to the decision about easing domestic restrictions on the International Criminal Police Organization:
Why invite all this when the 9/11 plotters were ready to plead guilty? On the campaign trail, Holder promised the Left a “reckoning.” The new administration would hold the Bush administration to account for its purported crimes. Understanding the legal emptiness and political explosiveness of such a promise, however, Holder has been reluctant to do more than “investigate.” Thus the restless international Left–which includes Obama’s core of support–has exhorted the United Nations and foreign tribunals to invoke “universal jurisdiction” to bring war-crimes charges against Bush officials. In Europe this spring, Holder expressed his willingness to cooperate with such investigations, including one ongoing in Spain.
A civilian trial for KSM & Co. will be an unparalleled coup for these efforts–more so even than the mounds of classified memos Holder has already made public over the strenuous objections of current and former CIA directors. The Left’s shock troops at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who worked on our enemies’ behalf with many lawyers now staffing Holder’s Justice Department, will exploit any new revelations to intensify calls for foreign prosecutions. The Obama administration will get credit for delivering on its promised reckoning but will avoid the political damage that would result if DOJ were to bring the case itself.
As I titled an earlier post: the noose tightens.