Good Friday Florilegium (3/29/13)


  1. Satellite radio show host Armstrong Williams (@arightside) writes about a report released last month by the Henry Jackson Society (a bipartisan, British-based think tank), “Al-Qaeda in the United States: A Complete Analysis of Terrorism Offenses,” which showed that 24% of al Qaeda terrorists embraced radical Islam later in life with the fervor of religious converts.


    “The report is more than 700 pages, and is a painstaking and meticulous review of all 171 al Qaeda or al Qaeda-inspired terrorists who were either killed during their attacks or convicted in court in the U.S.”


    “It reveals that the bulk of the terrorists in the U.S. are not highly trained foreign nationals infiltrating our borders to attack us, but our neighbors next door.


    More than half of the terrorists were American citizens. A shocking 82 percent of the terrorists killed or convicted were U.S. residents. Ninety-five percent were men, and they lived in states from coast to coast and across the heartland.”


    “Another remarkable data point is that 52 percent of the attackers were college-educated and nearly 60 percent were either pursuing education or were employed at the time of their arrests. These facts punch gaping holes into the self-defeating assertion that those who hate America are driven to terrorism because they are ignorant or downtrodden.”

  2. Al-Qaeda in the United States
  3. Chad Bray reports that Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a 47-year-old son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and onetime spokesman for al Qaeda, plead not guilty earlier this month in a lower Manhattan federal courthouse of conspiring to kill American citizens, and he faces life in prison if convicted.  The next hearing is April 8.


    “At the brief hearing in Manhattan federal court, Mr. Abu Graith, who was ordered detained, was wearing blue prison garb and was led into the ornate ceremonial courtroom in handcuffs.”


    “Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Cronan told the court that after Mr. Abu Ghaith was taken into custody, he gave a 22-page statement to law enforcement. That statement, in the form of a Federal Bureau of Investigation report, as well as a number of DVDs containing speeches by Mr. Abu Ghaith, were turned over to his lawyers, the prosecutor said.”


    “Mr. Abu Ghaith was captured in Jordan after he was deported from Turkey, according to people familiar with the investigation. He was detained in Turkey last month after leaving Iran, where U.S. officials believed he had been hiding for a decade, according to people familiar with the matter.”


    “Mr. Abu Ghaith is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan, one of two federal facilities in New York City that house defendants awaiting trial.”


    “According to the indictment, Mr. Abu Ghaith appeared with Mr. bin Laden the day after the (Sept. 11) attacks and said a ‘great army’ was gathering against the U.S. In another statement, he advised Muslims, children and opponents of the U.S. ‘not to board any aircraft and not to live in high rises,’ according to the indictment.”

  4. Mark Steyn (@MarkSteynOnline) writes of drones, paramilitarized bureaucracies and all-seeing governments.


    “I’m a long, long way from Rand Paul’s view of the world (I’m basically a 19th-century imperialist a hundred years past sell-by date), but I’m far from sanguine about America’s drone fever. For all its advantages to this administration — no awkward prisoners to be housed at Gitmo, no military casualties for the evening news — the unheard, unseen, unmanned drone raining down death from the skies confirms for those on the receiving end al-Qaeda’s critique of its enemies: As they see it, we have the best technology and the worst will; we choose aerial assassination and its attendant collateral damage because we are risk-averse, and so remote, antiseptic, long-distance, computer-programmed warfare is all that we can bear. Our technological strength betrays our psychological weakness.”


    “The guys with drones are losing to the guys with fertilizer — because they mean it, and we don’t. The drone thus has come to symbolize the central defect of America’s ‘war on terror,’ which is that it’s all means and no end: We’re fighting the symptoms rather than the cause.”


    “The same bureaucracy that booked Samira Ibrahim for an audience with the first lady and Anwar al-Awlaki to host prayers at the Capitol now assures you that it’s entirely capable of determining who needs to be zapped by a drone between the sea bass and the tiramisu at Ahmed’s Bar and Grill. But it’s precisely because the government is too craven to stray beyond technological warfare and take on its enemies ideologically that it winds up booking the first lady to hand out awards to a Jew-loathing, Hitler-quoting, terrorist-supporting America-hater.


    “Insofar as it relieves Washington of the need to think strategically about the nature of the enemy, the drone is part of the problem. But its technology is too convenient a gift for government to forswear at home. America takes an ever more expansive view of police power, and, while the notion of unmanned drones patrolling the heartland may seem absurd, lots of things that seemed absurd a mere 15 years ago are now a routine feature of life. Not so long ago, it would have seemed not just absurd but repugnant and un-American to suggest that the state ought to have the power to fondle the crotch of a seven-year-old boy without probable cause before permitting him to board an airplane. Yet it happened, and became accepted, and is unlikely ever to be reversed.”


    “We have advanced from the paramilitarization of the police to the paramilitarization of the Bureau of Form-Filling. Two years ago in this space, I noted that the U.S. secretary of education, who doesn’t employ a single teacher, is the only education minister in the developed world with his own SWAT team… That the education bureaucracy of the Brokest Nation in History has its own Seal Team Six is ridiculous and offensive. Yet the citizenry don’t find it so: They accept it.”


    “I mention in my book that government is increasingly comfortable with a view of society as a giant ‘Panopticon’ — the radial prison devised by Jeremy Bentham in 1785, in which the authorities can see everyone and everything. In the Droneworld we have built for the war on terror, we can’t see the forest because we’re busy tracking every spindly sapling. When the same philosophy is applied on the home front, it will not be pretty.”

  5. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorializes that the logic of elevating the Distinguished Warfare Medal for military personnel who operate drones over established honors given for valor on the battlefield is inexplicable.  Courage counts, and a medal for valor should outrank one for desk duty.


    “Drones have changed the face of modern warfare. Killing enemy soldiers, while still a brutal act, is no longer as intimate as it was in the last century. Nowadays the distance between target and targeter can be thousands of miles, and launching an attack can look more like a video game.”


    “From the perspective of the victim and the collateral damage that results, it doesn't matter whether the assault came from an American soldier in a hideout 200 feet away or a military base 7,000 miles away. In either case, the target is extinguished.”


    “(Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Tim Murphy) object to the Defense Department's decision to rank the Distinguished Warfare Medal higher than the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, two honors that can be earned only in the face of combat. The Purple Heart goes to wounded soldiers, but in the new hierarchy it will sit lower than the award given to a service member pushing buttons in the safety and comfort of a control room in the United States.”


    War is hell, but the Pentagon doesn't have to make it worse by losing perspective on loyal troops' sacrifice.”

  6. Charles Krauthammer writes that the war on terror is not going away, but it needs a new rulebook when it comes to drone warfare.  4,700 are estimated to have been killed by drone, without any protest from the hypocrites, whereas “George W. Bush was excoriated for waterboarding exactly three terrorists, all of whom are now enjoying an extensive retirement on a sunny Caribbean island…”


    “In choice of both topic and foil, Rand Paul’s now legendary Senate filibuster was a stroke of political genius. The topic was, ostensibly, very narrow: Does the president have the constitutional authority to put a drone-launched Hellfire missile through your kitchen — you, a good citizen of Topeka to whom POTUS might have taken a dislike — while you’re cooking up a pot roast?”


    “The correct response, of course, is: Absent an active civil war on U.S. soil (of the kind not seen in 150 years) or a jihadist invasion from Saskatchewan led by the Topeka pot roaster, the answer is no.”


    The vexing and pressing issue is the use of drones abroad. The filibuster pretended not to be about that. Which is testimony to Paul’s political adroitness. It was not until two days later that he showed his hand, writing in The Post, ‘No American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime.’ Note the absence of the restrictive clause: ‘on American soil.’


    “Outside American soil, the Constitution does not rule, no matter how much Paul would like it to. Yet Paul’s unease applies to non-American drone targets as well. His quarrel is with the very notion of the war on terror, though he is normally too smart to say that openly and unequivocally. Unlike his father, who implied that 9/11 was payback for our sins, Paul the Younger more gingerly expresses general skepticism about not just the efficacy but the legality of the entire war.”


    “The war’s constitutional charter, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), has proved quite serviceable. But the commander-in-chief’s authority is so broad — it leaves the limits of his power to be determined, often in secret memos, by the administration’s own in-house lawyers — that it has spawned suspicion, fear and now filibuster.


    It is time to rethink. That means not repealing the original AUMF but, using the lessons of the past 12 years, rewriting it with particular attention to a new code governing drone warfare and the question of where, when and against whom it should be permitted… All we need now is a president willing to lead and a Congress willing to take responsibility for the conduct of a war that, however much Paul and his acolytes may wish it away, will long be with us.”

  7. Back in 1787, Alexander Hamilton wrote Federalist No. 23, one in the series of articles frequently used to interpret the intent of the Constitution, especially in Supreme Court decisions.  He observed:


    “The authorities essential to the common defense are these: to raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation, because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be coextensive with all the possible combinations of such circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils which are appointed to preside over the common defense.”


    Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, writes that Congress, not the Constitution, should curtail the president’s war powers.  The president can be shackled “by trimming his sails in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), not by trimming his constitutional power.”


    “It was Wednesday, shortly before Senator Rand Paul’s bravura 13-hour filibuster, the Jimmy Stewart star turn in Paul’s crusade to have the Constitution ban a bogeyman of his own making: the killing of American citizens on American soil by America’s armed forces — a scandal that clearly cries out for action, having occurred exactly zero times in the 20 years since jihadists commenced hostilities by bombing the World Trade Center.


    “At a hearing of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Ted Cruz was grilling Attorney General Eric Holder. Cruz seemed beside himself — in the theatrical spirit of the day — over Holder’s refusal to concede that the imaginary use of lethal force conjured up by Paul would be, under any and all circumstances, unconstitutional… Yet my sympathies were with Holder. I found myself wishing he’d stood by his equivocal guns.”


    To cross Paul admirers can mean being cast into the neocon darkness, along with all those other cogs in the military-industrial complex who dream of a global American empire — and that’s even when the offense is not compounded by suggesting that Eric Holder might have been right about something. So let me say outright: I am against using our armed forces to kill our citizens in our homeland.


    “That puts me in the same camp as about 99.9 percent of Americans. In part, that owes to our natural, patriotic predilection. But there’s another part of the explanation — just as important, but less well noticed: After 20 years, we understand the particular conflict we are in. We can confidently say that, in the war authorized by Congress a dozen years ago, we do not need to use lethal military force inside our country.”


    “Contrary to Senator Paul’s assertions, and those of senators Cruz and Mike Lee, who lent their voices and scholarly heft to Paul’s filibuster, the Constitution does not prohibit the use of lethal force in the United States against American citizens who collude with the enemy.


    “American history and jurisprudence teach that American citizens who join the enemy may be treated as the enemy: captured without warrant, detained indefinitely without trial, interrogated without counsel, accused of war crimes without grand-jury proceedings, tried by military commission without the protections of civilian due process, and executed promptly after conviction. That is because these measures are permissible under the laws of war, and the Constitution accommodates the laws of war — they are the rule of law when Congress has authorized warfare.”


    “The Constitution enables the government to marshal all the might necessary, under any conceivable circumstances, to quell threats to the United States. The Framers, with a humility that contrasts sharply with our certitude, understood that some threats could be existential in nature…”


    “In the ongoing conflict, the enemy does not have fortifications inside our territory that would enable its operatives to keep the police at bay. As long as we catch them in time, our enemies can be safely taken into custody. And if we catch them on the precipice of deadly action, ordinary law-enforcement principles allow for the use of lethal force to stop them.


    But that may not always be the case. We could have enemies with much greater capabilities, enemies including traitorous Americans. The fact that we do not appear to need lethal military force in the homeland in this conflict does not mean we will never need it.”


    “Senator Paul has the controversy he sought because the Obama administration arrogantly claimed nigh-limitless power to kill anyone, anywhere, at the president’s whim.  There is no reason to believe the president actually intends to abuse such power — he has not done so to this point…”


    “Senators Paul and Cruz have suggested that the constitutional claim they’ve posited — viz., presidents are not empowered to kill Americans on American soil absent an imminent threat of violence — is ‘easy,’ ‘clear,’ and ‘obvious.’ I respectfully disagree. It is none of those things. What is easy, clear, and obvious is that if we do not need certain troublesome authorities to fight a war successfully, Congress can withhold them… Why does it make a difference whether this curtailment comes from the AUMF rather than the Constitution?”


    “If all the senator really has in mind is some curtailment of presidential overreach, the right way to do that is to limit the AUMF. If his ambition is greater, if he believes the country would be better off ending the war paradigm and returning to peacetime due process, the forthright way to do that is to repeal the AUMF. That would be a terrible mistake, but one we could withstand, however painfully. What we might not be able to withstand is the shackling of constitutional powers we may someday need to sustain the United States.”