Monday, March 12, 2012

All Half-Empty, All the Time

Last week Attorney General Holder gave a speech at Northwestern. His speech had two main points. You've probably heard about one of them: a defense of the use of lethal force against specific terrorists (including US citizens) under particular circumstances. (For the record, I think the killing of al-Awlaki was reasonable and justified; but the legal standard they use in cases like his should be transparent, not kept secret; and there should be judicial oversight involved, not just the judgment of the executive branch.)

Odds are pretty good that you didn't hear about the other big point in Holder's speech. You didn't read about it here or here or here or here, and you damn sure didn't read about it here or here or here or here or here. It wasn't just the Greenwaldian Firebaggers who ignored it; most of the more reasonable liberals didn't bother to mention it either.

So let's take a moment here and see what was the other big thing AG Holder had to say:
But surveillance is only the first of many complex issues we must navigate. Once a suspected terrorist is captured, a decision must be made as to how to proceed with that individual in order to identify the disposition that best serves the interests of the American people and the security of this nation....

Our criminal justice system is renowned not only for its fair process; it is respected for its results. We are not the first Administration to rely on federal courts to prosecute terrorists, nor will we be the last. Although far too many choose to ignore this fact, the previous Administration consistently relied on criminal prosecutions in federal court to bring terrorists to justice. John Walker Lindh, attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid, and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui were among the hundreds of defendants convicted of terrorism-related offenses – without political controversy – during the last administration.

Over the past three years, we’ve built a remarkable record of success in terror prosecutions. For example, in October, we secured a conviction against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for his role in the attempted bombing of an airplane traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. He was sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While in custody, he provided significant intelligence during debriefing sessions with the FBI....

In addition to Abdulmutallab, Faizal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber, Ahmed Ghailani, a conspirator in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and three individuals who plotted an attack against John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007, have also recently begun serving life sentences....

I could go on. Which is why the calls that I’ve heard to ban the use of civilian courts in prosecutions of terrorism-related activity are so baffling, and ultimately are so dangerous. These calls ignore reality. And if heeded, they would significantly weaken – in fact, they would cripple – our ability to incapacitate and punish those who attempt to do us harm.

Simply put, since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in Article III courts and are now serving long sentences in federal prison. Not one has ever escaped custody. No judicial district has suffered any kind of retaliatory attack. These are facts, not opinions. There are not two sides to this story. Those who claim that our federal courts are incapable of handling terrorism cases are not registering a dissenting opinion -- they are simply wrong.
In other words, a good deal of AG Holder's speech was defending the use of civilian courts to try terrorism suspects. "Justifying continuation & expansion of Bush admin "war on terror" policies"? Erm...not so much.

Given a political climate in which Congress voted overwhelmingly to mandate indefinite detention and military tribunals, isn't it kind of noteworthy that the Attorney General is pushing back hard? Worth at least a passing mention in any discussion of the speech? And yet as far as the liberal blogosphere is concerned, that part of the speech might as well never have happened.

Is it any wonder there's a huge disconnect between the President's accomplishments and public perception of them when his supporters can't be bothered to notice when he gets it right? Come on, people: there's an election coming up. At least act as if you care about the outcome.


JosephP said...

When the President asserts that he has the right to kill any American without any due process, then it's game over for me. I don't care if the second half of Holder's speech announced the cure for cancer and the solution to the unified field theory. I don't care what else he supposedly "gets right."

Besides, who cares what Holder said in some speech? Obama ALREADY HAD the chance to try the suspects in a civilian court, but he cancelled that plan in the face of Republican opposition. To date he has not used the civilian courts to try ANY of the terrorism suspects. And he has reneged on his promise to close Guantanamo.

Obama and his people say lots of things that I agree with. He just never actually follows through with any of them. The proof is in the pudding.

I have come to believe that Obama is a con man, and the progressives like me that supported him so forcefully are the targets of his con. Until he actually follows through on his talk, I will no longer believe a word he says. I guess I am just one of those "Greenwaldian Firebaggers."

Tom Hilton said...

Well yes, JosephP, since you have so self-righteously declared your imperviousness to facts and context and balance and all those trivial details, I guess you are one of those Greenwaldian Firebaggers.

Go to hell.

Asian-American Pundit said...

Thank you for writing this, I've been called something aching to a "cultist" for saying the same.

JosephP said...

Mr. Hilton: I do not believe I declared my "imperviousness to facts and balance and context." I just said that I find the idea that the President can assassinate anyone based on his own secret decision to be so repellent to American values that I cannot appreciate any other supposed positive points in Holder's speech.

It's like having a fresh turd on one half of your dinner plate---you don't feel like talking about how delicious the food on the other half of the plate is.

And I pointed out that talk from this administration on the issue of civilian trials for terrorists doesn't matter, because they already had their chance for that and rejected it.

I don't believe that is has anything to do with a failure to consider details, balance, or context. But I would appreciate a specific example of context that I may be missing.

Steve M. said...

Is it discussions-of-Bush-and-Gore-vs.-Nader in here, or is it me? I feel I had to weigh precisely this turd-on-half-of-the-plate metaphor twelve years ago at Table Talk.

And I'm recalling how that turned out.

Oh, but I'm sure President Romney and Vice President Rubio ("The great neoconservative hope" -- Ross Douthat) will be exquisitely respectful of civil liberties, right?

Ten Bears said...

Most of the "terrorists" he refers to were patseys the FBI persuaded to go on record with the "intent" to do these things. Dumbfucks persuaded by slick talking white dogs to make statements for the most part utterly unrealistic. We've go one right here in Oregon, completely incapable of anything other than "I wish I...".

There is no "justice" in entrapment.

Danp said...

JosephP - The justification for killing Awlaki is very similar to self-defense. You don't get due process when you are holding a gun. Awlaki was not arrestable; he was actively stirring up murderers; and he was a continual threat - not just past of potential. The law doesn't need changing or even interpreting in any unique way. Whether Obama, Holder and others are guilty of murder depends on whether they or reasonable people considered Awlaki an immanent threat. The invasion of Iraq didn't meet that standard, but feel free to argue that Awlaki didn't either.

Unknown said...

I agree that Obama has turned out to be almost as bad as the rest. The never-ending wars and Guantanamo are what did it for me.

Steve M. said...

Mike, what should Obama have done with Gitmo, and with the prisoners, in the face of an unbudgeable Congress? How was he supposed to close the place? Just release everyone?

Tom Hilton said...

JosephP: at least you didn't deny being self-righteous. I suppose that's something.

Anyway, start with your hysterical exaggeration of the policy on lethal force (no, the Attorney General did not assert the right to kill "any American"); throw in your stated unwillingness to consider any factors beyond your distorted misperception of that policy; top it off with egregious misrepresentations of what happened with KSM and Guantanamo; and it adds up to, yes, imperviousness to facts and context and balance.

Not that it matters, really. You aren't the intended audience for this. People like you and MikeB302000 are unreachable because you're simply too stupid to live. The intended audience here is people like Adam Serwer or Kevin Drum or the guys at LG&M--smart people who really ought to know better.

BH said...

I've got some lefty in-laws (whom I love dearly) with whom I've had this very argument. The thing is, we are none of us living in a political universe in which there is a realistic electoral option to the left of Obama. Either Obama or a Republican besides Paul will be sworn in in January '13. It ain't going to be any Rocky Anderson, or Buddy Roemer, or Dennis Kucinich, or Ralph Nader. That's a cold, hard fact, with cold, hard consequences. Anyone on the left who sits this election out or supports a 3rd party is inviting a right-wing reign quite possibly worse and more durable than anything we've seen yet - and much, much worse for the very people, in the US and elsewhere, whom we on the left are supposed to care about.

Personally, it's not at all difficult for me to do what I can for Obama. Has he done everything I wanted done, or in the way I'd have had him do it? No, of course not. But he HAS done a hell of a lot, enough for me to regard him as the best Democratic President since the pre-Tonkin Gulf LBJ. That's more than enough for me.

Tom Hilton said...

BH: Yup. Exactly.

Erik A. Prince said...

Some of the previous comments certainly show the danger Obama faces in November. There are a lot of liberals who are deeply upset with Obama. So much so that they seem willing to sit back and watch as the GOP returns to control.

Look, I understand being disappointed in Obama for some things. I wish Gitmo was closed. I am not really comfortable with policies like the al-Awlaki killing, though I certainly don't mourn the lunatic! I wish he had stepped completely away from the indefinite detention policy and a number of other items. However, in the grand scheme of things, I think he's done OK. Especially considering the kind of opposition he's dealt with from day one.

No, I'm not 'excited' about Obama, taken in isolation, but I'm downright scared of the alternatives! So I have no problem supporting the President's re-election. We're never going to agree with everything any President does, so we should stop expecting to. Don't let the fact that Obama is not the perfect candidate push you into helping someone like Romney, Santorum or Gingrich become President. That would be a 'cutting of the nose to spite the face' moment.