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June 4, 2005
NYT's Wayback Machine Takes Editorial Board To 9/10

The New York Times has an editorial for tomorrow's edition that argues for a return to the failed counterterrorism strategies that brought us the 9/11 attacks. Not only does the Gray Lady continue the fortnight-long harangue about Guantanamo Bay, but also insists that the only way to deal with terrorists is through law enforcement:

Now that the Bush administration has made clear how offended it is at Amnesty International's word choice in characterizing the Guantnamo Bay detention camp "the gulag of our times," we hope it will soon get around to dealing with the substantive problems that the Amnesty report is only the latest to identify. What Guantnamo exemplifies - harsh, indefinite detention without formal charges or legal recourse - may or may not bring to mind the Soviet Union's sprawling network of Stalinist penal colonies. It certainly has nothing in common with any American notions of justice or the rule of law.

Our colleague Thomas L. Friedman offered just the right solution a few days back. The best thing Washington can now do about this national shame is to shut it down. It is a propaganda gift to America's enemies; an embarrassment to our allies; a damaging repudiation of the American justice system; and a highly effective recruiting tool for Islamic radicals, including future terrorists.

This refrain sounds familiar. Unless I'm mistaken, the NYT also joined the chorus of voices who called for the US to raze Abu Ghraib prison to the ground after the discovery that a handful of idiots on the night watch had abused prisoners. Unfortunately, those critics forgot that the Iraqis actually owned Abu Ghraib, and didn't want it demolished. Now the editors want us to close Guantanamo -- and for what? Because the terrorists there complain about abusing a book, something that an investigation shows the detainees do more often than anything the guards do themselves.

The Times argues that Guantanamo should not be the only military detention facility shut down, either:

What makes Amnesty's gulag metaphor apt is that Guantnamo is merely one of a chain of shadowy detention camps that also includes Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and other, secret locations run by the intelligence agencies. Each has produced its own stories of abuse, torture and criminal homicide. These are not isolated incidents, but part of a tightly linked global detention system with no accountability in law. Prisoners have been transferred from camp to camp. So have commanding officers. And perhaps not coincidentally, so have specific methods of mistreatment.

Over more than two centuries of peace and war, the United States has developed a highly effective legal system that, while far from perfect, is rightly admired around the world. The shadowy parallel system that the Bush administration created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has by now proved its inferiority in almost every respect. It does not seem to have been effective in finding and prosecuting the most dangerous terrorists, and it has been a disaster in undermining America's reputation for fairness, just treatment of the guilty and humane treatment of the innocent.

The notion of relying on Amesty International to supply a fair and impartial survey of any wrongdoing should have died with that idiotic and historically inept reference to Guantanamo as an American gulag. In any case, the US military doesn't answer to Amnesty International but to the elected leadership of the United States, which answers to its people. The military has performed investigations which have not only been supervised by the executive branch but also by Congress, and while some have been left unsatisfied by the results, the reports have shown that abuses have been isolated and the perpetrators punished when discovered.

What the Times argues is that terrorists captured out of uniform, bearing arms against US forces in a field of battle, and/or purposely conducting attacks on civilians should be arrested rather than captured and jailed rather than placed in detention camps. The Times evidently wants to return to the Clinton-era strategy of treating al-Qaeda like a criminal gang rather than a worldwide terror effort that has already proven catastrophically deadly to Americans at home and abroad.

The "shadowy parallel" system that our military uses is no different than any other POW or detention system used in other wars, except that in other wars, we would line unlawful combatants against the wall and have them shot rather than lock them up. Part of that is to gain as much intelligence from them as possible, but the other reason is the increase in delicate sensibilities of the media and the public. The Times wants these terrorists released, and not to their countries of origin -- where they also take a dim view of Islamofascist fanatics -- but to unsuspecting third countries where they can return to their terrorism without fear of prosecution.

And that's supposed to make people like America more?

Prisoners captured during war have never had access to American courts, no matter what the Times might argue about the "basic principles of justice that served America so well in the past". The Geneva Convention clearly states that unlawful combatants can be shot after capture and are only entitled to a military tribunal to determine their proper status. It doesn't require access to civilian court systems for good reasons -- unlawful combatants aren't criminals, they're enemies out of uniform, and they put civilian populations at unnecessary deadly risk.

What the Times and the crybaby Leftist establishment it represents refuse to accept is that America is at war -- a war it did not seek but a war that its enemies insisted on forcing on us. We tried the Times' strategy for more than a decade, and it resulted in stupid legalistic decisions to arrest AQ leadership rather than just killing them when we had the chance. Even arresting them was too controversial for the prior administration, which balked at a deal to capture Osama bin Laden in the mid-90s because of the lack of an indictment. That strategy led to 9/11 and the deaths of almost 3,000 Americans by the lunatics that the Times seeks to protect.

An editorial like this would have been clueless enough on 9/10. Less than four years after the bloody massacre that occured the next day, it's pathetic and embarrassing, and a demonstration of moral cowardice.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 4, 2005 8:25 PM

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» The Next Miranda from AbbaGav
In the wake of the campaign to force the war against terror into nothing more than a multi-agency criminal investigation, it's only a matter of time until we have a new set of Miranda rights for arresting terrorists [Read More]

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» Idiocy At The NYT from Flopping Aces
I'm sure it will surprise no one that the NYT wishes we would return to the days of Clinton and treat terrorists as a law enforcement issue: [Read More]

Tracked on June 5, 2005 10:03 AM

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