Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden last week issued a short statement saying that his forces would kill captured U.S. personnel if Khalid Shaykh Muhammad and his al-Qaeda colleagues were executed after trial. This threat should be taken to the bank as the correlation between bin Laden’s words and deeds would put any Western leader’s record to shame.
But what motivated bin Laden? I believe it was the amateurishness, and really the stupidity of Barack Obama and Eric Holder — or of those who advise them on foreign policy, General James Jones and John Brennan. President Obama campaigned on the idea that the use of renditions, harsh interrogations, and Guantanamo Bay were “recruiting tools” for al-Qaeda. He pledged to do away with all of them and show the Islamic world that Muslim extremists could be treated fairly by the renowned U.S. judicial system. After taking office, Mr. Obama dismantled the CIA operational system that had yielded significant if not war-winning successes. Or, perhaps, the idea that he “paralyzed” the system would be more appropriate, as much of it still exists in name as he and his advisers have not devised replacements equal in effectiveness and more compatible with what Obama called his “moral compass.”
Well, okay, Obama is president and has the authority — given the supine behavior of Congress — to do pretty much as he pleases in foreign, defense, and intelligence policy. But that should not include having America lead with its chin. Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder have been outspoken in their claims that Khalid Shaykh Muhammad and the others would be — as in the days of Judge Roy Bean — “tried, convicted, and hung.” And most recently, Mr. Holder has said that bin Laden himself should be killed if found and not captured. I happen to agree with him on bin Laden, but not until all indictments are dropped against bin Laden so we are not also killing the U.S. judicial system when we kill bin Laden. It has never been the U.S. judicial system’s tradition to arbitrarily kill a person is has been trying to arrest for 13 years.
As a consequence of what the president and the attorney general have said, Americans now have the worst of both worlds. These gentlemen have largely halted rendition/interrogation operations that contributed some to U.S. defense and they have established the U.S. judicial system in Muslim perceptions — and perception is reality — as being completely fair and just so long as you are not a Muslim. If you believe that the Bush system was a recruitment tool for al-Qaeda, will not a U.S. judicial system that is portrayed by Obama and Holder as a legal façade hiding an intent to lynch be an even better recruiting tool?
At day’s end, however, the over-arching problem for the United States remains what may well be a case of lethal deafness among our bipartisan political elite. The worldwide Islamist militant movement has grown — not shrunk — since 9/11. The bombings in Moscow this morning are symbolic of that growth as they surely were executed by representatives of the Islamist insurgency now thriving in the North Caucasus. And look around the world to Yemen, Somalia, Mindanao, Pakistan, Kashmir, and southern Thailand and you will see Islamist insurgencies that have either started or have been revitalized from quiescence since 9/11. Most worrying, look at the growth of Islamist militancy inside the United States and the UK.
As the movement led and — more important — inspired by bin Laden and al-Qaeda grows, only Representative Paul’s voice is on the record for consistently warning Americans that the Islamists are motivated by what the U.S. government — under both parties — does in the Muslim world, and not by what Americans think and how they live. We are at war with a growing part of the Muslim world because of U.S. interventionism and not because our daughters go to university, we drink beer after work, or we vote in elections. The war is spreading because we invaded Iraq, because we are half-century-long supporters of Muslim tyrannies, and because we are Israel’s reliably abject servants.
Whether or not any of these motivators for the Islamists’ war on America are to be changed is up to the American people. But you can be absolutely sure that unless Rep. Paul’s warnings are heeded and acted on at the grassroots level there will be no pressure on our governing elite to change, and they will keep static the interventionist policies that are driving America toward military defeat, widespread domestic violence, and economic ruin.