Editor’s Note – Like many groups in this crazy world, history started at different times apparently. Revisionism is rife, and that skews opinions wildly. Obama appears to be one of those revisionists.
Of course, his history is what he says it is, and we have no clue what is real and what isn’t, and he applies that to his external world. Apparently Henry Ford never existed, the Wright Brothers, Colonel Sanders, Steve Jobs, and Benjamin Franklin never existed.
In today’s dollars, Franklin would be a billionaire – did any paved roads exist before he became rich of his own endeavors, before there was a US Federal Government?
One of the many great things about Paul Johnson’s magisterial A History of the American People is that he begins that history in the Sixteenth Century. There was an identifiable, culturally distinguishable American People long before there was a Revolutionary War, a Constitution, or a central government. The American People, by their industry and ingenuity, didn’t just build successful businesses … they built the most successful nation in history — and all, somehow, without HUD, Fannie, Freddie, the EPA, OSHA, …
In one of a thousand vignettes, Johnson tells the story of the founding of Springfield:
Elijah Miles, who moved to the Sangamon River country in 1823, left a record of how he founded Springfield. It was then only a stake in the ground. He marked out an 18-foot-square site for a store, went to St. Louis to buy a 25-ton stock of goods, chartered a boat, shipped his stock to the mouth of the Sangamon, and then had his boat and goods towed upriver by five men with a 300 foot tow-rope. Leaving his goods on the riverside — “As no one lived near, I had no fear of thieves” — he walked 50 miles to Springfield, hired waggons and teams, and so got his stuff to the new “town,”where his store was the first to open. It was the only one in a district later divided into fourteen counties, so “many had to come more than 80 miles to trade. Springfield grew up around him.
The president can try telling Americans they can’t build businesses, careers, communities and lives without his broke and broken Leviathan, but history and common sense prove him wrong every time. I’ve listened to some of this debate with fascination. Not at Obama — there is nothing surprising about his cockamamie claim that individual Americans could not have built their successful ventures without his central-planners providing the infrastructure of roads, bridges, police, firemen, schools and the like. What surprises me is the response of some on our side who argue that it was the other way around — that it was the successful ventures that prompted all the infrastructure.
Why would we concede the infrastructure to Obama?When it comes to human beings living in society and helping each other, why do we allow the president to treat we/us as if it were synonymous with the federal government.We built roads and bridges, policed our communities, put out fires, taught our children, and built our businesses before there ever was a federal government.
It is certainly true that, in modern times, the government has gotten itself involved in the infrastructure business. Very often, that has not been a positive development. At Reason, Matt Welch has a very interesting column about the building of the Golden Gate Bridge — which Obama likes to cite as a federal government success story that “benefitted everyone” and, so the story goes, made possible the success of the evil one-percenters.
The story is fiction. As Welch shows, the federal government did everything it could to prevent the Golden Gate from being built. The local people and businesses wanted it; but the Defense Department did not want it built and owned the land on either side of the channel, which it refused for a long time to sell. When it finally agreed to sell, it would not sell to the developers, only to a state commission. And the feds did not participate … other than to try to derail the project. That is, federal contractor unions held up the works, trying to extort their piece of the pie. Finally, because of the market’s collapse and the Great Depression, the bond financing ran into trouble, resulting in more delay until, finally, private capital — the personal wealth of A.P. Giannini — came to the rescue. The bridge was completed $1.7 million under budget, Welch recounts, “using non-union labor and private contractors.”
Matt Welch ends with a fabulous point. In today’s dollars, the $35 million cost of the Golden Gate Bridge translates into $530 million. That’s “far less than one percent of Obama’s stimulus package. So,” he asks, “where the hell are our new Golden Gates? What exactly has been the return on all this added ‘investment’?”
Human beings are social beings who act in their individual self-interest — which, common sense tells us, is often but far from always personal gain. Obama thinks the individual American, particularly if he is an entrepreneur, compares unfavorably to the noble federal government — as if the government were some altruistic “we” just looking to help. When the feds “help,” however, they are often an overbearing presence that depresses individual initiative. Those who run government are in it to wield power, mainly redistributing benefits to their favored, connected cronies. Government stifles the individual more than it empowers him.
The president should not be able to get away with equating such a self-interested behemoth with “us” — the people who help each other and make their communities, and ultimately the country, work. And the thought that the behemoth has become benevolent under Obama, and that we somehow would not have infrastructure without it, is laughable.
Editor’s Note – Opinions over today’s rulings are just now being developed, but as usual, Andrew McCarthy has already composed his take on the events of today concerning the SCOTUS ruling on Obama Care, officially the PPACA. Please read and decide for yourself:
I want to read the ruling before I start piling on Chief Justice Roberts — though my sense is he richly deserves to be piled on. And even if the Court is correct that, under its jurisprudence, the mandate that undergirds Obamacare can be sustained as a tax, it is surely intolerable for the Supreme Court to aid and abet Congress and the president in the commission of a massive fraud: upholding as a tax something they swore up and down was not a tax — allowing them to enact as a tax something that would never have passed if honestly presented as a tax, allowing them to escape accountability for passing a massive tax increase.
But, at the risk of being a broken record, we remain focused on the wrong issue because conservatives and Republicans do not want any part of the right issue. Congress would not be able to tax anyone a penny if the subject matter on which lawmakers sought to spend the money raised was not within Congress’s constitutional authority to address. Health care and health insurance are precisely such issues. So why does Congress get to raise taxes for and spend money on them? Because the country — very much including Republican leaders and many conservatives — has bought on to the wayward progressive premise that the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution empowers Congress to spend on anything it wants to spend on as long as their is some fig-leaf that ties the spending to the betterment of society. That, and not an inflated understanding of the Commerce Clause, has always been the problem. Republicans are afraid to touch this because, if you follow the logic, you’d have to conclude that Congress has no constitutional authority to set up a Social Security system, a Medicare or Medicaid program, or most of the innumerable Big Government enterprises that Republicans support while, of course, decrying Big Government. Republicans occasionally want to limit what government spends, but they don’t want to acknowledge any constitutional limits on what government could spend — that’s what has gotten us to this point.
I made this very argument — not for the first time — three months ago, in the context of discussing with Jonah the Obamacare “tax or penalty” controversy (i.e., is the mandate a “penalty” imposed under Congress’s Commerce Clause power or a “tax” imposed under Congress’s broader tax-and-spend power — the issue the Court resolved today in favor of the latter). I don’t mean to try anyone’s patience, but the point seems more urgent to me now than it ever did, so I repeat:
Jonah is quite right that much of the argument over Obamacare’s constitutionality will hinge on whether the individual mandate is a “tax” or a “penalty.” Not to be too much of a brokenrecord on this, but I think that’s unfortunate: It assumes that Obamacare is a proper exercise of federal power if the mandate is a tax. The more profound question, and the one that, regrettably, the Supreme Court won’t touch is: For what purposes should the federal government be able to impose taxes in the first place.
The reason this is an issue is the General Welfare clause in the preamble of the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8. Congress can only impose fines or penalties in conjunction with one of its enumerated powers. The one at issue in Obamacare is the power to regulate interstate commerce. Obamacare is an unprecedented expansion of the commerce power because it compels Americans to buy a commodity. That is why many experts think the Court will say it goes too far and strike it down. (for what it’s worth, I do agree that it goes too far, but I do not believe this will prevent five justices on the current Court from doing the wrong thing.) The point is that if Obamacare does not pass muster under the Commerce Clause, Congress has no authority to fine people for non-compliance.
That is not the end of the story, though, because the Court has held that the General Welfare clause is a broader grant of congressional authority than the Commerce Clause. How much broader? We don’t know . . . and that’s the problem.
In my mind, if you buy the progressive theory of the General Welfare clause (as not only Democrats but the vast majority of Republicans in government do), there are virtually no limits at all. That is why I thought that, rather than asking Mitt Romney and the other GOP candidates about the constitutionality of contraception bans that no one is actually seeking, it would have been worthwhile [during the GOP presidential debates] to ask these champions of limited government what, if any, limits there are on Congress’s power to tax and spend for the “general welfare.”
As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, this was an open question until 1936. There were two schools of thought. Hamilton argued that the preamble’s reference to a power to tax to “provide for the . . . general Welfare of the United States” was a separate, substantive source of authority, empowering the government to tax for any purpose so long as it arguably benefited all Americans — i.e., it had to be “general,” not for the good of some at the expense of others. Madison countered that this would defeat the purpose of the rest of Sec. 8 — which, following the preamble, exactingly enumerates Congress’s powers. For Madison, the preamble simply made clear that Congress could tax and spend for the purpose of carrying out these limited grants of authority to regulate interstate commerce, establish Post Offices, establish lower federal courts, etc. Otherwise, the federal government could grow into an uncontrollable monstrosity that spends trillions more than the trillions it takes in in taxes. (Oh, right …).
I think Madison was correct, but the New Deal Supreme Court sided with Hamilton in United States v. Butler (1936) (more on this here). Alas, it appears commentators on the right have little stomach to revisit this conclusion because it would be tantamount to arguing that the welfare state is unconstitutional. Gov. Romney, for example, took umbrage at Gov. Rick Perry’s suggestion that social security is unconstitutional — but he was never asked to explain why he thinks it is constitutional, nor were he, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich asked to tell us whether there are any limits on Congress’s General Welfare power.
So we’ll instead play the semantics of “tax” versus “penalty”. It seems like an inconsequential difference — most people just want to know what they have to pay, not whether the government labels the payment a tax, fee, fine, penalty, etc. The semantics are of tremendous consequence only because of the bedrock question that nobody will be asking.
Editor’s Note – “Andy, who put the Blind Sheik behind bars in the first World Trade Center bombing, ” PJM CEO Roger L. Simon writes, “was arguably the most important prosecutor in the War on Terror. He is among the most authoritative writers anywhere on the dangers of Jihad. His distinguished legal career and expertise on national security matters will be invaluable to PJ Media and our readers.”
From “Rule of Law” to Hit List: The Times Lauds Obama at War
“The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process.” Well, that’s certainly a judicious use of judicious by William Daley. The former White House chief of staff was addressing the inevitability of collateral damage inherent in President Barack Obama’s principal war strategy against al-Qaeda: killing suspected terrorists by firing missiles from unmanned drones that scour faraway skies over Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. This was about halfway through the New York Times‘ rambling 6,300-word testimonial to Obama’s unparalleled splendor as a wartime commander-in-chief.
You see, for all the precision of modern weaponry, it turns out error is simply unavoidable: sometimes the wrong targets get hit and the wrong people get killed by our armed forces and the presidents who command them. Fog of war, and all that. For many years — specifically, from October 2001 through January 19, 2009 — the Times saw this inevitability as grist for scandal. But suddenly, the Gray Lady has evolved, just like its heroically “pragmatic” commander-in-chief. Collateral killings are just the way it goes — and if Obama camouflages what the Left used to insist were civilian casualties by a post facto declaration that everyone killed was a “combatant,” the Times has suddenly decided that, far from crying out for a war crimes investigation, this just proves his lawyerly brilliance.
After all, it is the end result of a “judicious process.” That’s judicious, not judicial. Of course, time was when candidate Obama, his campaign surrogates, and the Times would have scoffed at the notion that the executive branch was capable of judiciously prosecuting the battle, determining who was the enemy, and taking action to kill or capture and detain. Sure, from 1787 through 2001, presidents may have been trusted with plenary control over war-fighting. But that was then. Now, according to the Bush-deranged Left, the “rule of law” demanded a judicialprocess. Terrorists don’t wear uniforms — a willful violation of the laws of war that the Left converted into a presumption of innocence. Thus, progressives told us, to hold suspected terrorists, let alone kill them, based on nothing more than a unilateral executive branch determination, no matter how “judicious,” was a shredding of the Constitution and a profound violation of international law.
Now that the president’s name is Obama, though, “judicious” executive unilateralism is more than enough to justify killing — and not only in an emergency: the Times depicts Obama as the don, meeting weekly with his consiglieri to decide who lives and who dies.
Eleven years into post-9/11 combat operations and facing a tough reelection fight, it has conveniently dawned on the Obama Left that when the nation is threatened and takes up arms, the risk of error shifts from the government, which bears it in peacetime law-enforcement operations, to “the enemy.” For the Times — whose epic account of Obama at war begins with a portentous “This was the enemy” – enemy is the term now in vogue for what, heretofore, were known merely as “young Muslim men,” subjected either to indefinite detention without trial or to being slain under ambiguous circumstances in Bush’s “war on terror,” which was really a “war against Islam.” Now that those young Muslim men are being detained or killed by Obama, it is remarkable to discover what a mortal threat to the United States they really are. And it further turns out that, while our intelligence community does the best it can, warfare requires our combat forces to take action without the certainty of meticulously tested courtroom evidence — and that’s suddenly okay, too: When people are plotting to mass-murder Americans, the Times wants you to know that we can’t afford to wait until we have proof that will satisfy a jury; they need to be rubbed out, pronto.
What is most astonishing in the story co-authored by Jo Becker and Scott Shane is its rationalization of the president’s naivete and amateur-hour missteps. In the revisionist history, these are seen as emblematic of the Omniscient One’s duplicity — which the reporters, far from finding offensive, portray as the president’s most praiseworthy attribute. “Bush lied and people died”; Obama lies and … it is his unmatched attorney’s mind at work.
Thus does the Times celebrate what, in the retelling is Obama’s knowing deception — not his ideologically-driven recklessness — in ceremoniously pronouncing, on his second day in office, that Gitmo would be closed and that he would make good on other campaign commitments to turn the clock back — back to Clintonian courtroom counterterrorism, away from Bush-era reliance on the laws of war. Even as the Times and rest of the Left deliriously swooned, we now discover that Obama was furtively inserting “a few subtle loopholes” in his first executive orders, “already putting his lawyerly mind to carving out the maximum amount of maneuvering room to fight terrorism as he saw fit.” An outrage? No, the Times sees this as just “the deft insertion of some wiggle words” by “a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters [ACM: the Times, for one] was never carried away by his own rhetoric.” The Paper of Record, which spent years obsessing over 16 words in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address, now builds sleight-of-hand into the president’s job description.
And why not? Why shouldn’t the Times‘s preferred commander-in-chief be afforded the same loose acquaintance with the truth that the paper allows itself? For how else could it publish paragraphs such as this:
The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets, and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration’s “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”
In point of fact, we learn in the course of the article (as if we did not know already) that the drone is not all that precise: It often takes lives and destroys property beyond its narrow targets. Furthermore, because the Obama administration, in its demagoguery against Gitmo and Bush detention policies, has nullified the options of capturing and interrogating jihadists, “our ideals” now apparently include killing people we could have taken alive — and whose intelligence we could have exploited to save American lives. And if those people happen not to be the people we were trying to kill, Obama just counts them as terrorists anyway — as long as they fit the administration’s profile for Muslim terrorists.
But a more overarching point: When Obama excoriated Bush for offering a “false choice between our safety and our ideals,” he was referring to the Bush wartime preference for executive processes over judicial ones. The Times well knows this, because it was leading the Obama cheering section. In what now passes for “our ideals,” however, Obama is not just unilateral judge and jury; he is executioner, as well. Bush was convinced the war model was necessary to protect the nation, but he left the war-fighting to the professionals. Obama, by contrast” is the “liberal law professor” who “insist[s] on approving every new name on an expanding ‘kill list,’ poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre ‘baseball cards’ of an unconventional war.”
Not to worry about this seeming contradiction, though. The doctrinaire secularists at the Times want to assure you that The One even transcends what up until five minutes ago was the essential “wall of separation” between church and state. You see, our current commander-in-chief, that erudite protege of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a sharp departure from the Bible-thumping rube who last held the job. Obama is “a student writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” who is determined “to apply the ‘just war’ theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.”
What Obama, or, for that matter, the Times, actually grasps about Christian just war theory is unclear. (If you actually want to know what it is, a few words from George Weigel are a better expenditure of your time than a few thousand words from folks who find virtue in not being “carried away by [their] own rhetoric.”) But we do learn that Obama-style “just war theory” bears a striking resemblance to Obama-style “pragmatism” — which somehow always manages to get to the result Obama finds politically expedient.
So we discover that Obama applies a strict moral imperative in his judicious application of just war drone-killing … except when he doesn’t. The target must be an imminent threat to the United States … except when he isn’t. There must be a “‘near certainty’ of no innocents being killed” … except when there isn’t. The Times concedes, for example, that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud “did not meet the Obama administration’s criteria for targeted killing”: he was not a threat to the United States and, when located by the CIA, he was surrounded by innocents — staying with his wife at his in-laws home. But, hey, “Pakistani officials wanted him dead.” Obama rationalized that the drone program was necessary and the “drone program rested on [the Pakistanis’] tacit approval.” And, yes, killing Mehsud with a missile would necessarily entail killing those in his company, but them’s the breaks. The don gave the order.
And on it goes, at times sadly hilariously. The Times, for example, notes that “the president’s resolve” was “stiffened” by a “series of plots” that included “the killling of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex. by an Army psychiatristwho had embraced radical Islam.” The Times does not note that, with this one passing reference tying Major Nidal Hassan’s jihadist rampage to Islamic supremacist ideology, the Gray Lady has surpassed the Pentagon in explaining what happened at Fort Hood. Applying the Obama-imposed conscious avoidance mandate, the armed forces did not refer to Islam or jihad in its 75-page report on the massacre, which the administration prefers to frame as a case of “workplace violence.”
In the main, though, the Times report is a study in the Left’s self-absorption. When modern progressives are out of power, warfare is unnecessary — a simplistic, “might makes right” resort to force when the Left’s brand of nuanced diplomacy would have done the trick. Reasonable suspicion is never enough: no one is to be assumed an enemy of the United States absent proof beyond a reasonable doubt that will stand up in court; and if a Republican president resists the “transparency” of judicial review, or resorts to measures like military detention or immigration-law deportation in order to protect its intelligence secrets from exposure, it is chipping away at the very foundations of constitutional governance, such that the Republican administration should be understood as more of a threat to America than the terrorists. Only when the Left is in power does war become necessary, as well as excruciatingly complex and difficult. Only then must we learn to be understanding when irresponsible political rhetoric crashes into hostile reality, and when moral lines in the sand are constantly crossed and haphazardly redrawn … only to be crossed yet again.
This would all be easier to swallow if the evolution came with an apology. But it is packaged in the same smarm as original antiwar, anti-Bush indictment: the more events reveal Obama’s predispositions to be half-baked, inept and unrealistic, the more you are supposed to admire his savvy pragmatism in not merely abandoning them but pretending he never really held them in the first place — while the courtiers applaud.
Andrew C. McCarthy, is a former federal prosecutor and New York Times bestselling author of The Grand Jihad andWillful Blindness; he’s also a regular contributor at National Review and The New Criterion.
“Andy, who put the Blind Sheik behind bars in the first World Trade Center bombing, ” PJM CEO Roger L. Simon writes, “was arguably the most important prosecutor in the War on Terror. He is among the most authoritative writers anywhere on the dangers of Jihad. His distinguished legal career and expertise on national security matters will be invaluable to PJ Media and our readers.”
Outside of his legal and writing careers, Andy has been coaching little league baseball for the last few years. He’s been a hockey fan for more than 40 years, and he and his family watch sports all year round: mainly Mets, Jets, Knicks and Devils.
Editor’s Note – In this PC world, led in America by the current leftist government where people like Eric Holder, who’s law firm defended terrorists pro bono, its more important to send a known terrorist back to London that we captured in Pakistan. The same place that would not allow Geert Wilders to visit now lauds the release of Binyam Mohammed, the Jose Padilla cohort. has the west lost its mind? The administration that won’t prosecute New Black Panther members who intimidate voters at polling places, and wanted to give terrorists the same rights American citizens have in court. To whom is this administration beholding?
Binyam Mohamed is back in the news. You may remember him as the al-Qaeda operative who was slated to help would-be “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla conduct a second wave of post-9/11 attacks, targeting American cities. You also may not remember him. After all, the Obama administration quietly released him without charges.
Well, there’s a new chapter in this sordid tale. Mohamed is living large — taxpayer-funded large — in Great Britain. For that, we can thank the Lawyer Left’s stubborn insistence that enemy war criminals are really run-of-the-mill defendants. Actually, make that run-of-the-mill plaintiffs.
The U.S. Defense Department wanted to try Mohamed by military commission. Alas, Britain’s Labour government was deathly afraid of the potential for a trial to expose its complicity in “enhanced interrogation” tactics, which an international propaganda campaign had equated with “torture” — and how about a round of applause for Sen. John McCain and Attorney General Eric Holder for sharpening that arrow in every defense lawyer’s quiver? Like virtually all captured terrorists now do, Mohamed claimed to have been tortured with Saddam-style cruelty. And as is virtually always the case, to call the allegation overblown is not to do it justice. Based on disclosures in various court cases, it is now clear that Mohamed was subjected to stress — essentially, sleep deprivation. Compared to actual torture, that is trivial.
Yet, goaded by its base (the leftist and pro-Islamist contingents that now make up the Occupy London crowd), the Blair-Brown government pleaded with the Obama administration to transfer Mohamed from Gitmo to England. The fact that Mohamed, when he was captured in the midst of plotting to kill thousands of people, had been trying to board a flight to London with a fake British passport was apparently of no import. That he is an Ethiopian national who had no legal right to be repatriated to England did not matter. The same British government that slammed the door on Geert Wilders, an anti-Islamist Dutch parliamentarian, rolled out the welcome mat for the jihadist. President Obama acquiesced, and Mohamed was released — free and clear.
Yes, free and clear. The Obama administration said barely a word about Mohamed’s transfer. Odd, since this was early 2009, right when the administration was gearing up its campaign to give enemy combatants civilian trials, and Mr. Holder was here, there, and everywhere, assuring every ear that there was no terrorism case the justice system could not handle. In fact, the officials involved in the decision to release Mohamed understood full well that he would be neither detained nor prosecuted by British authorities. He was to be freed.
To grasp just how outrageous that is, a comparison is in order. After being held for years as an enemy combatant, Mohamed’s accomplice, Jose Padilla, was finally convicted in civilian court. The charges involved terrorism, but not the “9/11 second wave” plot that had led to his capture (about a month after Mohamed’s). This was not because the second-wave conspiracy was fiction. It was because the plot could not be prosecuted under civilian due-process standards. To prove it, prosecutors would undoubtedly have had to cut deals with witnesses who knew its details — al-Qaeda bigwigs such as Khalid Sheikh Mohamed. As if that prospect were not unacceptable enough, such deals require the government to disclose the intelligence debriefings of these witnesses — something that is intolerable in wartime.
That is one of the principal reasons the Bush administration adopted, and Congress later endorsed, a military-justice system for detaining and prosecuting enemy war criminals. The military system makes possible prosecutions that would be impractical under civilian rules: It provides additional protections against unnecessary disclosure of intelligence, and it eases evidentiary standards so that information from witnesses can often be presented by hearsay, rather than by calling the witnesses themselves.
Regrettably, the Bush administration flinched from a Supreme Court challenge to its treatment of Padilla as a military detainee — even though the Fourth Circuit had upheld Padilla’s detention in 2005 (no thanks to an amicus brief filed on Padilla’s behalf by some lawyer named Eric Holder). As it happens, Padilla had been an ambitious enough terrorist that his hands were in multiple schemes, including one in Florida to recruit jihadists to commit mayhem overseas. Had that not been the case, the decision to treat Padilla as a mere criminal defendant would have resulted in his outright release. And because, unlike Mohamed, Padilla is an American citizen, we would have had no recourse against his living in our midst.
Echoing Mohamed, Padilla claimed to have been tortured. But the courts ruled that this was irrelevant: Even if his allegations were true, the abuse was a matter separate from the question of whether he had committed terrorism crimes — at least as long as the government did not attempt to use evidence derived from the alleged abuse to prove his guilt. A federal court in New York City drew the same conclusion in a prosecution against one of the 1998 embassy bombers, who also claimed he had been tortured. Padilla’s indictment thus stood. In fact, the most notable aspect of his case is that a federal appeals court found the 17-year sentence imposed by the trial judge to be woefully inadequate. The jail term has been remanded to the lower court for re-sentencing.
Now, let’s contrast this with the treatment of Binyam Mohamed. Because he is not an American citizen, there would have been no tenable legal objection to trying him for war crimes by military commission. (The Military Commissions Act directs that only alien enemy combatants may be subjected to such military tribunals.) And even if, in slavish deference to its political base’s aversion to commissions, the Obama administration remained hell-bent on resisting a military war-crimes trial, Mohamed could still have been detained indefinitely. Indeed, our military is still holding at Gitmo scores of enemy combatants who are less serious offenders than Mohamed — in the sense that, however threatening they may be, they did not plan to carry out mass-murder plots on American soil. In sum, the Obama administration could have declined to transfer Mohamed — certainly in the absence of a commitment that the Brits were willing and able to keep him under lock and key. If the president had done that, Mohamed would still be detained at Gitmo today.
But instead, Mohamed has hit the jihad jackpot in Albion — or is it al-Bion? I’ve previously noted that British authorities not only released him but also sustained him on public welfare. Now, we learn, that’s not the half of it.
The British government has actually given this al-Qaeda celebrity a cool £1 million payment. Mohamed, you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn, showed his gratitude for being extracted from Gitmo through the intercession of Her Majesty’s government by . . . suing the Brits for being complicit in his “torture.” The £1 million payment is the settlement the government decided it was best to have British taxpayers fork over. Thus, the Daily Mail reports, Mohamed was recently able to plunk down £250,000 for a lovely three-bedroom, two-bathroom terrace house in Norbury, South London — conveniently located near the Croydon Mosque and Islamic Centre.
That makes him one of 16 terror suspects who have scored huge financial payouts by simply claiming to have been mistreated by security and intelligence officials. Why does the British government settle rather than fight these claims by jihadists whose goal is to destroy the very system on which they are feasting? Because the Lawyer Left that makes up the transnational progressive vanguard insisted that enemy-combatant terrorists should be seen as civil litigants, and the Brits went along.
Under prevailing justice-system rules, the jihadist gets to sue and, if the British government tries to contest the case, the jihadist is entitled to discovery of all the intelligence about him in British government files. With this lawfare gun at its head, the government’s choice is to tell al-Qaeda what the West knows (and how we know it) or pay pricey settlements. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke explained that Mohamed got £1 million because, if the government hadn’t settled, the case might have cost British taxpayers £50 million.
One unnamed British government official told the Daily Mail, “The danger is that we have become a cashpoint for terrorists.” Gee, you think?
Editor’s Note – Daily now, the news begs the question: Why is Holder still in office? Had previous Attorneys General performed, or failed to perform, with half the questionable history and background as has Holder, the entire media machine would have already filmed the perp-walk as they resigned from office in disgrace!
The AG’s Fast & Furious amnesia is reminiscent of his Marc Rich amnesia.
House Republicans are now calling for a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Eric Holder perjured himself in congressional testimony about the scandalous Fast & Furious program. Specifically, the attorney general claimed on May 3 that he had only “over the last few weeks” heard about the reckless gun-walking program his Justice Department was running with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) — a program in which guns were steered to violent Mexican gangs with predictably lethal results, including the murder of a Border Patrol agent. Contrary to Holder’s testimony, it is now being reported that he had actually been receiving briefings on the program since early summer 2010.
I’m shocked, shocked to hear it.
In truth, I’d be very surprised if it turned out that Mr. Holder was as much in the dark as he claims. Fast & Furious was a very strange and controversial program, and there was plenty of Justice Department participation in it: ATF is a Justice Department agency; the investigation was being conducted jointly with a U.S. attorney’s office (i.e., a DOJ district office); the investigation featured eavesdropping applications, which have to go through the Justice Department; and White House officials were apparently being briefed about the program. It would be odd indeed if the AG were out of the loop. To be clear, though, I have no idea who knew what, and when. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.
For the moment, my point is simply this: No one ought to be surprised by what is happening. Readers may recall my vigorous contentions that Mr. Holder’s history should disqualify him from serving as attorney general. Here are some links:
President Obama should not have nominated him, and I urged that the Senate not confirm him. Beltway Republicans, however, rallied to Holder’s defense, and Senate Republicans dutifully joined their Democratic counterparts in overwhelmingly approving his appointment.
One of the many arguments I made was based on Holder’s record of providing misleading congressional testimony.
When he served as Clinton-administration deputy attorney general, Holder engineered the scandalous Marc Rich pardon by creating a rogue procedure that allowed the fugitive fraudster and his attorneys to appeal directly to President Clinton rather than go through DOJ’s regular pardon process. The regular process would have required input from the U.S. attorney’s office handling Rich’s case — the Southern District of New York, where I worked for many years (including when the pardon was granted). That input would have doomed the pardon by making Clinton undeniably aware of the nature and dimension of Rich’s criminal conduct.
By keeping the prosecutors who knew about Rich’s case out of the process, Holder ensured that Clinton was one-sidedly exposed to the Rich camp’s version of events. This greatly benefited Rich’s legal team, which was led by former Clinton White House Counsel Jack Quinn, a close confidant of Vice President Al Gore. When he was helping Rich in 1999 and 2000, Holder was hoping to be made attorney general in what Democrats were confident would be a Gore administration.
I don’t want to rehash all the unsavory details; I just want to focus on the following: When Clinton’s pardon of Rich blew up, Congress held hearings. Despite the fact that he had interceded on Rich’s (and Quinn’s) behalf even before the pardon shenanigans, Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2001, under oath, that “Mr. Rich’s name was unfamiliar to me” in 1999, when Quinn first beseeched Holder to help Quinn try to convince SDNY prosecutors to drop the charges. Holder elaborated that he had “gained only a passing familiarity with the underlying facts of the Rich case” when, in the ensuing months, he helped push for the pardon. He claimed that he had been too busy to inform himself about the case of the criminal for whom he was lobbying — a man who had been on the FBI’s top-ten list of wanted fugitives.
Based largely on Holder’s rambling and often incredible testimony, which stressed his purported ignorance of Rich’s background, a House investigation concluded that the “sum total” of Holder’s “knowledge about Rich came from a page of talking points provided to him by Jack Quinn in 2000.” The House Government Operations Committee concluded that Holder’s behavior in the Rich affair had been “unconscionable,” but it took no further action.
Eight years later, when President Obama nominated him to be attorney general, Holder clung to his protestations of ignorance. At the nomination hearing, Arlen Specter, then the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, pointedly asked, “Were you aware of the kind of record this man [Rich] had?”
Here’s Holder’s response:
No I was not. And that was one of the mistakes that I made. I did not really acquaint myself with his record. I knew that the matter involved — it was a tax-fraud case; it was a substantial tax-fraud case. I knew that he was a fugitive. I did not know a lot of the underlying facts that you have described.
In written follow-up questions, Specter pressed again: “Did you receive information about the facts of the Rich case from anyone other than Mr. Rich’s attorney, Jack Quinn?”
Holder tersely responded, “No.”
Yet, as I pointed out in the days before Holder’s confirmation, none of this appears to have been true. It is a virtual certainty that Holder knew quite a bit about Rich, years before he was approached to assist the Rich pardon effort.
Before becoming deputy attorney general, Holder was the Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1995 — years before Holder got his talking points from Quinn — Holder’s office filed a civil suit against a Swiss trading company called Clarendon, Ltd. Why? Because, in obtaining $45 million in government contracts, Clarendon had concealed its intimate relationship with the dastardly, notorious federal fugitive . . . Marc Rich.
It turned out that Holder’s office had been conducting an investigation into Rich and his business interests for tax evasion and other suspicious activity. Not surprisingly, then, the civil complaint U.S. attorney Holder filed against Clarendon exuded familiarity with Rich. Indeed, the premise of the complaint was that Rich’s sordid history of fraud and his status as a fugitive from justice rendered him ineligible for government contracts. Therefore, the suit alleged, Clarendon was liable for hiding the fact that Rich controlled the company.
The complaint screams out knowledge of Rich’s corporate holdings and his tortuous efforts to obscure his connection to the company. Holder’s office also recounted that Rich had blatantly obstructed justice in a grand-jury investigation. One of his companies ended up paying $21 million in contempt fines, the complaint reported. And although a number of Rich companies ended up pleading guilty to various charges, Holder’s office took pains to point out that their “plea agreement did not resolve any of the personal charges pertaining to Rich” and his accomplice, Pincus Green. Those charges, the complaint asserted, “remained outstanding.”
And the matter doesn’t stop at the complaint. Holder’s office held extensive negotiations with Clarendon and, as it happens, Clarendon’s principal. Astoundingly, Holder’s office not only had discussions with company attorneys but actually accepted an affidavit from Rich — then one of the country’s most infamous fugitives — in the course of settling the case.
Ultimately, U.S Attorney Holder agreed to dismiss the case in exchange for a payment to the government of $1.2 million. Naturally, though, it was not enough just to reach a settlement. Justice Department officials like to trumpet the conclusion of their high-profile cases as successes, and D.C.’s United States attorney was no exception. On April 13, 1995, the Wall Street Journal reported Holder’s public announcement of the settlement and of the fact that his office was ending its probe of the Rich conglomerate.
To summarize, at the pardon hearings in 2001, Eric Holder testified before Congress that he had barely known who Marc Rich was when he went to bat for Rich in 1999 and 2000. At his confirmation hearing in 2009, Holder repeated this testimony that errors in judgment had stemmed from his failure to acquaint himself with Rich’s sordid record. In point of fact, however, Holder had actually overseen an investigation of Rich and his companies years earlier, precisely premised on the fact that a Rich company had hidden its connection to the fugitive and his extensive record of fraud and obstruction. Holder had even publicly announced a lucrative settlement.
None of this is new news. While the Senate was considering Holder’s nomination, I laid the facts out in an NRO column on January 21, 2009. Four days later, I reported that Holder had again claimed ignorance about Rich in his written answers to follow-up questions. I pleaded that he be further pressed on the matter — not only by Republicans but by Democrats who, during the tenure of Bush AG Alberto Gonzales, had been strident in emphasizing the obligation of attorneys general to provide Congress with truthful, accurate testimony.
Alas, Senate Republicans were apparently mollified by private assurances Holder reportedly made to them to the effect that, if he were confirmed, the Justice Department would not seek to prosecute officials involved in the Bush-era enhanced-interrogation program. (I’m constrained to observe that, in the event, Holder reopened investigations against CIA officers involved in the program and continued professional-responsibility probes of Bush DOJ officials who had provided opinions about the program’s legal validity.) Cowed by the prospect of opposing confirmation of the nation’s first African-American attorney general — as if there were anything wrong with rejecting a nominee of any heritage who had a record as checkered as Holder’s — the senators decided Holder’s troubling testimony was not worth pursuing. He was confirmed 75 to 21, with substantial GOP support.
You reap what you sow.
Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.
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