Tuesday, November 24, 2009


There is something exceptionally sweet in finding someone who not only analyzes an issue the same way as I do, but who presents that analysis in far better prose than I am capable of. I came across that kind of serendipitous moment in this column by Issac Bailey of The Myrtle Beach Sun and featured by McClatchy DC. His subject is the decision by the Department of Justice to try the alleged conspirators in 9/11 in New York City in the environs of the Twin Towers and the hysterical response to the announcement of that decision.

His lede grabbed me by the heart:

I didn't know we had so many scared conservative leaders.

There are a fair number of scared liberal ones as well, given the rhetoric from Washington, Columbia and New York.

But I thought conservative leaders and pundits were the "Bring it on!" types who crave confrontations with terrorists.


That craving is usually satisfied vicariously by sending young Americans to war, usually with inadequate support, equipment and protection, but I digress. Mr. Bailey then takes aim at one of the reliably conservative huffer-and-puffers, Cal Thomas:

But Cal Thomas, one of the country's most widely read columnists, took the cake with this assessment:

"The administration's first mistake is to label these men 'criminals,' as if a terrorist attack and the announced objective of forcibly 'Islamisizing' America were the same as robbing a bank," he wrote. "The 9-11 attacks were an act of war, as much as if a nation-state had attacked us. Trials should not be held for war criminals until the war has been won."

First notice the inconsistency, which is abundant in this debate. Thomas chastises the administration for calling terrorists "criminals" then goes onto to label them "war criminals." Call them terrorists or murderers or kidnappers or hijackers or kamikaze, radical Islamists. I don't care. Just bring them to justice and prevent other planned attacks.

Thomas also makes a sleight-of-hand argument about how there should be no trials "until the war has been won." Others like him say we are in a war and therefore must temporarily put aside our ideals. Never mind that standing on principles in the toughest moments is the ultimate show of strength. Those same critics even complain that more people aren't calling our efforts "The War on Terror."

We are in the midst of a war that won't ever end because no president will dare declare mission accomplished against radical Islamic terrorism. And yet we are told parts of the Constitution should not apply until the war is won.

Why not just throw the whole thing out. That'll prove how tough we are.

And that's what it's all about, really. Either we believe that our Constitution is one of the most sublime gifts ever offered to humankind because of its stern insistence on due process, on the rule of law, and on the limitation of government in matters of civil liberties, or we don't. And if we don't, we stand right next to the governments we excoriate daily in the newspapers: China, Iran, Cuba, North Korea.

If our Constitution only applies when the sun is shining and Wall Street posts another high, then we are not only not exceptional, we are sadly run-of-the-mill cowards.

I was brought up differently.

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