Friday, August 11, 2006

War On Terror: Democrats In Opposition

From the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, drawing the obvious conclusions from the British terror plot that was recently broken.
. . . British antiterrorism chief Peter Clarke said at a news conference that the plot was foiled because “a large number of people” had been under surveillance, with police monitoring “spending, travel and communications.”

Let’s emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.

And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success. Harry Reid, who’s bidding to run the Senate as Majority Leader, saw it as one more opportunity to insist that “the Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists.”

Ted Kennedy chimed in that “it is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win.” Mr. Kennedy somehow overlooked that the foiled plan was nearly identical to the “Bojinka” plot led by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995. Did the Clinton Administration’s “misguided policies” invite that plot? And if the Iraq war is a diversion and provocation, just what policies would Senators Reid and Kennedy have us “focus” on?

Surveillance? Hmmm. Democrats and their media allies screamed bloody murder last year when it was leaked that the government was monitoring some communications outside the context of a law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA wasn’t designed for, nor does it forbid, the timely exploitation of what are often anonymous phone numbers, and the calls monitored had at least one overseas connection. But Mr. Reid labeled such surveillance “illegal” and an “NSA domestic spying program.” Other Democrats are still saying they will censure, or even impeach, Mr. Bush over the FISA program if they win control of Congress.

This year the attempt to paint Bush Administration policies as a clear and present danger to civil liberties continued when USA Today hyped a story on how some U.S. phone companies were keeping call logs. The obvious reason for such logs is that the government might need them to trace the communications of a captured terror suspect. And then there was the recent brouhaha when the New York Times decided news of a secret, successful and entirely legal program to monitor bank transfers between bad guys was somehow in the “public interest” to expose.

For that matter, we don’t recall most advocates of a narrowly “focused” war on terror having many kind words for the Patriot Act, which broke down what in the 1990s was a crippling “wall” of separation between our own intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. Senator Reid was “focused” enough on this issue to brag, prematurely as it turned out, that he had “killed” its reauthorization.

And what about interrogating terror suspects when we capture them? It is elite conventional wisdom these days that techniques no worse than psychological pressure and stress positions constitute “torture.” There is also continued angst about the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, even as Senators and self-styled civil libertarians fight Bush Administration attempts to process them through military tribunals that won’t compromise sources and methods.

In short, Democrats who claim to want “focus” on the war on terror have wanted it fought without the intelligence, interrogation and detention tools necessary to win it. And if they cite “cooperation” with our allies as some kind of magical answer, they should be reminded that the British and other European legal systems generally permit far more intrusive surveillance and detention policies than the Bush Administration has ever contemplated. Does anyone think that when the British interrogate those 20 or so suspects this week that they will recoil at harsh or stressful questioning?
Good points all. And finally, one key bugaboo of the politically correct, ethnic profiling.
We’d be shocked if such profiling wasn’t a factor in the selection of surveillance targets that resulted in yesterday’s arrests. Here in the U.S., the arrests should be a reminder of the dangers posed by a politically correct system of searching 80-year-old airplane passengers with the same vigor as screeners search young men of Muslim origin. There is no civil right to board an airplane without extra hassle, any more than drivers in high-risk demographics have a right to the same insurance rates as a soccer mom.
The simple political truth of this is that it’s going to be a huge political boon to the Republicans.

And it will not give the Republicans a cheap, unfair political advantage. It will give the Republicans a well-deserved advantage over Democrats who, with Pavlovian consistency, oppose anything that American might actually do to fight terror.

In that context, Democratic claims that they can fight the war on terror more effectively will ring hollow. When you oppose all the methods that are obviously needed to fight the war, people get the idea that you don’t really want to win it.


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