I am not sure who angers me more–the Republicans who insist that Barack Obama is criminalizing terrorism or the Democrats–Obama in particular–for being so inept in defending themselves from this bogus lie. The latest to push this nonsense is ditzy Senator from Maine, Susan Collins. Collins did the Republican radio address today and leveled this outrageous charge (transcript here):
President Obama recently used the phrase that ‘we are at war’ with terrorists. But unfortunately his rhetoric does not match the actions of his administration.
The Obama administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the War on Terrorism.
And, because of that blindness, this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them, fresh from an attempt to blow a plane out of the sky on Christmas Day.
There’s no other way to explain the irresponsible, indeed dangerous, decision on Abdulmutallab’s interrogation. There’s no other way to explain the inconceivable treatment of him as if he were a common criminal.
This charade must stop. Foreign terrorists are enemy combatants and they must be treated as such. The safety of the American people depends on it.
Actually Senator, there is another explanation and it is based in fact and history–Barack Obama was acting like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
The policy of treating terrorists as criminals originated with Ronald Reagan. It is that simple. In 1986 the issue of terrorism was hot and heavy because of the events of 1983-1985. During that period the United States was under attack worldwide. Terrorists of all stripes–radical islamists, communists, nationalists, etc.–carried out attacks in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Here’s the intro to the State Department report on International Terrorism in 1984:
The Year in Review (1984)
The pace of international terrorist activity around the world continued unabated during 1984. We recorded nearly 600 international terrorist attacks involving personal injury or property damage, representing an increase over each of the previous four years. Deaths in 1984 exceeded 300. These numbers, when viewed in the context of the past 15 years, suggest that the overall threat may again be increasing.
US citizens and interests remained a prime target of foreign terrorists around the world, followed by those of France and Israel. More than 20 percent of international terrorist incidents in 1984 involved US targets. This notwithstanding, in 1984 the United States was the victim of fewer attacks than in each of the four preceding years and suffered substantially fewer casualties than in 1983. The year 1983 was anomalous, however, because of the extraordinarily high death toll of 241 in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in October.
The major trend apparent in 1984 was the growing dominance of the Middle East as the crucible of terrorism. In 1984, nearly half of all international terrorist attacks either occurred in the Middle East or were committed elsewhere by Middle Easterners. Indeed, of the eight incidents that resulted in US fatalities last year, four occurred in the Middle East, and a fifth had a Middle Eastern connection. Among the major incidents were the truck bombing of the US Embassy Annex in East Beirut, which killed two US citizens in September, and the hijacking of a Kuwaiti Airlines flight from Kuwait to Tehran in December. Two US AID employees were murdered by the radical Lebanese Shia hijackers before the latter incident ended.
Do you understand? We had more major terrorist attacks in more countries in 1984 than in 2008. Things got worse in 1985:
The Year in Review (1985)
International terrorists had a banner year in 1985.
They carried out more attacks than in any year since the decade began; caused more casualties-especially fatalities-over that same period (329 alone occurred when an Air India jetliner was blown up in June) ; conducted a host of spectacular, publicity-grabbing events that ultimately ended in coldblooded murder; increasingly turned to business and more accessible public targets as security at official and military installations was strengthened against terrorism, and, in so doing, counted among their victims a record number of innocent bystanders; and finally, gave pause to international travelers worldwide who feared the increasingly indiscriminate nature of international terrorism.
in 1985, 782 international terrorist incidents occurred, a 30-percent increase over 1984. One-third of these incidents resulted in casualties; more than 800 persons were killed and over 1,200 were wounded.
Many of you probably do not remember what happened that year. Just imagine what would be happening today in Washington if the events of 1985 were taking place today. Here is are just seven of the 782 attacks recorded that year:
On 12 April the El Descanso restaurant outside Madrid was bombed, killing 18 Spaniards and wounding another 82 persons, including 15 Americans. Individuals claiming to represent several terrorist groups-including some West European ones-claimed responsibility, but Middle Eastern terrorists are among the prime suspects.
On 14 June Lebanese Shi’a gunmen hijacked TWA flight 847 flying from Athens to Rome and forced it to land in Beirut. The hijackers released the hostages 17 days later but killed US Navy diver Robert Stethem during the early stages of the incident.
On 3 September two grenades were thrown into the lobby of a Greek hotel in Glyfada, wounding 19 Britons. A caller to an Athens newspaper stated that the Palestinian Black September organization-a name used by the Abu Nidal Group-would stage numerous attacks in Athens if Greek authorities did not release one of its imprisoned members.
On 16 September terrorists lobbed grenades into the Cafe de Paris restaurant in Rome, wounding 38 tourists, including nine Americans. The Revolutionary Organizationof Socialist Muslims, a covername used by the Abu Nidal Group, claimed responsibility.
On 7 October the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro was seized by the PLF as it departed Alexandria, Egypt, for Port Said. Before surrendering to Egyptian authorities on 9 October, the terrorists killed US tourist Leon Klinghoffer.
On 23 November an Egyptian jetliner was hijacked from Athens to Malta. The terrorists murdered several persons, including American Scarlett Rogencamp, and wounded the other Americans aboard before Egyptian commandos stormed the plane, killing some 60 remaining persons. The Arab Revolutionary Brigades, another covername used by the Abu Nidal Group, claimed responsibilityfor the hijacking jointly with the Egyptian Revolution.
On 27 December near-simultaneous machinegun and grenade attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports left more than 20 persons dead, including five Americans, and some 120 wounded, including 20 Americans. The Abu Nidal Group carried out both attacks.
1986 was a watershed year in U.S. Counter Terrorism policy. Because of a brawl on board a U.S. Government plane carrying representatives of the CIA, State Department and the FBI to Italy to assist with the operation to capture the terrorists responsible for hijacking the Achille Lauro–there was an argument over who was “in charge” of the operation–President Reagan issued a National Security Decision Direction that gave State Department the lead for international terrorism and the FBI the lead for domestic terrorism. In addition, the CIA set up the Counter Terrorism Center in February 1986 and the State Department appointed an Ambassador to be in charge of combating terrorism who reported directly to the Secretary of State. Who was that man? L. Paul Bremer aka Jerry Bremer.
Here is a speech Jerry Bremer gave in the fall of 1987, when he articulated the policy of Ronald Reagan:
Another important measure we have developed in our overall strategy is applying the rule of law to terrorists. Terrorists are criminals. They commit criminal actions like murder, kidnapping, and arson, and countries have laws to punish criminals. So a major element of our strategy has been to delegitimize terrorists, to get socieity to see them for what they are–criminals–and to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law against them.
Got it? According to Ronald Reagan’s point man for counter terrorism, TERRORISTS ARE CRIMINALS. Not my opinion. It is a fact.
Here is the complete statement of the U.S. policy (this was published in Patterns of Global Terrorism 1989, and yes, I know George H.W. Bush was President then, but this was simply a repeat of established policy):
US Counterterrorism Policy
The US Government has developed a comprehensive strategy to respond to the problem of international terrorism. The first element of our counterterrorism policy is that we do not make concessions of any kind to terrorists. We do not pay ransom, release convicted terrorists from prison, or change our policies to accommodate terrorist de- mands-such actions would only lead to more terrorism. And we vigorously encourage other countries to be firm with terrorists, for a solid in- ternational front is essential to overall success.
The second element of our strategy is to make state sponsors of ter- rorism pay a price for their actions. This policy was most graphically demonstrated by the April 1986 bombing raids on terrorist support fa- cilities in Libya. But there are also political, diplomatic and economic actions, public diplomacy and sanctions that can be employed-that is, peaceful measures that can be crafted to discourage states from persisting in their support of terrorism.
Third, the US Government has developed a program of action based on practical measures. It is designed to bring terrorists to justice, to disrupt their operations, and to destroy their networks. The program includes aggressive measures, working with our friends and allies, to identify, track, apprehend, prosecute, and punish terrorists by using the rule of law. It also includes measures designed to protect US citizens abroad by strengthening security and research toward developing equipment to prevent terrorist incidents.
The final element of our counterterrorism policy is the Department of State’s Anti-Terrorism Training Assistance Program (A T A) , which gives training in antiterrorism techniques to law enforcement officials around the world. Given our country’s strong commitment to human rights, ATA promotes a thorough understanding of the importance of human rights in all aspects of law enforcement. More than 7,000 police and security personnel from nearly 60 countries have participated in this program since its inception.
Now let’s jump ahead to December 2001. It is more than three months since the terrorist attacks of 9-11. Richard Reid, someone trained by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, tries but fails to ignite a bomb on board a commercial airliner. According to the NY Times:
The man was subdued by passengers and crew members, and two doctors on board sedated him with drugs from the plane’s medical kit, the officials said.
The plane, a Boeing 767, was escorted to Logan International Airport here by two F-15 fighter jets. All 185 passengers and 12 crew members on Flight 63 were escorted safely off the plane after it landed at 12:55 p.m.
The man, who officials said is 28, was taken into custody by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was traveling under the name of Richard Reid, and was using a falsified British passport that was issued in Belgium three weeks ago, said Thomas Kinton, interim executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs the airport. . . .
So let me see if I understand? When George W. Bush allows the FBI to arrest a terrorist caught in the act of trying to blow up a jetliner and allows the FBI to investigate the matter and to bring the case to court, that is okay. George Bush standing tall against terrorists? Right?
But when the government headed by Barack Obama does the SAME GODDAMN THING then Barack Obama is a surrender monkey?
Sorry, but that is just pure horseshit. So I conclude where I started, why have Republicans like Susan Collins, Peter King, Rudy Giuliani and L. Paul Bremer, just to name a few, completely forgotten and rejected the policy of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and, come to think of it, George W. Bush.
When did Republicans decide the Constitution no longer applies? When did they decide to eschew all international law, especially conventions on War, Human Rights, and Torture? Collins is certainly entitled to her opinion, but she is displaying an unconscionable ignorance of what has been the longstanding policy of the United States in dealing with terrorists. Makes me long for the days when Republicans were so committed to the sanctity of the law that they impeached Bill Clinton for lying about a blow job.