The Art of Death
The moderate Muslim majority is a myth.

Detainees at Guantanamo Bay, May, 2009.


Andrew C. McCarthy

For the jihadist, Banna declared that “death is art.” It is the most persuasive demonstration of submission to the Koran’s command that Muslims love death more than life — an injunction Banna’s kindred spirits at al-Qaeda have turned into a taunt at Americans. The idea, Mitchell elaborates, is that “victory can only come with the mastery of ‘the art of death.’ . . . The movement cannot succeed, Banna insists, without this dedicated and unqualified kind of jihad.”

Such a jihad must continue to be waged even when the supremacist has been rendered hors de combat, for it embraces any available means to defeat the infidel’s will. “Fighting the unbelievers,” Banna urged, “involves all possible efforts that are necessary to dismantle the power of the enemies of Islam.”

The Gitmo hunger strike is just such an effort. The jihadists know their allies on the Left have always despised the Bush-era conversion of counterterrorism to a law-of-war paradigm, which permits their indefinite detention without trial as long as the war ensues. Where it has been politically expedient for him, Obama has taken full advantage of Bush’s paradigm — absent the law of war, his politically popular order to kill bin Laden would have been a naked homicide. But his heart has never been in it. The president’s misgivings are such that he purged the word “war” in favor of “overseas contingency operation” — and does anything say “weak willed” to a jihadist like that bit of timorous clunk?

The hunger strike is on because the jihadists figure Obama is ripe for the taking. Though he has no compunction about quickie drone rub-outs thousands of miles out of sight, he is petrified by the prospect of performance-art jihad: The languishing martyrdom of self-starving death cultists, whose rapt audience of Obama favorites — Brotherhood front groups and the Lawyer Left — remind the administration every long day that he promised to shut this theater down almost five years ago.

This week, they drove the president to babbling incoherence. The hunger strike, he said, reaffirms the need to close Gitmo. But the jihadists are not starving themselves over Gitmo; they are starving themselves over being detained without trial — which they would be even if Obama got his way and Congress green-lighted his plan to stash them at a white-elephant prison near Chicago.

Well, there is one difference. Once the show moved stateside, the art of death would not only draw enhanced, sympathetic coverage from the Obamedia; the terrorists would also unquestionably be in the jurisdiction of the federal courts for all purposes — not just for the novel habeas corpus carve-out the Supreme Court manufactured so our enemies could challenge their designation as wartime enemy combatants. As long as a detainee is in Cuba, a judge may only tell the executive branch it has no authority to hold him under the law of war. If the detainees were in the United States, though, some judge would surely assume the power to order them released.

Have we mentioned that Obama, who still rails against indefinite detention without civilian trial despite having continued the practice since 2009, has already put over 200 like-minded lawyers on the federal bench? That he will seat a couple of hundred more by the time he’s through?

The vast majority of Americans mainly remember the art of death practiced on 9/11, not to mention in Boston just two weeks ago. Consequently, we couldn’t care less whether or not the Gitmo jihadists starve their way to the Great Orgy in the Sky. We say: Meet the art of death with the fruits of life. Instead of Holy Korans, let’s have our white-gloved guards deliver the prisoners a heaping halal turkey dinner every day — on videotape. If they choose not to eat it, that’s on them. Just send the leftovers to the school lunch program . . . after all, there’s a sequester on.

Unfortunately, we are being governed by the jihadists’ target audience.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.