If they lie, you can’t trust them. That’s a fairly straightforward rule. It is certainly the one that trial lawyers bank on.
It is not a hard and fast rule. A person may shade the truth for various reasons: vanity, personal allegiances, financial incentives, etc. Usually, once you figure out the relevant motivation, you can sort out on what matters he is probably credible and what he is prone to lie about. Sometimes, though, the story is so unbelievable, so insulting to the intelligence, that a rational juror knows it is best to discount all of the testimony — or, worse, to conclude that the truth is likely the opposite of the witness’s desperate version.
Of course, all the world’s a stage, not a courtroom. I am reminded of this when, as now, I happen to have a book out (Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy) that speaks to events currently roiling the world. I am reminded, that is, that I am no longer a trial lawyer making arguments to a jury. Now I am a writer who makes his arguments to the public and, at book-publication times like these, through the prism of the mainstream media. So it was that, in a few interviews this week, I have been asked about two currently raging symptoms of “Spring Fever,” the Libya attacks and the Blind Sheikh.
Today’s journalists do not resemble jurors. The interviews proceed in a now-familiar pattern. We go through the events of last week’s atrocity in Libya, where U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were murdered in Benghazi. Again and again, Obama-administration officials insisted that the killings were the result of spontaneous rioting over an obscure movie casting Islam’s prophet in an unflattering light — a movie from months ago, a movie virtually no one knew about, much less saw, a production so cockamamie that calling it a “movie” fails the straight-face test.
As the administration well knew, this was a coordinated jihadist attack led by al-Qaeda-affiliated forces, clearly well-trained and equipped with sophisticated weapons. One of the participants was a former Gitmo prisoner, detained there for years because it was patent that, given the chance, he’d go back to the jihad. There appears to have been forewarning about likely trouble on the 9/11 anniversary.
Did anyone really need in-depth intelligence to recognize these dangers? Part of the reason the United States struck up an alliance with Qaddafi’s despicable regime was his intelligence cooperation: Per capita, Libya sent more jihadists to Iraq to fight against American troops than any other country. The only difference between then and now is that, with Obama having toppled Qaddafi in a war the U.S. launched without provocation and on the side of al-Qaeda, the rabidly anti-American Islamists of Benghazi now have access to high-powered weaponry previously unavailable to them. A movie? Before the president ever got to his unseemly Vegas fundraiser, with the nation still mourning its dead, it was pluperfectly obvious that we’d been subjected to a terrorist strike that had nothing to do with a moronic movie.
Yet our U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, repeated the farcical Obama-admnistration line with a straight face. It was insulting, and even reporters for whom Obama can do no wrong could not take it seriously. In some of my interviews there has been nervous laughter — not over the situation, which is so deadly serious, but over the administration’s line, which has been ludicrous.
But then we get to the Blind Sheikh. I prosecuted Omar Abdel Rahman back in my former trial-lawyer life. He is less than 20 years into his life sentence for terrorism convictions. During his time in prison, he nevertheless managed to issue the fatwa Osama bin Laden credited as the required sharia green-light for the 9/11 attacks. So I have been asked often this week about reports that he may be transferred to his native Egypt. There, as Spring Fever demonstrates, the populace is overwhelmingly adherent to the supremacist Islam that dominates the Middle East. There, his war against America makes him a hero, and he would be welcomed, triumphantly, as such.
Could that possibly happen? “You bet it could,” I’ve told my interlocutors, “it could and it will.” Watch for the frightening weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day, when, no matter who wins the election, Barack Obama will retain all the awesome power of the presidency without any of the accountability of an impending election.
“But wait,” I’m admonished. “They’ve denied it. The Justice Department has denied it. So has the State Department, and at least one member of the National Security Council. How much clearer can they be?”
I don’t know. How much clearer could they have been about Libya?
The Obama administration is the witness whose testimony a jury would discount out of hand. We trust jurors to decide important questions because they bring to the task the common sense of the community. After Libya, the sensible person says, “Never again.” The sensible person does not even see the point of asking Obama officials for information.