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Here’s a small example of the difference between treating terrorism like a crime and like an act of war. In his press conference today:

Here’s what we know so far: On Christmas Day, Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit. As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device on his body, setting off a fire.

If we know it, how “allegedly” can it be? And we do know it, right? I mean there are lots of witnesses, we have identified the device and the explosive and the guy has reportedly admitted what he was trying to do. And al-Qaeda has admitted they were behind the plot (or at least an al-Qaeda website says so). But the commander-in-chief still says “allegedly.”

If an army of enemy soldiers attacked American troops in a combat theater, we wouldn’t say “We know that the Germans allegedy attacked our forces in Holland.” But when a terrorist aligned with an avowed U.S. enemy attacks on a civilian plane, the criminal law-enforcement paradigm requires we give this guy the benefit of the doubt.

To be clear, the law-enforcement paradigm should require that benefit of the doubt, but we are not required to apply that paradigm to the War on Terror.

Update: From a reader:

About the president’s use of “allegedly.” like the president is some US Attorney talking about some chicago politician being indicted for corruption.  And how many times in his address did the president call the guy a “suspect” – like they just arrested him for breaking into someone’s house – rather than calling him a “terrorist”.  The whole tone of his remarks today was shocking in its clinical legalism.


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