Obama’s America Is September 10th America

by Andrew C. McCarthy

Our barbaric jihadist enemies – the ones President Obama repeatedly assured us he had “decimated” and put on “the path to defeat” – are now stronger than ever. Not stronger than they have been in years, or decades – stronger than ever. They have seized a country-size swath of territory (and growing). They have just beheaded an American journalist – which is the sort of thing they do as a matter of routine but has obviously, and finally, gotten our attention.

Not to worry, though: The Obama Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation. I’m sure ISIS is quaking.

The Obama administration has spent six years miniaturizing the global jihad as a series of non-ideological, unconnected groups of “violent extremists,” pursuing parochial political objectives through acts of “workplace violence.” The enemy kills our ambassador to Libya, a palpable act of war, and the administration pretends it’s about a video. The enemy decapitates an American because he’s an American, and the administration announces the opening of a criminal investigation. The enemy bombs and beheads, we subpoena and indict.

The title of this post, “Obama’s America Is September 10th America” is not a random description of the now. It’s the title of a column I wrote six years ago … when then-candidate Obama was promising policies that would, inevitably, lead to an increasingly imperiled America – a provocatively weak America that regarded our enemies as mere defendants, just as we did before 9/11 … when our enemies responded by attacking us again and again.

The column was prompted by then-Senator Obama’s remarks during an astounding 2008 campaign speech:

What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated. And the fact that the [Bush] administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, “Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.” So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws.

As I noted at the time, this was “a remarkably ignorant account of the American experience with jihadism.” The vast majority of terrorists responsible for attacks against us had not been “brought to justice.” In fact, the major terrorists who orchestrated strikes against us – Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to name just a few – remained at large for a decade or more despite being under indictment. From foreign safe havens far removed from the writ of American courts and the authority of American law-enforcement, they continued choreographing terrorist attacks against the United States. To the extent top jihadists were “neutralized,” it was because our armed forces killed or captured them. We had no chance of suppressing the enemy by relying on American judicial processes.

Here was my conclusion in mid-2008: 

The fact is that we used the criminal justice system as our principal enforcement approach, the approach Obama intends to reinstate, for eight years — from the bombing of the World Trade Center until the shocking destruction of that complex on 9/11. During that timeframe, while the enemy was growing stronger and attacking more audaciously, we managed to prosecute successfully less than three dozen terrorists (29 to be precise). And with a handful of exceptions, they were the lowest ranking of players.

When an elitist lawyer like Obama claims the criminal-justice system “works” against terrorists, he means it satisfies his top concern: due process [for the terrorists.]. And on that score, he’s quite right: We’ve shown we can conduct trials that are fair to the terrorists. After all, we give them lawyers paid for by the taxpayers whom they are trying to kill, mounds of our intelligence in discovery, and years upon years of pretrial proceedings, trials, appeals, and habeas corpus.

As a national-security strategy, however, and as a means of carrying out our government’s first responsibility to protect the American people, heavy reliance on criminal justice is an abysmal failure.

A successful counterterrorism strategy makes criminal prosecution a subordinate part of a much broader governmental response. Most of what is needed never happens in a courtroom. It happens in military operations against terrorist strongholds; intelligence operations in which jihadists get assassinated — without trial; intelligence collections in which we cozy up to despicable informants since only they can tell us what we need to know; and aggressive treasury actions to trace terror funds.

That is how you stop the homeland from being attacked, which is what we have done for the last seven years. And it is that from which Obama wants to move away.

Obama would bring us back to September 10th America. And September 10th is sure to be followed by September 11th.

Admittedly, that was before Obama empowered the virulently anti-American Muslim Brotherhood; made Islamic supremacists key administration advisors; blinded our national security agents by purging Islamic-supremacist ideology from training materials; colluded with Islamic-supremacist countries to restrict American free speech rights; tried to give civilian trials to enemy-combatant terrorists responsible for mass-murdering Americans; imported enemy-combatant jihadists for civilian trials despite congressional proscriptions; waged an unauthorized war in Libya that enabled our enemies to kill American officials and besiege North Africa and the Middle East; negotiated with Iran-backed terrorists in trading jihadist leaders for the remains of British casualties; negotiated with Taliban terrorists in trading jihadist commanders for a deserter; assured Iran’s acquisition of nuclear arms; issued visas to terrorist operatives for consultations on American foreign policy; sided with Hamas during its latest war of aggression against Israel; and declined to acknowledge that the jihadist mass-murder of 13 American soldiers at Fort Hood was a terrorist attack.

But I still think it holds up fairly well.