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How To Deal With Terrorism

May 4, 2010

Back in 2004, John Kerry was pilloried for suggesting that fighting terrorism was a law enforcement issues. His opponents instead mocked his approach as effeminate and ineffective, preferring the testosterone-fueled war and torture strategy of Bush and Cheney. Bush and Cheney might have persuaded more people, but Kerry was fundamentally correct. For fighting terrorism is primarily an issue of law enforcement. It is a criminal activity that must be dealt with like any other criminal activity, where basic human rights are respected and all are treated equally under the law. And over the past few years, despite the fevered imagination of Cheney and his Thiesseneque defenders, the agents of law enforcement have scored many victories, while the torturers have left behind a legal and moral disaster in their wake. The arrest of the would-be Times Square bomber is yet another example.

But many on the right still don’t get it. If we are not torturing or bombing somebody, then something must be wrong. Even now, the usual suspects are making a fuss, with John McCain criticizing the decision to read the Times Square bomber his Miranda rights. These same people prefer military tribunals, locking people up for years without charge, and torture. As well as violating the moral law, these tactics are bound to backfire and will actually increase terrorism.

The other issue is the hypocrisy. For these standards seem to only apply to Muslims. Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist; nobody called for these tactics against him. When an anti-government zealot hijacked a plane, flew it into a building and killed people, there was no testosterone-fueled outcry – in fact, some of these very people expressed sympathy with the person. Peter King, one of the most aggressive armchair warriors, has a record of “palling around with terrorists” himself (the Irish Republican Army). And yet for a Muslim, or somebody who is not white, the gloves come off.

Let is then apply common sense. Let us fight all crime, including terrorism, with the criminal justice system. Let us not violate anybody’s basic human rights. Let us not demonize the “other” as the dark-skinned “jihadist” that must be destroyed at all costs. Let us forsake war, and fight for justice instead. This is the Catholic way. It should the American way.

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16 Comments
  1. May 4, 2010 6:41 pm

    MM – I’ve been saying this for literally years.

    Responding to 9/11 as if it were an act of war is precisely what Bin Laden wanted. Treating him as a warrior increases his prestige in the eyes of people he cares about, and advances the narrative he wishes to be used.

    Treating him and his friends as what they are – ignoble, low criminals – undermines that narrative.

  2. digbydolben permalink
    May 4, 2010 9:52 pm

    The United States makes much of its own “terrorism” problem–at least so far as the jihadists are concerned–by means of its extremely selfish and philistine immigration policy.

    Notice that the Times Square bomber could barely speak English and earned “D’s” in the English courses of his 4th-rate “college”–but COULD, probably, do the equivalent of screwing in some computer parts. Then go here and learn about the hell that a livejournal friend of mine has been going through trying to get refugee status for a Pakistani Catholic who’d never THINK about hurting an American.

    We let in people who have what out brutally selfish captains of industry label a “marketable skill,” but who can barely speak our language–who will, as a result, be desperately lonely and alienated–and we keep out folks who share our values and who’d be eternally grateful to be here. We’re helping to create our own “terrorist problem” through our interminable greed!

  3. Michael Mc permalink
    May 4, 2010 10:25 pm

    Perhaps we should differentiate war and torture, instead of saying the ‘war and torture’ approach. They are two different things. A nation could conduct a war without using torture, and it seems to me that in the Catholic tradition there is such a thing as a just war. I think the Magisterium and the Catechism of the Catholic Church would agree. I think it is wrong to say, as the author does: “Let us forsake war, and fight for justice instead. This is the Catholic way.” The ‘Catholic way’ can include war, unless we are disregarding the teaching of the Church on this matter. I doubt this is what the author wants to do. Perhaps he disagrees with the particular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In any case, I would like some clarification. Is the author against every use of military force, as his words imply (although I doubt he means this.) And, if there were no torture employed, does he think the war in Afghanistan was just, and, if not, what would have been the ideal response to 9/11.

    It could be argued that a military response was necessary because a law enforcement approach would not have the power and reach necessary to capture Al-Qaeda’s top leaders in Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan at the time was giving support to Al-Queada (an accomplice, and guilty of a crime, if we are looking at this as a law enforcement matter.) If the government of Afghanistan would not cooperate with our law enforcement officials, should we have given up? What should we have done?

    It seems to me that a military and law enforcement approach can work together. The military can extend our country’s reach into places are law enforcement officials would be denied, but law enforcement agencies can use their specialized focus to find individual criminals and terrorists.

  4. May 4, 2010 10:26 pm

    In the Bush years it was not a EITHER/OR. It was a combination of military, special ops, and yes a lot of law enforcement.

    One cannot go into certain regions of Pakistan or other palces and serve and make a arrest. Though I am a critic of Obama on this front I am very pleased since he seems to have continued this two front war.

    It is true the Timothy McVeigh types were treated different. I think this was because this was Pre 911 world and quite honestly I think most people that have McVeigh feelings and their crowd are too addicted to the MEth they produce to be that much of a threat

    I think there are a lot of legitmate questions in the war on terror. I don’t equate every Const protection as a human right. Military tribunals are not in fact some travesty.

    How a person that is aligned with a foreign power is treated and what “rights” he is afforded is indeed a important question. I like a lot of AMericans perhaps have some diverse opinions on this.

  5. May 4, 2010 10:28 pm

    “Treating him and his friends as what they are – ignoble, low criminals – undermines that narrative.”

    I am afraid Bin Laden and his crew are a tad more complex than Al Capone.

    Also AL Capone did not wrap himself up in SOcial Justice and a poltical veiwpoint like these folks do. It is apples and oranges

  6. May 4, 2010 10:32 pm

    “Let us not violate anybody’s basic human rights. Let us not demonize the “other” as the dark-skinned “jihadist” that must be destroyed at all costs. Let us forsake war, and fight for justice instead. This is the Catholic way. It should the American way.”

    Let me tell you there is a very white ALABAMA Mobile boy in Africa right that is with the terrorist that I think a lot of folks would love to get their hands on. Dark skin has little to do with it

  7. May 4, 2010 10:34 pm

    Michael:

    Yes, some wars are just, but in the practical circumstances of modern warfare, very few are. What war supporters often forget is that the bar for a war to be just is very high, and even higher with modern weaponry (which is why then-cardinal Ratzinger questioned whether such a thing as a just war existed anymore). I think the criterion that is typically violated is the “last resort” (think Iraq). And if a war is not just, it is evil.

    I align myself with JP2 in Centesimus Annus who called on humanity to banish war to the dustbin of history and take a peaceful approach to resolving conflict.

  8. May 4, 2010 10:37 pm

    Oh, how I would love to abolish the word ‘terrorism’ from the English language. It’s a pure propaganda term. There is a lot of truth in the assertion that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

  9. May 4, 2010 10:42 pm

    digbydolben I don;t thin that is the problem. Heck I am for raising the number of VISAs of people that have these skills. Sadly it is not happening so we are educating a lot of people that go back to India and Pakistan and whatever. It is not greed. It is a bunch of native norn Americans that worried about their wages being depressed by competition

  10. May 4, 2010 10:48 pm

    Morning’s Minion I understand where you are coming from with your viewpoint of modern war. However on this war against Terror most of it has no connection to modern warfare as we know it

    Of course Iraq being I suppose something that is different and similar to modern warfare in some regards.

    However even in Afghanistan we are not carpet bombing cities. It is all heart and minds with a military component.

    We are now entering the age of dealing witha force that is under no FLAG or no Nation States as of yet. It is not like we are sending the B-52’s to carpet bomb parts of Pakistan. We send Predator Drones on very limited surgical strikes

    That is how this war on terror will be mostly fought so most of the concerns of modern warfare with its devastation is not a issue.

  11. Mike L permalink
    May 5, 2010 1:53 pm

    I was thinking about the relation between the concept of surgical strikes eliminating the devastation caused by modern warfare, and the comment that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Then if Bin Laden and listed particular individuals ould not the 911 strikes be considered surgical strikes? At what point does the killing of bystanders while “taking out” a targeted person change from a “surgical strike” to the “devastation” of modern warfare? I strongly suspect that the killing of an innocent family member is pretty devastating to those left behind. I suspect this is a great way to create freedom fighters, as Bin Laden discovered when he made his “surgical strike”.

    Since I am beginning to think that the use of Predator’s and surgical strikes is modern warfare, and it has its own devastation.

  12. digbydolben permalink
    May 5, 2010 2:18 pm

    Here’s “terrorism” that, under the American rubric, isn’t considered “terrorism” at all:

    http://www.juancole.com/2010/05/israeli-settler-terrorists-plan-more-mosque-burnings.html

  13. May 5, 2010 2:54 pm

    I am afraid Bin Laden and his crew are a tad more complex than Al Capone.

    Also AL Capone did not wrap himself up in Social Justice and a political viewpoint like these folks do. It is apples and oranges.

    Well, I agree, comparing Bin Laden and Al Capone is inapt, which is why I didn’t do that.

    Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda is a transnational criminal organization with political aims. Treating him as some sort of warrior increases his stature in the eyes of people whose opinions matter to him; treating him as a low, immoral criminal undermines the narrative he wants to establish. I would rather hurt him than help him.

  14. Michael Mc permalink
    May 5, 2010 5:22 pm

    Morning Minion writes:

    “Yes, some wars are just, but in the practical circumstances of modern warfare, very few are. What war supporters often forget is that the bar for a war to be just is very high, and even higher with modern weaponry…”

    That is a good point. It would come into play especially with Nuclear weapons: a war could be so devastating, because of the weapons involved, that no good could possibly come from it. But what I wanted to ask you was your opinion on this particular situation. What should the US’ response have been to 9/11?

    In regard to just war theory in Catholic doctrine, the justification for a military response was there: it was unjust aggression; our response was a last resort; and we obviously had the capacity to bes successful. I understand your point about Iraq not fitting the condition of last resort, but what of Afghanistan? If you were the President on 9/11, what would you have done? I am not even arguing at this point, I am still not sure of your opinion.

    In response to Mike L: you write that 9/11 could be considered a ‘surgical strike’ similar to that our American drone attacks. It seems to me that this is not the case: Bin Laden was intentionally attacking civilians, for the sake of terror. The drones attack the leaders of terrorist organizations that are attempting to orchestrate terrorist attacks. One is murder, the other is self defense which targets military enemies. Civilians are killed by drones, but that is not the intended consequence. Well meaning people can think that the drone attacks are necessary. No well meaning person could think that the 9’11 attacks were necessary.

  15. Jerms permalink
    May 5, 2010 6:20 pm

    Michael, I don’t want to speak for Morning’s Minion, but when you ask, “What should the US’ response have been to 9/11?” and you treat that question as the criteriological locus of this issue, I hesitate just as I do when someone asks, in opposition to a nonviolence advocate, “Well, then, what would you have done about Hitler?” Perhaps a better question is to ask what role violent response plays in fostering people like Bin Laden or Hitler and movements like Al Qaeda or Nazism to begin with.

    As to just war, although you suggest that “the justification for a military response was there: [because] it was unjust aggression; our response was a last resort; and we obviously had the capacity to bes successful,” you neglect another important aspect of just war theory: namely, the response of the United States was not proportional.

  16. Gregory B permalink
    May 5, 2010 10:07 pm

    Mexican Terrorists carried torches and vandalized at least 18 businesses!
    Read about it at.

    The May Day angry mob you won’t see
    By Michelle Malkin • May 3, 2010 09:10 AM

    http://michellemalkin.com/2010/05/03/the-may-day-angry-mob-you-wont-see/

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