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Obama’s ‘Shocking’ Recess Appointment

The president still regards al Qaeda as a mere criminal enterprise.

by
Bryan Preston

Bio

December 30, 2010 - 9:32 am

PJM alum Jennifer Rubin exposes what may be President Obama’s most shocking move of the holiday season: the recess appointment of James Cole to become deputy attorney general. In that position, Cole will have great responsibility for conducting the war against al-Qaeda.  But Cole belongs to the school of thought that would have the United States treat the heinous acts of 9-11 as a criminal matter, as opposed to a war.  He expressed those views in a 2002 op-ed:

[T]he attorney general is not a member of the military fighting a war — he is a prosecutor fighting crime. For all the rhetoric about war, the Sept. 11 attacks were criminal acts of terrorism against a civilian population, much like the terrorist acts of Timothy McVeigh in blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City, or of Omar Abdel-Rahman in the first effort to blow up the World Trade Center. The criminals responsible for these horrible acts were successfully tried and convicted under our criminal justice system, without the need for special procedures that altered traditional due process rights.

Our country has faced many forms of devastating crime, including the scourge of the drug trade, the reign of organized crime, and countless acts of rape, child abuse, and murder. The acts of Sept. 11 were horrible, but so are these other things. (emphasis added)

It is these views which have kept Cole from being confirmed by the Senate.  To put it simply, they show that he is unfit for the job and make him unconfirmable, as they should.  But President Obama installed him anyway.  No one is quibbling with his authority to do so.  The quibble is with his judgment.

NY Rep. Peter King calls Cole’s recess appointment what it is: absolutely shocking:

King called Cole’s appointment “absolutely shocking” and said it might be one of the worst appointments Obama will make during his presidency.

“I strongly oppose the recess appointment of James Cole to lead the national security team at the Department of Justice,” King said in a statement. “The appointment indicates that the Obama Administration continues to try to implement its dangerous policies of treating Islamic terrorism as a criminal matter.”

King will likely chair the Homeland Security Committee in the new Congress.  As such, he will have subpoena power, and he should use it to investigate Cole and expose his views, and force President Obama to explain why he believes Mr. Cole is right for this important post.

When Cole is brought up to the House to explain himself, the committee must confront him with the timeline and scope of al-Qaeda attacks against the United States and our allies.  Such a timeline demonstrates that al-Qaeda is a transnational terrorist enemy with political goals, not a mere criminal enterprise.  For the purposes of this list, I didn’t include any of the dozens and dozens of al-Qaeda-related attacks against U.S. forces and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These are attacks primarily on civilians, outside the designated zones of war:

1993 World Trade Center, New York
1994 Bojinka, Philippine Airlines Flight 434 (failed precursor to the 9-11 attacks)
1998 U.S.-embassy bombings, in Kenya and Tanzania
Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole, Yemen
September 11, 2001, attacks
November 15 and November 20, 2003, Istanbul attacks
March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings
2004 Khobar massacre
July 7, 2005, London transport bombings
November 9, 2005, Amman hotel bombing
2007 Algiers bombings
2008 Danish-embassy bombing
2009 Little Rock recruiting office shooting
2009 Northwest Airlines Flight 253
Nov 2009 massacre at Ft. Hood, Texas (linked to al-Qaeda via the killer’s imam, Anwar al-Awlaki)
2010 cargo plane bomb plot

Does this trail of atrocities look like the work of a criminal enterprise, or a militant group engaged in acts of war?

Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m fine with prosecuting the terrorists we capture.  But prosecution should treat them as the war criminals they are, not criminals of the drug gang variety.  Cole is arguing in that 2002 op-ed for the latter, and that 9-11 was not an act of war.

Osama bin Laden issued his fatwa to kill Americans in 1996 and re-iterated it in 1998.  Both of those were issued, obviously, long before anyone could claim that the Gitmo facility was “al-Qaeda’s number one recruitment tool,” and long before 9-11.  While al-Qaeda’s aims have been out in full view from the 1996 fatwa, from the day of the 9-11 attacks forward, any serious person who was not steeped in leftist or other fringe ideology saw al-Qaeda for what it was: an enemy intent on destroying us to impose its radical Islamist vision everywhere they could.  Many on the left (and a very few on the right) did not see al-Qaeda for what it is, and among them were Senator Barack Obama and the man who would become his attorney general, Eric Holder.  Cole’s appointment is conclusive evidence that Obama and his closest advisers have learned nothing about the nature of the terrorist enemy we face, in the two years they have been in charge of conducting the war.  The strong public opposition to trying 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in civilian court in the very city he attacked has taught this administration precisely nothing.  Seeing the daily intelligence on what the enemy plans and what its goals continue to be has taught them nothing.  Al-Qaeda’s globe-spanning campaign of mass murder has taught them nothing.  Mr. Cole joins a long train of absolutely awful appointments by this president, from Van Jones to Anita Dunn to Eric Holder to Janet Napolitano.  But Mr. Cole may be the worst of the lot.

Well, the worst of the appointments.  The worst of the lot remains the man who appointed them all.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.
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