Over the years, Andrew McCarthy has written many important articles about what in the bad old days of President Bush was called “the War on Terror.” As a former federal prosecutor, he brings a rare authority and insight to the complex questions that surround this shadowy precinct of national security. He has actually met, and helped put away, some very bad guys, including the so-called “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, currently serving a life sentence in one of Uncle Sam’s many official guest houses for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other acts of violence (including the 1997 Luxor massacre that left 62 people, mostly tourists, dead and mutilated).
Central aspects of McCarthy’s thinking about these issues — both the war against terror itself and the novel legal challenges that prosecuting that war poses for a constitutional democracy — are laid out in Willful Blindness, his 2008 memoir of prosecuting the blind sheikh, and The Grand Jihad, his 2010 anatomy of how the ideologies of Islam and the Left conspire to undermine political and religious freedom. Just a couple months ago, he supplemented these studies with Spring Fever, an acerbic look at the fatuous naïveté that allowed — and continues to allow — so many credulous observers to embrace the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and kindred groups in Africa and the Middle East as the burgeoning of an “Arab Spring.” I am proud to say that all of these books were published by Encounter Books, whose helm I guide.
What makes me mention McCarthy’s work just now, however, is “The Problems of the White Paper,” the splendid piece of political-legal analysis he offered readers a couple of days ago in his NRO column. It is a must-read.
There has been a lot of comment, and even more hand-wringing, about the draft report that just surfaced from Obama’s Justice Department outlining “the circumstances in which the U.S. Government could use lethal force [read: drone attack] in a foreign country outside the area of active hostilities against a U.S. citizen” who is a member of al-Qaeda or “an associated force.” Talk about duck and cover! Will Karl Rove now have to watch his back? There have even been a few good cartoons on the subject:
There are, as McCarthy points out, two important lessons to be learned from the report. One concerns hypocrisy. Candidate Obama and lawyer Eric Holder were ostentatious critics of President Bush’s strategy of dealing with terrorists. Obama the candidate, remember, promised to close Guantanamo Bay, professed to be horrified by waterboarding, and insisted that “our values” and our national security were deeply “intertwined.” And before he became attorney general, Eric Holder actually volunteered his services to the enemy.
“At the time,” McCarthy points out, “he was a senior partner at a firm that was among the Lawyer Left’s most eager to provide free legal help to al-Qaeda enemy combatants in their lawsuits against the American people.” Among other things, Holder “filed an amicus brief on behalf of Jose Padilla, an American citizen turned al-Qaeda operative who was sent to the United States by Khalid Sheikh Mohamed in 2002 to attempt a post-9/11 ‘second wave’ of mass-murder attacks.”
Just the sort of chaps you want running the country, right?
Well, the American people have made that bed, and now they have to sleep in it. McCarthy is right about the “breathtaking hypocrisy” emanating from the Obama administration in general and from the Justice Department in particular. He cites chapter and verse about this, and for any Democrat whose sense of shame is intact, contemplating the facts would be a squirm-inducing experience.