The John Yoo memos are being released, and not surprisingly there outrage on the left at the expansive view of Presidential power. Wrong place to look.
George Bush often proclaimed his pride in being a wartime leader, and in this role he was, well, not good. On his watch, we lost three thousand people, acres of lower Manhattan, and part of our own defense headquarters to nineteen men armed with boxcutters. We then went to war with a completely prostrate country and managed to screw it up so badly that the head of the terrorist group that attacked us escaped, his deputy escaped, and even more amazingly the head of government escaped after our military sighted him but could not decide what to do.
We then invaded an entirely different country for bogus reasons, went in with too few people and insufficient armor, got stuck there, and are still looking for a path to leave even though we hanged their leader and couldn’t find any weapons of mass destruction. This invasion caused us to forget about our first invasion – the one involving the country that harbored and sent the guys who attacked us – and the guys we didn’t catch the first time are now making a comeback. In the meantime, they have had time and space to destabilize a neighboring country that actually does have weapons of mass destruction. Heckuva job, Bushie…
This record of failure, however, is not what people want to talk about. They seem more focused on legal findings such as:
The use of the military envisioned in the Yoo-Delahunty reply appears to transcend by far the stationing of troops to keep watch at streets and airports, a familiar sight in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The memorandum discussed the use of military forces to carry out “raids on terrorist cells” and even seize property.
Mr. Yoo and Mr. Delahunty said that in addition, the Posse Comitatus Act, which generally bars the military from domestic law enforcement operations, would pose no obstacle to the use of troops in a domestic fight against terrorism suspects. They reasoned that the troops would be acting in a national security function, not as law enforcers.
However surprising to see written down, we should actually be happy that some arm of the Bush Administration was thinking ahead.
Why would we not use our military to fight terrorists if they entered the US? One of the the arguments against Guantanamo is that prisoners of war should be treated as such (never mind that irregular forces fighting out of uniform are partisans and can be executed). If Canada and the US were involved in a war (happened once already) and the Canadian army rolled quite politely through North Dakota, would we not fight back with tanks because we happened to be on US soil? Isn’t that all the more reason to hit back with whatever tools we have at our disposal?
If I were being held hostage, I would rather the Delta Force come get me than a few weekend warriors in the local SWAT team, who may or may not once have spent a few days being trained by people who may or may not actually have served in some branch of the military. Certainly if some act of terror were underway, or if some terrorists were on the loose and it took military assets to track them, I would rather the government achieved its goals than worried about who was deputized by whom.
Bear in mind, the current president’s hero is Abraham Lincoln. Before the sixteenth president passed into legend, he was the guy who had Union forces invade Baltimore – which, for the record, had never seceded from the Union – and sent the mayor and police commissioner to prison for the duration of the war for no crime. Indeed, he was the guy who went to war with the south, a set of states that made the logical argument that having preexisted the union and reserved to themselves all rights not expressly granted the union, surely that had the right to withdraw from it at will; far from listening to the argument or even considering some form of adjudication, he might well have tried to arrest the Chief Justice.
There is a monument to Lincoln today not for the strength of Lincoln’s legal justifications but because of his moral standing and his results. It was wrong to hold a people in bondage; Lincoln stopped it. Keeping the Confederate states kept America a massive nation and helped usher in the American century; Lincoln caused this. If there is an option on the table that will prevent terror, take it.
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