The Bigger Picture #27: Terrorism, Federalism.

The terrorist attacks in Boston dominate the news this week.  But, I want to start with something else – A reminder of what can happen when our country panics after a terrorist attack.

Torture:  In case you missed it, an important, neutral, bipartisan report was issued yesterday that concluded that, beyond a shadow of a whisper of a doubt, the U.S. government engaged in routine torture of prisoners after 9/11.

Some of the participants give it particular credibility: Asa Hutchinson was a key figure in impeaching president Clinton, an Arkansas congressman whose DEA nomination was backed by an overwhelming 98 – 1 in the Senate and who subsequently ran the largest division within Bush’s Department of Homeland Security.  Richard Epstein is one of the most doctrinaire libertarian conservatives you could hope to find. Thomas R Pickering was president George H W Bush’s ambassador to the UN, and American ambassador to both Russia and India. Judge William S. Sessions is the former Director of the FBI, under Reagan and Bush.  They all signed off on the Constitution Project’s findings, which are inarguable, given the evidence provided in the report.

Those findings, to put it bluntly, are that for several years, the United States government systematically committed war crimes against prisoners in its custody, violating the Geneva Conventions, US domestic law, and international law. Many of these war crimes were acts of torture; many more were acts of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. All are federal crimes. None of those who authorized the war crimes has been prosecuted.

Somehow, pointing this out makes  a person partisan and obsessed with playing “the blame game.”  Or, maybe right after another savage terrorist attack that makes are blood boil for revenge is a particularly good time to be reminded of a simple fact.  Only we hold our destiny in our hands.  Others can attack us and kill some of us; only we can destroy ourselves.

Regarding the Boston attacks and terrorism

  • Bombings:  Why terrorist bombings have been so rare in the United States.  Short answer: Our law enforcement and anti-terrorism efforts.
  • Al Qaeda’s Future:  The organization is close to being effectively dismantled.  This is true even of the Boston attacks turn out to be their evil handiwork.  The group is fragmenting into “autonomous factions” that may focus more on local grievances in the future.  Of course, attacks on us by them still are possible, even likely.  But, the point is that Al Qaeda is no longer the centrally led and single-purposed terrorist organization that attacked us on 9/11.
  • Sharia law/Islamophobia (3/29/13 mtg):   See this simple, plain explanation of how the many, many religious courts in the United States operate.  You can click on the religion of your choice and see what kind of special religious courts and mediation mechanisms exist, how they work, and how they interact with secular law



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