Fulfilling al-Qaida's "warrior" wish

Nothing plays more into the terrorists' hands than elevating them to "combatant" status

Published December 31, 2009 4:32PM (EST)

(updated below - Update II)

It's so striking how often the agenda of America's Right and the desires of Al Qaeda Terrorists perfectly coincide.  The greatest gift one could give Terrorists is to fulfill their supreme wish:  to treat them (i.e., venerate them) as warriors -- enemy combatants -- rather than as what they are:  criminals.  To understand how true that is, consider this exchange at the Sentencing Hearing of Richard Reid, the convicted shoe bomber, between Reid and Federal Judge William Young, who sentenced him to life in prison:

MR. REID:  I further admit my allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah. Okay? With regards to what you said about killing innocent people, I will say one thing. Your government has killed two million children in Iraq. Okay? If you want to think about something, 20 against two million, I don't see no comparison. Okay?

Your government has sponsored the rape and torture of Muslims in the prisons of Egypt and Turkey and Syria and Jordan with their money and with their weapons. Okay? I don't know, see what I done as being equal to rape and to torture, or to the deaths of the two million children in Iraq. Okay?

Thirdly. So, for this reason, I think I ought not apologize for my actions. I am at war with your country. I'm at war with them not for personal reasons but because they have murdered more than, so many children and they have oppressed my religion and they have oppressed people for no reason except that they say we believe in Allah.

This is the only reason that America sponsors Egypt. It's the only reason they sponsor Turkey. It's the only reason they back Israel. Okay? . . . .

THE COURT:  There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist.

And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice. So war talk is way out of line in this court.

You're a big fellow. But you're not that big. You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense Trooper Santiago had it right when first you were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were and you said you're no big deal. You're no big deal.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, at his military commission, insisted on the same pretense -- that he was a warrior and a combatant in a raging war, just like George Washington and the members of the American military he was addressing, and, he argued, they should therefore understand that the civilian casualties Mohammed caused on 9/11 are simply part of what every "military man" does (click on images to enlarge):

...Nothing plays more right into the hands of Al Qaeda than glorifying them as some sort of special and unique class of warriors -- enemy combatants -- rather than treating them as the lowly, common, murderous criminals they are.  When we deny them due process and imprison them without charges because they're something stronger and scarier than mere criminals -- when we pronounce that they are our enemies waging holy war on America -- we do more to elevate their stature and, in the eyes of their followers, justify their violence than anything they could hope to do themselves.  The more fearful and extreme our reaction to them is, the better their cause is served.  Is there anything they can do or say to make that clearer?

* * * * *

From what I can gather, the principal New Year's wish of our media class is that we will bomb and occupy more Muslim countries in 2010, and that nobody in any of those countries will try to bring any violence to us in return.  What a truly bizarre expectation.  I discussed that dynamic, along with several other issues, on Democracy Now this morning; the video and transcript are here.


UPDATE:  One of the greatest mysteries is how someone can read something like this and this and doubt that our various wars and similar foreign policy actions are exacerbating -- not diminishing -- the terrorist threat.


UPDATE II:  As always, Charles Krauthammer is one of Al Qaeda's greatest allies:

Obama reassured the nation that this "suspect" had been charged. Reassurance? The president should be saying: We have captured an enemy combatant -- an illegal combatant under the laws of war: no uniform, direct attack on civilians -- and now to prevent future attacks, he is being interrogated regarding information he may have about al-Qaeda in Yemen.

He sounds just like Richard Reid and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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