Britain's release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi the Libyan
terrorist whose bomb blew up a plane over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988,
killing 270 people is galling enough in itself. But it is even more
profoundly troubling as a sign of a larger mood that has been growing in the
Western democracies in our time.
In ways large and small, domestically and internationally, the
West is surrendering on the installment plan to Islamic extremists.
The late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put his finger on the problem
when he said: "The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to
oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than
concessions and smiles."
He wrote this long before Barack Obama became President of the
United States. But this administration epitomizes the "concessions and
smiles" approach to countries that are our implacable enemies.
Western Europe has gone down that path before us but we now seem
to be trying to catch up.
Still, the release of a mass-murdering terrorist, who went home
to a hero's welcome in Libya, shows that President Obama is not the only one
who wants to move away from the idea of a "war on terror" as if that will
stop the terrorists' war on us.
The ostensible reason for releasing al-Megrahi was compassion
for a man terminally ill. It is ironic that this was said in Scotland, for
exactly 250 years ago another Scotsman Adam Smith said, "Mercy to the
guilty is cruelty to the innocent."
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That lesson seems to have been forgotten in America as well,
where so many people seem to have been far more concerned about whether we
have been nice enough to the mass-murdering terrorists in our custody than
those critics have ever been about the innocent people beheaded or blown up
by the terrorists themselves.
Tragically, those with this strange inversion of values include
the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder. Although President
Obama has said that he does not want to revisit the past, this is only the
latest example of how his administration's actions are the direct opposite
of his lofty words.
It is not just a question of looking backward. The decision to
second-guess CIA agents who extracted information to save American lives is
even worse when you look forward.
Years from now, long after Barack Obama is gone, CIA agents
dealing with hardened terrorists will have to worry about whether what they
do to get information out of them to save American lives will make these
agents themselves liable to prosecution that can destroy their careers and
ruin their lives.
This is not simply an injustice to those who have tried to keep
this country safe, it is a danger recklessly imposed on future Americans
whose safety cannot always be guaranteed by sweet and gentle measures
against hardened murderers.
Those who are pushing for legal action against CIA agents may
talk about "upholding the law" but they are doing no such thing. Neither the
Constitution of the United States nor the Geneva Convention gives rights to
terrorists who operate outside the law.
There was a time when everybody understood this. German soldiers
who put on American military uniforms, in order to infiltrate American lines
during the Battle of the Bulge were simply lined up against a wall and
shot and nobody wrung their hands over it. Nor did the U.S. Army try to
conceal what they had done. The executions were filmed and the film has been
shown on the History Channel.
So many "rights" have been conjured up out of thin air that many
people seem unaware that rights and obligations derive from explicit laws,
not from politically correct pieties. If you don't meet the terms of the
Geneva Convention, then the Geneva Convention doesn't protect you. If you
are not an American citizen, then the rights guaranteed to American citizens
do not apply to you.
That should be especially obvious if you are part of an
international network bent on killing Americans. But bending over backward
to be nice to our enemies is one of the many self-indulgences of those who
engage in moral preening.
But getting other people killed so that you can feel puffed up
about yourself is profoundly immoral. So is betraying the country you took
an oath to protect.