Ken Blackwell: The Tomb of the Unknown Lawyer


ACRU Staff


May 17, 2010

ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell wrote this column appearing on the website on May 17, 2010.

Watching Attorney General Eric Holder as he testified recently before the House Judiciary Committee was a disheartening experience. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) tried repeatedly to get the general to acknowledge that “radical Islam” was a motivation for three of the recent attacks on the homeland—Nidal Hasan’s murderous Fort Hood attack, and the failed attempts of Abdulmutallab and Shahzad in Detroit and New York, respectively. The administration has said again and again that these were “isolated” individuals, only to be contradicted when the facts came out. Could radical Islam have been even one of the motives of Hasan, Addulmutallab, and Shahzad, Smith implores of the general. “I don’t want to say anything about a religion,” replies the general. Not even the radical variant of that religion. Not even after Hasan cried “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great) as he gunned down his fellow soldiers.

Now, we have the New York Times, in one of its typical front page editorials, anguishing over the Obama administration’s decision to go after Anwar al Awlaki, Yemeni cleric who communicated via email with Hasan and who seems to have inspired Abdulmutallab’s failed Christmas Day attack. Awlaki, like Nidal Hasan and Faisal Shahzad, also holds American citizenship. Here’s what the Times says:

The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against terrorism.

It’s one of the few things this administration is doing right, but it is provoking the usual round of hand wringing. When we are attacked by enemy combatants who declare war on us but who are not “state actors,” operating under the regular articles of war set out in the Geneva Convention, may we respond with deadly force? The liberal commentariat would have us send in predator drones with recordings of Miranda warnings, no doubt.

Liberals invented theater of the absurd. Now, they’ve invented combat theater of the absurd. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is a hero of liberals. He famously said in construing the law, “a page of history is worth a volume of logic.”

During the War of Independence, Gen. Nathaniel Greene conducted military operations in the Carolinas. During those battles, he directed his Continentals to fire at Americans who were taking orders from their British superiors. Some of those Americans were, most regrettably, killed. None of them was Mirandized.

During the Civil War, Generals Grant and Sherman conducted combat operations throughout the Southeast. They ordered their men to fire on Confederate soldiers, all of whom were American citizens. The horror of that fratricidal conflict lingers with us today, but no one on either side ever suggested that you cannot shoot at fellow U.S. citizens.

The New York Times waves all such examples away. Those were battlefield commands. These predator strikes take place “far from the field of combat.”

Where, exactly, is the field of combat in today’s war on terror? You’re having your morning cup of coffee at Top of the World restaurant in Lower Manhattan. A civilian jet, hijacked by persons not in uniform and not under the command of a recognized government, plows into the building in which you are sitting, twenty stories below you. Are you in the field of combat as the World Trade Center collapses around you?

It is because of the bravery and skill of our armed forces that the United States of America has survived in a hostile world. It is not because of pettifogging lawyers like the ACLU, like those prosecutor Andy McCarthy calls “the al Qaeda bar.” It is not because of generals like Eric Holder who cannot even be dragged into admitting that radical Islam might just possibly be one of the “variety of reasons” we are being murderously attacked.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most honored, hallowed places in America. It commemorates those who laid down there lives that we might live in freedom. As of yet, we have no Tomb of the Unknown Lawyer. But if we keep fighting this war with legal briefs instead of effective weapons, maybe there will be. If there is, I doubt hordes of tourists will want to go there to pay their respects.



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