A unique discussion featuring John Yoo, Marc Thiessen and Andrew McCarthy.
Editors' note: At the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Santa Barbara Retreat this past weekend, one of the panels featured John Yoo, Marc Thiessen, and Andrew McCarthy in a fascinating and candid conversation about the effort on the part of Left-legal activists and Democratic Party officials to weaken American security by trying to broadly define as “torture” many of the efforts undertaken by the Bush administration to extract information from captured terrorists that would keep the American homeland safe. Each of the three was crucially involved in major, behind-the- scenes decisions about national security over the last several years. Each has remained a steadfast witness to the dangers America faced from terrorists and continues to face from those who would try to punish those who kept us safe since 9/11 -- and, by so doing, to make us vulnerable to another attack.
David Horowitz Freedom Center
Santa Barbara, California
April 23rd - 25th, 2010
Karen Lugo, John Yoo, Marc Thiessen, Andrew McCarthy
To watch the video, click here.
Karen Lugo: First, I’d like to do a quick little, proud and very shameless plug for Muffin and Paul Vallely’s Soldiers Memorial Fund. If you have not yet purchased your Swarovski crystal for the ladies, or men’s lapel pin, please see Paul and Muffin Vallely over there.
This panel that is about to present some thoughts and ideas, first on the problem, and then second, hopefully, a little bit about the solution -- we’ve changed our title for today. Originally, we were going to be addressing something about America or terrorism in the courts. And so, we’ve expanded the title so that our panelists will be able to address a broader range of issues within the age of Obama. And the subtopic is -- when foes are treated like friends, when allies are alienated, and when jihad is not a word.
I think that when many of us originally heard that President Reagan had said that democracy, potentially, is always just one generation away from extinction; it was kind of recognized as a profound truth. But many of us have had an epiphany within the last year, in acknowledging that it will be our generation that will be challenged to respond to this truth. It will be our generation that must educate our peers -- and, importantly, educate our children -- as to what it is that’s at stake, and how that within one generation, we do stand to lose treasured, fundamental and irreplaceable liberties if we do not act -- and that is, act between now and the next election in November.
We that fight Obama’s statist agenda of domestic entitlement and international appeasement have surely first recognized what Obama and Congress are destroying. As we are the great resistance, and a rising army of patriots, we have learned of our extraordinary heritage of Judeo-Christian-inspired consensual government and a culture that once inspired initiative and independence. We know the importance of keeping commitments to our allies and commanding respect -- and, yes, some fear -- in potential enemies. We will hold our President accountable for the common defense of the nation.
Today, our panelists will discuss where this age of Obama is taking us, both in terms of domestic national security and international foreign policy standing. You are all undoubtedly very aware of their backgrounds. You’ve seen many of them on Fox News and read them, probably, almost daily.
So what I’d like to do is especially recognize books that they’ve written and that two of the authors will have for sale here at the conference this weekend. These three books -- if that was all one would read between now and the election -- could serve as a blueprint for America’s awakening, if only we read, and share, and educate.
So today, our panelists will share insights as to the challenges we face. They will also spend a few minutes talking about how they see solutions that may be brought to bear on these challenges.
First of all, I would like to introduce Professor John Yoo. Professor Yoo joined the Boalt faculty at Berkeley in 1993. He has clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas of the US Supreme Court and served as General Counsel of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee; also as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel at the United States Department of Justice, where he worked on issues involving foreign affairs and, yes, also worked on the definition of torture. His third book, in a trilogy, is called “Crisis in Command.” It is just out. And it describes the history of Presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush when faced with national security challenges, and what their Constitutional response was.
I’d also like to say very briefly about John Yoo -- we talk a lot within this organization about education. And I’ve been privileged to work with John Yoo and his students at Boalt on several projects where we have written amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court. He’s worked with students at Boalt, I’ve worked with students at Chapman. And in fact, this last year, we submitted an important brief on national security issues. So this is something that is not discussed much. But to understand that most of these organizations that do such things are on the Left -- and I think we’re one of two or three operations in the United States that uphold original understanding of the Constitution. So I’d like to publicly thank John Yoo for that and introduce him now.
John Yoo: Well, I’d like to thank Karen, and David Horowitz, for the invitation to come spend the morning with you. I welcome any chance to leave the People’s Republic of Berkeley and venture to more conservative places, like Santa Barbara.
It’s also a great honor to be here. Because finally, for the first time in my life, I get to be the most liberal person on a panel. This will probably be the first and last time that’s ever going to happen to me.
Before I start, I’d like to address a question that pretty much almost everyone I met during the cocktail hour last night asked me about, which is how did I beat John Stewart on “The Daily Show?” So for those of you who didn’t see my appearance -- and I also have a lot of thoughts about Marc Thiessen’s appearance, too, which followed a little bit after mine. But I went on at the beginning of the book tour, back in the first week of January. I think I so befuddled and confused him -- after 30 minutes of jousting about what the definition of torture was, and when enhanced interrogation methods, as I would call them, can be used on terrorist leaders to reveal information about pending attacks -- that he just kind of gave up. And then, on the next day’s show, he said that I had beaten him. And my students told me that was the first and only time he’s ever said that a guest on his show had beaten him.
So I went back and looked at the tape, and I tried to figure out, how did I defeat the great liberal talk show host of our day? And I thought about it for a little bit. And I think it has to do with the fact he’s probably never had a law professor on his show before. Because if you think about what my job is -- and has been for the last 17 years -- it’s I confront an audience of 100 25-, 26-year-old people three times a week who are very smart, very clever -- sometimes, occasionally funny -- but are utterly unprepared for class and have done no reading.
So I think if any of you have the misfortune of being on “The Daily Show,” just treat him like a 21-year-old student, and you’ll be fine.
So my job on the panel today is try to put what we’re going to talk about in a historical context, which is to talk about where Obama sits in the course of the history of the presidency. And my basic theme is that President Obama has brought to office what I think of as an upside-down or an inverted view of the presidency, where his view was that the presidency should be fairly weak office when it came to foreign affairs and national security, that should defer to the other branches; but that he should be a leader of domestic change, and domestic revolution in terms of the economy and society. And this is the exact opposite, I think, of not just the framers’ design for the office but what his greatest predecessors have done.
So just to start off, in writing this book and giving some context, it’s important to figure out what we mean by greatest Presidents. So the views of scholars and regular people are quite different on this question.
So one way to measure what regular Americans think -- and I don’t have access to the sophisticated polling data of the last panel -- but one way I approach such questions is to look at that great barometer of popular opinion, Parade Magazine. So in January, Parade Magazine did a poll. And they asked regular Americans -- which President should be added to Mount Rushmore?
So I’d like to ask you all, who do you think the most Americans gave as the fifth President to be added to Mount Rushmore, after you correct for the fact that many Americans gave the names of Presidents who already were on Mount Rushmore?
Who do you think Americans, regular people, thought ought to be the next President added to Mount Rushmore? Most people did not put Reagan. I heard Obama. Obama did make the list; he was number five. I’ve always thought it would be hard for a sculptor to do the Nobel Peace Price on the stone, but yes. Exactly right. John F. Kennedy was ranked by Americans the next President who should be added, right? Glamorous, young President, image of activity.
In 2005, The Wall Street Journal editorial page did a poll of 300 scholars -- I was one of them -- to rank every President in order. Kennedy was below average. In fact, if you think about it, the more we learn about Kennedy, the worse his reputation tends to get.
Reagan was on the list, FDR was on the list, Clinton was on the list and, as I said, Obama was on the list. This is somewhat at odds with whom we think of as the great Presidents, or these scholars do. There’s wide agreement on who the top three are -- Washington, Lincoln and FDR. As you know, Washington and Lincoln are already on the monument. The fourth and fifth greatest Presidents are Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt, who are also on Mount Rushmore.
Reagan made sixth. And actually, that’s a remarkable change. Because if those of you who can remember back to 1988, when he left office, and remember what academics and people in the media were saying about Reagan, he was widely considered a mediocre President by the intellectual elites. And now, it’s stunning that a poll of academics rates Reagan the sixth greatest President in American history.
The seventh is someone I didn’t hear anyone mention -- was Harry Truman. Right? He left office with his opinion poll ratings in the low 30s, in the middle of an unpopular war. He could have run for reelection and chose not to. But now, we appreciate Truman because he set the basic foundations for our long-term strategy in the war against the Soviets. I won’t ask any of the smart people here whether that reminds you of anybody.
The eighth greatest President was Dwight Eisenhower -- again, a President who was criticized in many of the same terms that Reagan had been criticized, as sort of out of touch, grandfatherly; we like him, but not his policies. Eisenhower’s considered now the eighth greatest President in American history.
The ninth greatest President is someone I didn’t hear anyone mention. But if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be enjoying our nice day here on the coast in Santa Barbara, James Polk, who deliberately triggered a war with the Mexicans in 1848. He turned a border skirmish on the Texas-Mexican border between about 100 troops into a justification for launching an amphibious invasion of Mexico, capturing Mexico City and engaging in what we call regime change, and then taking away the one third of the best part of the country, and annexing it to the United States. A guy who was so unpopular that when he ran for office, he had to go around promising he would not run for reelection.
Tenth greatest President -- Andrew Jackson, whose face, of course, is on the $20 bill, who would be horrified at the idea that he would be on the $20 bill, since his great mission was to destroy the Bank of the United States at the time.
Let me ask you one more question. In this ranking of great Presidents, who do you think was ranked the worst President in American history? Carter, no. Carter, actually, is about average these days, among scholars.
Buchanan. So I just want to be clear -- when I speak in college audiences, and I say Buchanan, the students pause, because they think I’m talking about Pat Buchanan -that he might’ve been President when they were kids, they don’t really know. But we are, in fact, talking about James Buchanan, who was the President right before Lincoln. Right. And that’s the basic message of the book, and the basic context I want to set out, is -- why is Buchanan the worst President, by universal acclaim, among scholars? And why is Lincoln almost tied with Washington for being our greatest President? It has everything to do with emergency and the power of the office.
Buchanan and Lincoln were both Presidents during the worst emergency that we have faced -- the Civil War. And Buchanan responded to it by saying -- many people don’t know this -- Buchanan thought that secession was unconstitutional. He actually thought that the states could not leave the Union. But he said, As President, I have no constitutional power to stop it from happening. The presidency is powerless. And he actually said, I call on Congress to reach a solution.
Those of you who’ve worked with a legislature can guess what Congress did. They formed a special commission to study the problem. Lincoln comes into office a few months later. The period between election and inauguration was much longer then. Lincoln says, I agree with President Buchanan -- secession is unconstitutional. But I have the power as President to protect the country, to protect its security. And he took extraordinary measures to do that. He raised an army and a navy, he took money out of the treasury, without congressional permission. He started offensive operations against the South. He suspended the writ of habeas corpus through the country, all with the goal of protecting the United States during period of emergency. His most famous act, and the one for which we as Republicans remember him the most -- the Emancipation Proclamation -- was what people today would call a unilateral exercise of executive power.
Does anybody remember what the Supreme Court’s opinion about emancipation was in 1863, at the time of President Lincoln’s order? Supreme Court’s opinion still was Dred Scott vs. Sandford, which said no federal or state government law could eliminate slavery. Lincoln brushed that aside. He said, To win the Civil War, we have to free the slaves, which is actually why the Emancipation Proclamation only applied in the South, but not in the peaceful areas of the North.
So in the time I have remaining let me turn to President Obama. Because the lesson, I think, that comes from the history of our great Presidents and their time during periods of emergency are twofold . One is that the framers designed the presidency in the weird way they did. They designed the executive branch with one person in charge, where all the power and responsibility goes to that one person, so that he could act quickly, swiftly, secretly, decisively, as the Federalist Papers talked about.
When it came to domestic policy, however, the framers thought that the presidency would be a modest office. They were worried about Congress when it came to domestic policy. Fact, they specifically gave the President the veto power, so that the presidency would moderate the legislative branch. The framers were extremely worried about the idea that Congress, which had access to the power of the purse, would take money from one group of citizens and transfer it to another group of citizens. Where would they have gotten that crazy idea from? The President’s job was to stop Congress from enacting special-interest legislation and to pursue the national interest.
Just let me close by saying -- and now set it up for Marc and Andrew, my good friends -- look at what Obama did when he came into office. Right? He saw his job as pushing Congress to go farther. And because of that, he’s undermining the legitimacy and power of the presidency, by combining it too closely with Congress, as we’ve seen with health care. His job was to restrain Congress from passing health care, not to prod it to going farther.
At the same time, I’d say in national security matters, he has tried to retract the power of the presidency. That’s the way to understand his decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the guy who thought up the idea of the 9/11 attacks in civilian court in New York City. There’s a lot of crazy reasons why this is not a good idea, not the least of which is spending $250 million a year on security in downtown New York, when it only costs, I think -- I checked -- only $108 million to build the Guantanamo Bay base.
But if you think about it, when you transfer the trial of terrorists to civilian courts, you are, as President, giving up the power to set terrorism policy on a lot of matters to another branch of government, something Presidents Washington and Lincoln and FDR never would have done. Obama doesn’t want the responsibility, he doesn’t want to make the decisions about the war on terrorism. But at the same time, he’s, I think, damaging the presidency by pulling the powers of the institution back, and hoping someone else will make the hard choices.
Unfortunately, that’s why we have a President. If these jobs, these decisions, were easy, we wouldn’t need the President to make them. And I worry that because of his efforts to avoid these hard choices when it comes to the most important function of government, which is protecting the security of its citizens, that President Obama will not use the powers of his office, as his greatest predecessors did, to protect the security of the country.
So thank you very much, and I turn it over to Marc and Andrew.
Marc Thiessen: Thank you very much.
Actually, the subtitle of my book could have just as easily been “How John Yoo Kept America Safe.” So I’m proud to be on a panel with John Yoo. And there are two other people who are responsible for my screed, who are here today. And they are David Horowitz and Peter Collier. And the reason is that back in the 1980s, when I was an aspiring young leftist at Vassar College, I was purged from the Student Coalition Against Apartheid for having raised a question about necklacing, which was a practice that the African National Congress used to punish -- I won’t go into the details of it, it was horrific. And I was informed one night that there had been a vote, and I had been purged. Because that’s what communists do, they purge people.
And so I was a leftist without a home. And a conservative friend said, You’ve got to read this book, “Destructive Generation,” by Peter Collier and David Horowitz. And I got it, and I read it overnight. I’ve been going to the right ever since, and never turned back. So as a result, here I am, having written a book in defense of the enhanced interrogation program.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the myth that Barack Obama is continuing the national security policies of the Bush Administration. Because he’s doing Predator strikes, he hasn’t eliminated the Patriot Act or the National Security Agency’s listening program, using the state secrets defense, supporting indefinite detention, keeping a responsible drawdown in Iraq that Bush had set in motion, and he’s launched a surge in Afghanistan. And so he’s continuing these terrible policies, as the Left says.
Imagine, if you would, that in the midst of World War II, Neville Chamberlain had come to power, and in the middle of World War II. And he continued to fight the war, and he continued the bombings of Germany, and he continued the battle in North Africa and Italy, and launched the D-Day invasion. But he eliminated the Ultra program that had broken the German codes. And he spoke out and said that this -- but listening in to the Germans was against our values, and then released the secrets behind this program to the public, and thus to the Nazi leadership in Berlin.
We wouldn’t say that Neville Chamberlain was continuing the policies of Winston Churchill, would we? This is essentially what Barack Obama has done, in eliminating the CIA interrogation program, and then releasing all the secrets of how we interrogated terrorists and got them to tell us their plans for new attacks to the enemy. Today, we are in growing danger of experiencing another 9/11 attack. Because we are no longer capturing, detaining and interrogating the senior leaders of al-Qaeda.
Think back for a minute to the period after 9/11. We knew that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, but we didn’t know who. We didn’t know that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11 or the operational commander of al-Qaeda. In fact, Mike Hayden, the former CIA director, says that he wasn’t even in our flowchart of senior al-Qaeda leaders at the time. We didn’t know who his key accomplices were.
And unbeknownst to us, there were two terrorist networks out there, active, that we didn’t know the members of or what their plans were -- the KSM network that had launched the 9/11 attacks, and the network called the Hambali network, which was a Southeast Asian terror network that KSM was working with to develop follow-on attacks against America.
We didn’t know who they were or what their plans were. And in fact, we later found out that they had in fact set in motion plans for a series of terrorist attacks. These included a plot to repeat the destruction of 9/11 in Europe by hijacking airplanes in Europe and flying them into Heathrow Airport and buildings in London’s financial district. They included a plot to blow up our consulate in Western residences in Karachi, Pakistan in an attack that would have replicated the East Africa Embassy bombings in Pakistan. They had set in motion a plot to blow up our marine camp in Jabuti using explosive-laden water tankers. They had deployed a cell that was developing anthrax for attacks in the United States.
And most nefariously of all, they were working with Hambali. KSM knew that after 9/11 we’d be on the lookout for Arab men. So he developed a cell of Southeast Asians, thinking we wouldn’t be on the lookout for them, working with this terrorist Hambali, to hijack an airplane and fly it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, which is the tallest building on the West Coast, just south of here.
We didn’t know any of this. None of it. And then, the CIA began capturing and interrogating senior leaders of al-Qaeda. We captured Abu Zubaydah, who was a senior al-Qaeda facilitator. And he gave us information that led us to Ramzi bin al Shibh, who was one of the senior key operatives in the 9/11 attacks. And together, they gave us the information that led us to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And then Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of these terrorist gave us information that led to the roundup of dozens of members of these two networks, and put them -- dismantled them both and put them out of business, and stopped the attacks that they had set in motion.
These people were captured. In fact, it’s ironic -- I know Andy’s going to talk about the trials in New York -- every single one of the people that Barack Obama wants to put on trial in New York City were captured as a direct result of CIA interrogations. If it had not been for the CIA program, Barack Obama would have no one to put on trial.
So this is one of the most important intelligence programs, probably -- certainly in the war on terror, and possibly in the history of the United States.
Now, fast-forward to beginning of 2009. Barack Obama becomes President of the United States. And he, on his second day in office, eliminates this program. Almost simultaneously, as he is doing this, there is a new terrorist network forming on the Arabian Peninsula, called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is a merger between al-Qaeda in Yemen and al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, which were two local -- small, local terrorist networks that were basically focused on killing -- attacking Western interests there. And they form a transnational terrorist network, who has the intent and capability of striking the United States of America, here in the American homeland. And the Obama Administration admits, by its own admission, that we did not know that they were either capable or had the intent to strike us here at home.
But on Christmas Day, one of their operatives got through all of our defenses and was on a plane, circling Detroit, and almost blew that plane up in what would have been the most catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil since the 9/11 attacks. Why were we caught blind? Because we were not trying to capture, detain and interrogate the leaders of al-Qaeda, who could’ve told us about this new terror network. We didn’t know anything about it.
In fact, not only were we not interrogating the senior leaders of al-Qaeda who could’ve warned us about this -- when a high-value terrorist fell into our laps, like manna from heaven, we read him his rights and told him he had the right to remain silent, and gave him a lawyer. It’s insanity. It’s absolute insanity.
Christmas Day, we avoided disaster by pure luck. Pure luck. This was not a foiled attack. The bomb malfunctioned. If it hadn’t, he was planning to blow that plane up over Detroit. So not only the couple hundred people on that plane but thousands of people on the ground would’ve died as a result of it. You cannot keep this country safe unless you interrogate senior terrorist leaders.
Now, why is interrogation essential? The failure to stop the Christmas Day attack was a failure to connect the dots. You’ve heard that phrase. In my book, “Courting Disaster,” I interviewed Mike Hayden, the former Director of the CIA. And he explained it to me this way -- why is interrogation important. Intelligence, he said, is like putting together a puzzle. And you got all the pieces laid out on the table in front of you. And you have to connect the pieces, connect the dots. But you’re not allowed to look at the cover of the box to see what the picture looks like. That’s the challenge of intelligence.
There’s only one way to find out what that picture looks like -- capture the people who know what the picture on the cover of the box looks like and get them to tell you. When you capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, it’s not that he’s giving you pieces of the puzzle that you could get another way. He’s telling you how the pieces fit together. He’s giving you the picture on the cover of the box.
And today, this is the capability we have voluntarily given up -- the ability to see the picture on the cover of the box. And so this is why we’re in danger of another attack.
A few weeks ago, the Washington Post reported, on its front page, that the US had tracked down the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa, which is a virulent terror al-Qaeda offshoot. This was a big deal to find this guy. And they knew where he was, and they were tracking him. And so they went to the White House. And they gave the President three options. They said, We can capture him alive and interrogate him, we can kill him with a Predator strike, or we can send a helicopter in with commandos and kill him, and then repel down and get the DNA to confirm that he’s dead. And the military said, We want to capture him alive. The President said kill him. And so they killed him with the third option, sending a helicopter team. So we could’ve reached him, because the commandos went in and actually got his DNA to confirm that he was dead.
And think of the intelligence that was lost with that man, vaporized with that man being killed. The information this guy had. If President Bush had made that decision when we located Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, there would be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York City. A dead terrorist can’t tell you his plans for new attacks. We have to capture these people alive and bring them in.
Now, why did the CIA interrogation program work so well? All right, I’m winding down. Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey is here. He would probably have to report me to the CIA Security Office if I told you this story a year ago. But now that Barack Obama’s released all the details, I can tell it to you.
The first guy that we captured was a terrorist named Abu Zubaydah, senior al-Qaeda facilitator. And he was the first one who was waterboarded. And after he was waterboarded, he said something remarkable to his interrogators. I got to -- one of the things about my book is it’s the first time you’ll hear from the actual interrogators. I talked to them, the people who were in the room for these interrogations. And Zubaydah -- after he was waterboarded -- they actually said to him, after he broke, you know, We don’t want to do this waterboarding. Is there something else we can do? He said, No, no, no. You must do this for all the brothers.
Why would an al-Qaeda terrorist tell -- he thanked us for waterboarding him, and said you must do this for the other brothers, you cannot stop waterboarding. Why would an al-Qaeda terrorist tell us that? What he explained was that the jihadi philosophy is that they -- Allah is going to prevail, no matter what happens. The victory is predestined. His responsibility to Allah is to resist as far as he can. And then, once he’s met the limits of resistance, he’s free to spill his guts and tell us everything he knows.
So if you know this, do you give him Snickers bars? Do you try and develop a rapport with him? No, you have to give him something to resist.
So what the CIA did was they developed this program, where they would give him -- they gave him something that did not cross the line into torture -- John, you made sure that was the case -- with the least coercive technique first, escalating up to maximum of waterboarding, which is not torture, the way it was done by the CIA. And they gave him a chance to resist something. And almost -- of the people who run the CIA program -- there were 100 people brought into CIA interrogations -- only 30 had any enhanced interrogation techniques used on them. The rest said I’ll talk to you, CIA, I will tell you anything you want to know. Thirty of them had enhanced interrogation techniques, and three made it to waterboarding.
And they developed techniques that were safe, that would not harm them, but got the information. And it was the most successful program in -- possibly in the history of the United States, in intelligence. And Barack Obama has eliminated it.
Just in closing, a quick point -we are in danger because we don’t have this capability anymore. And we’ve been asked to sort of give you the silver lining in the dark cloud. It’s a pretty dark cloud, when it comes to the war on terror. The silver lining is the American people are with us on this issue. If you look at the polls -- and I cite some of them in the book -- 71 percent of Americans support enhanced interrogation. Seventy-one percent. Scott Brown, who they mentioned -- Congressman Royce mentioned him in the early panel -- campaigned as an open supporter of enhanced interrogation, and he won election in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. If that does not tell you that Americans are with us on this issue, then I don’t know what does.
But for some reason, Republican legislators and Republican lawmakers are afraid to talk about this. Because they don’t want to be tagged as supporting torture. Well, it’s not torture.
In my book -- I explain it in great detail, why -- what the laws are on torture, you can read the Yoo memos -- it’s not torture. And the Democrats are vulnerable on this, because they’re putting us in grave danger. And we need to be able to speak out about this. Christmas Day was a wakeup call. We almost suffered another 9/11 in our midst. And it was just four months ago. It’s been forgotten. When’s the last time someone mentioned it to you? This almost happened.
I hope and pray that it does not take al-Qaeda succeeding in a mass-casualty attack on our country for us to wake up. But hope and prayer are not a sufficient national security policy.
Thank you very much.
Karen Lugo: Thank you, Marc.
Andrew McCarthy is Senior Fellow at the National Review --
-- “Willful Blindness.” I highly recommend that. His new one is coming out -- unfortunately will not be here in time for him to sign this weekend. But the new one, called “The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America,” I’m sure will be highly instrumental in educating people as far as what’s at stake for this next election.
So again, thank you very much for all of the work that you do, Andy. And we welcome you to make comments this morning.
Andrew McCarthy: Thanks so much. And thanks, Michael, for inviting me here. Imagine being placed on the extreme right of this panel.
But I think, actually, John’s too kind. Because I guess we could’ve sat anyone anywhere, on this panel.
What I’d like to talk about is this whole issue of the civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 9/11 plotters. And I think it’s important to talk about it. Because what you’ve heard in the public domain about this is really, in my mind, a significant misrepresentation of what really is at stake, and what the position is of those of us who have opposed having a civilian trial in Manhattan -- or, frankly, anyplace else -- of these particular enemy combatants, or indeed of enemy combatants in general.
I don’t want to be presumptuous. But I would suggest to you that if you’re being told that Eric Holder is more in favor of prosecuting bad guys than I am, you probably ought to check that, see if that makes a lot of sense.
We’re talking here about a very small category of -- whether you would call it war criminal or defendant. I hear the Attorney General say, Don’t take this tool away from us, we need this tool, prosecution’s an important tool. Nobody -- least of all, me -- is saying that we shouldn’t be doing prosecutions in the civilian courts, or that prosecutions in the civilian courts are not part -- and must not -- or, not that they must be part of a total government counterterrorism strategy. What we’re talking about is an approach to counterterrorism in the post-9/11 era that learns from the mistakes of the pre-9/11 era.
In pre-9/11 times, during the Clinton Administration, the Justice Department wasn’t just the tip of the counterterrorism spear; it was pretty much the entirety of the spear. I mean, the intelligence community was doing some things. But for the most part, the government’s national security strategy against terrorism during the 1990s was prosecution in the civilian system.
And what we learned from that experience, I think first and foremost, is that it is a provocatively weak response. I’m not saying that we can’t prosecute people in the civilian system; we know we can. We did it repeatedly in the eight years between the time the World Trade Center was bombed and when it was destroyed.
But think about what the bottom line of all that is. Basically, in about nine trials, we took out 29 people, which is sometimes less than what our military does in a single day, in the post-9/11 era. Most of the most important terrorists -- bin Laden, Zawahiri, the rest of them -- but for a very small number of those 29, the people that we took out by prosecuting were the lowest of the low-ranking players. They were the low-hanging fruit, the most easily replaced terrorists in any of the cells or the organization. I mean, there were a few differences -- my guy, the Blind Sheikh, Ramzi Yousef, two or three others. But of the 29, most of them were the most easily replaced.
And in fact, I think more than half of them were out of the 1993 Trade Center bombing itself. There was no prosecution in connection with the Khobar Towers attack which killed 19 members of our air force. There was no prosecution in connection with the Cole attack which killed 17 members of our navy.
So I think what we learned from that approach is that it is too limited, and it has too many downsides to it, to be a significant response to a national security challenge. Osama bin Laden, for example, has been under indictment by the Justice Department since June of 1998. That’s before the embassy bombings, before the Cole, before 9/11. He’s still at large. But the point is that obviously, the response of bringing al-Qaeda to court was not something that stopped al-Qaeda from not only continuing to attack but continuing to attack in a way that was much more -- that became more aggressive and more audacious over time.
So how do we change after 9/11? We don’t say no more prosecutions in the civilian court. We say instead that the Justice Department has to have an appropriately subordinate role in what is a total government response to what is a national security challenge -- a war, not a crime wave. So there will be times, as we go forward in this struggle -- and we will go forward for quite a long time, I think -- but there will be times when it will be primarily a military task, an intelligence task. There will never be a time, I don’t think, when our Treasury resources are unimportant, so that we’re tracking terrorism finances, not just to try to dry up the funding, but actually as a source of intelligence -- to be able to follow the money, see where it goes, and try to figure out who is it who’s attached to the money.
After all, the only defense that we have in this war is really intelligence. There’s never going to be a moment when we sit on a navy ship and sign a treaty with al-Qaeda. Our defense in a war of this type, against a transnational enemy that attacks in stealth and that defies the laws and customs of war, is intelligence. We have to know who they are, where they are, and what their plans are, what they’re next most likely to hit.
In that framework, the Justice Department still plays a crucially important role. But it’s a subordinate role. We heard a lot of debate, particularly in the three or four years right after 9/11, about the Patriot Act, and the powers that it gave to the -- particularly the intelligence side of the executive branch, and, you know, whether that was appropriate, whether it was over the line.
Having actually had to deal with these cases, I think that the most important law that has been enacted with respect to counterterrorism is actually the 1996 overhaul of terrorism law, which gave prosecutors tools that were unavailable to me, for example, back in 1993, when the World Trade Center was bombed. After 1996, they gave us, you know, a terrorism conspiracy statute. They added some bombing conspiracy provisions. Most importantly, they put in a new offense called Material Support to Terrorism, which became a staple of counterterrorism prosecutions after that.
After those laws were put in in 1996, you could still have a healthy debate about whether, philosophically, we ought to be approaching this challenge as a war or a crime. But prosecutors could no longer complain, as we complained back in 1993, that the tools we had were not adequate to the task.
But why are these tools so important? Because what Material Support to Terrorism allows you to do is to strangle terrorism cells and terrorism plots in the cradle, before they gain momentum and before they’re able to strike. And that really has to be what the role is for the Justice Department in a post-9/11 era, when we’re trying to move from prosecution to prevention.
The idea is now that we want to stop these things from happening well in advance, rather than try to content ourselves with prosecuting people after Americans and other innocents have already been killed, which was the 1990s model. We don’t want less prosecutions in the civilian courts. We want more prosecution in the civilian courts. But they’re not going to be the same kind of cases as they were before 9/11.
And sometimes, frankly, they’re not going to be very attractive cases. I think what we’re asking prosecutors to do now is, frankly, a lot harder than I was asked to do back in the early to mid-1990s. I don’t mean to say that these cases aren’t difficult. They present challenges that other sorts of cases don’t. But it’s not the most difficult thing on the planet to prosecute even a bunch of terrorists after there’s been a mass-murder attack against Americans. Even the New York Times could get behind a prosecution like that.
But what we’re asking prosecutors to do today is something that’s much more difficult. Can you imagine what the New York Times would’ve said if the Justice Department had tried to bring a case against Mohamed Atta on the information that was known prior to 9/11? Not only Atta, but any of the 9/11 hijackers? They would’ve said it was overreach, they would’ve said it was profiling, they would’ve said that it was baseless.
What we’re actually asking prosecutors to do now, along with law enforcement and along with our intelligence community, is to anticipate what these guys will do next and stop them from doing it. And those cases are going to have some ambiguity to them. They’re not going to be as solid as the cases that we did in the ‘90s. They’re not going to have the same kind of public support as the cases that we did in the ‘90s. But it still is a very important role. And it’s one that has to be done if we’re actually going to stop things from happening.
So I think that the important thing, from my perspective, that I’d like you to take away about this controversy over the civilian trial, is that what we’re talking about is whether it’s appropriate to bring into court actual war criminals who have either plotted to carry out or have actively carried out war crimes against the United States. I would suggest to you that it’s not only a provocatively weak response, it not only is inappropriate, given the amount of intelligence that we have to turn over for due process purposes while we’re at war; it’s a betrayal of the very impetus for doing it, which is international humanitarian law.
The whole idea behind humanitarian law and behind the Geneva Conventions is to civilize warfare. It’s not an automatic system, it’s an opt-in system. You have to opt in by conduct. You have to comply with the laws and customs of war. And what we’re doing when we bring these particular offenders into civilian court is we’re taking the worst of the worst, the people who actually target civilians for mass murder, and carry out those mass-murder attacks. And rather than handling them as military enemies, we are clothing them in all of the rights of Americans, in all of the rights of the people that they’re sworn to kill.
And let me just close by saying it’s not tripe; I think it’s a truism, to say that when you reward bad behavior, you’re only apt to get more of it. And when we give this kind of a reward -- the entrance into our own civilian justice system with all of the protections of the Bill of Rights -- to people who are actively trying to make war -- who are actively, actually, making war against the United States -- we are inviting more of what we need to be preventing.
Karen Lugo: Thank you very much, Andy.
Andy mentioned the importance of being able to prosecute terrorist activity under this Material Support statute. And in fact, the case that I worked on -- the brief that my students and John Yoo’s students helped to draft, and Andy’s Center for Law and Counterterrorism cosigned -- has to do with an attack on the statute under constitutional speech rights, in claiming that an individual who is supporting a charitable effort sponsored by a named terror organization has his speech rights infringed upon if he is not able to -- if there is an ability to prosecute his activities in supporting the terrorist organization, but charitably.
So it’s going to be interesting to see how this one’s resolved. Because from the line of questioning the day that the arguments were made, it’s hard to tell exactly what the split will be. But the name of that case is Humanitarian Legal Project. And there should be a decision on that within the next few weeks.
So I’m going to ask the panelists if they will talk for just a couple of minutes about what their solutions are -- what they would advise that we do as citizens to see that national security is kept to the forefront, as far as on our national agenda.
John Yoo: Thanks, Karen.
So, three ideas. One is, even though I think that the presidency has this great power of national security, it’s not to say that it’s without check. Even in wartime, when the President’s power is at its height, Congress is still in control of funding and the size and shape of the military. And I think electing members to Congress who are going to take a much more pro-national security stance is one of the most important things we can do.
President Obama wanted to close down Guantanamo Bay. He gave an order in his first week of office to do that within a year. Congress prohibited the use of any funds to transfer prisoners into United States and has so far managed to block his efforts to do that. Perfectly within Constitution. This is a Congress with huge Democratic majorities. So I think more of that would be possible.
Second thing is judges, which we don’t think about much when we think about national security. But the greatest obstacle, I think, to the effective fighting of the war on terrorism, unfortunately, has been our own judges. If you look at a lot of the policies in the war on terrorism, the presidency and Congress, at least under the Bush Administration, actually agreed on enhanced surveillance. [Congressmen], actually -- as Marc shows in his book -- did approve of the interrogation programs, although they don’t want anyone to know about it. The judges are the ones who first started trying to pull down the policies in the war on terrorism.
Just to give you a small anecdote -- I wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal last weekend about Justice Stevens, who announced his resignation from the Court. When Justice Stevens was a young intelligence officer in the Pacific during World War II, he was allowed to listen in on the operation to shoot down Admiral Yamamoto, which was made possible by the breaking of the code secret -- the Japanese naval codes.
Justice Stevens thought that it was wrong for the United States to specifically target and shoot down Admiral Yamamoto. He later gave a speech, many years later, saying that he thought it violated humanitarian norms for the American military to specifically try to kill another member of the enemy. And in fact, he then said, And that’s why I’m pretty much against the death penalty now, too.
Think about what Justice Stevens would think about the Predator drone program. Justice Stevens has been the leader on the Court at trying to do what Andy has described would be the wrong answer, which is to give all terrorists the same constitutional rights as you and I would, if we were prosecuted for any garden-variety crime.
Last thing I’ll just say quickly is -- aside from electing members of Congress, aside from pressing the Senate not to confirm judges who are weak on national security -- third thing, I think, is that -- collectively could do outside the arm of the government is to create some kind of [fund] organization to protect officers of the CIA.
Because -- I think we probably would all agree to this, I don’t know -- but there’s going to come a witch hunt against the men and women who are the subject of Marc’s book. And I don’t think they’re getting a lot of support right now. These people -- I mean, they make $50,000, $60,000 a year. And they’re going to come under the worst legal expenses and political harassment you can -- I lived through this for the last year. And luckily, I survived. I was lucky to have one of the best attorneys in America volunteer to represent me for free. Also, I made myself a real pain in the ass in the media. And I think that actually scared them off a little bit.
But there’s going to be dozens of CIA officers who are currently, and will be, investigated for what they did to protect the country. And I think that’s one thing we could all do that doesn’t involve the government, you know, would be to help defend those guys.
Marc Thiessen: I agree with all that. Couple things -- I would say the most important thing is for us as conservatives to speak out. When the American people are with us as strongly as they are, speaking out works. I mean, the fact is, there is no trial going on right now for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York because of public opposition. And so we have the power, if we speak out, to stop these things from happening.
Andy laid out a number of the reasons why the trial was a bad idea. Those legal -- I’m the only one who’s not a lawyer here. I’ll give you a different reason. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed disappeared from the face of the earth when he was captured in 2003. He was in a CIA [black site], completely cut off. Then he’s been Guantanamo ever since. If he were to be put on trial, and suddenly emerge this heroic leader, with his flowing turbans, and all that, the effect that would have on the jihadi movement, the shot in the arm that would be, that after all -- everything we did to him, that he’s still standing, and would put us on trial, it would make -- that trial would make the O.J. Simpson trial look like a traffic court hearing. So we know this is a bad idea. We’ve stopped it so far, we got to keep the pressure on them.
Second thing is -- push for the restoration of the CIA interrogation program -- not the one that John approved, and that was in place in the first years of the Obama Administration; but the program that actually Barack Obama inherited. There’s a myth out there that Barack Obama eliminated waterboarding. Waterboarding had already been taken out of the CIA program when he came into office.
Mike Hayden -- I told the story in my book, how Mike Hayden and Admiral McConnell, the head of -- the Director of National Intelligence, scaled back the program, specifically to create a program that could be supported by even a Democratic administration coming in. When Obama came into office, the techniques that were left were the tummy slap, the facial hold, a diet of liquid Ensure, which -- I’m sure the makers of Ensure would love to know that their product was considered torture --and mild sleep deprivation, maximum of four days. No one would consider that torture. These were the techniques. The program still worked. Because the terrorists didn’t know that.
I’ll tell you another story that -- Jim Woolsey’s going to be busy on the phones with the Security Office and the CIA. When the program was scaled back, a terrorist named Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi was captured. You probably never heard of him. He’s one of the most -- he’s a very, very senior al-Qaeda leader. He was a major in Saddam Hussein’s army who joined al-Qaeda, interestingly enough, and was one of bin -- he was a member of the Shura Council -- very senior guy. And he was being sent by bin Laden to Iraq to run al-Qaeda operations in Iraq, and he never made it.
And he was brought into a CIA interrogation site. And they took off his hood, and they said, We’re the CIA. And he said, I know, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. And he did. Why? Because he didn’t know what he would face. He didn’t know that all he was going to face was the tummy slap and liquid Ensure.
So the idea that this is torture, and that we can do -- we have to follow the Army Field Manual, which is the manual -- local police -- district attorneys have more authority to interrogate terrorists than the Army Field Manual provides. A district attorney, on a daily basis, will say to a criminal in an interrogation, I’m going to put a needle in your arm if you don’t give up your accomplices. You’re going to see the death penalty. You can’t do that under the Army Field Manual. We can’t threaten a terrorist in any way. It’s crazy that we’re following the Army Field Manual for all interrogations. So we got to push for a restoration of this program that is absolutely -- there’s no reason why Barack Obama and the most liberal Democrat administration in history couldn’t even support using this program.
And then, I agree wholeheartedly with John about standing by these CIA interrogators. These people are not torturers; they’re heroes. They don’t deserve subpoenas; they deserve the Presidential Medal of Freedom. They kept this country safe and stopped the next 9/11.
One last story, just to tell you something about these people. One of the interrogators who I spoke with -- I tell the story in my book. I call him Harry. It’s not his name, but that’s the name I use for him in the book. And he’s the guy who interrogated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And one night, he went into KSM’s cell. And after the interrogation part was over, he actually had a very good relationship with KSM. KSM called him Emir, which is a title of great respect in jihadi ranks. They’re seen as respected adversaries in war.
And he came in. KSM greeted him warmly, said how are you. And they were talking. And he said, And then KSM turned to me. And he said, Just so you know, if I ever get out of this hole, I’m going to kill you, I’m going to kill your wife, I’m going to kill your sisters, I’m going to kill your whole family. Because that’s what I do. And he said, You know, this job is hard. And sometimes I get down about it. But then I think back to those two people standing on the ledge of the 90th floor of the World Trade Center, who held hands and stepped off into space. I think of them, and I just go back to work.
This is the kind of people we have, who’ve been protecting our country. And we’re threatening them with prosecution? It’s insanity. These people are heroes, and we need to stand up for them. So I think that’s what [we should do].
Andrew McCarthy: I want to say one general thing, and then maybe one specific legislative proposal that I think is important.
The general comment is I think that we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. What I think has emerged, particularly in the last year, is that the Left badly misread the election not only of 2008 but, I think, also of 2006, in the sense that they took what I think they were entitled to take as a very ambivalent attitude of the American people toward the war in Iraq. And they read into that a generalized ambivalence, or even opposition, to the war on terror, to the actual threat by al-Qaeda and its affiliates to the American people.
And I think that was a very bad misreading. I don’t believe there’s ever been a time, particularly after 9/11, that the American people have been anything other than completely supportive of the idea that we need to take aggressive measures -- whether they’re surveillance, prosecution, interrogation, what have you -- to protect the American people from attack.
And because this war still resonates with the American people, look at where we are. Despite everything that Obama said in the run up to the election, Gitmo is still open. And it’ll be open for some time. We’re still using military commissions. They did a couple of cosmetic tweaks on them, but they haven’t changed them. And in fact -- think how crazy this is -- actually, they’re using the military commissions to prosecute the bombers of the U.S.S. Cole, even though the Cole was attacked at a time when we didn’t have military commissions and President Bush hadn’t even issued the order yet for military commissions.
So you might ask yourself, you know, rationally, what’s the predicate, what’s the foundation, for trying those guys in a military commission? You know, the answer to that is 9/11. But of course, we’re taking the 9/11 guys, and we’re putting them in a civilian trial. You can’t even wrap your brain around how crazy that is.
But my point is that the military commissions are still up and running. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is not getting a trial in Manhattan. And if I were a betting man, I’d bet he’s not going to get a trial in a civilian court, either. I think ultimately, just because of public support and public protest, those trials are ultimately going to take place in a military commission, which is exactly where they should’ve taken place in the first place.
Remember the issue a few months back of the CIA photos, the so-called prisoner abuse photos? The Justice Department wanted to get those out into the public domain, even though everybody knew that they would be used by the enemy for propaganda and recruitment purposes. Everybody knew it was a bad idea. Justice Department wanted to put it out, anyway, in this ceaseless impulse that they have that there has to be a reckoning against the Bush Administration, which is something that Holder and Obama both talked about in the run up to the election.
Well, those photos never made it out. They never saw the light of day, and they probably never will see the light of day. And the reason is because there was very strong public protest. Basically, the Justice Department had to back down. Obama had to reverse Holder. And despite the fact that you have very large Democratic margins in both houses of Congress, we managed to get legislation through that enabled the Secretary of Defense to sign a finding that made sure that those photographs wouldn’t see the light of day.
And the point is that even though the legislative numbers are daunting against us, this issue is still an issue that powerfully motivates the American people to make themselves heard, when they become aware that there is something to be heard about. And we have managed, for that reason, to be able to stop them from doing a lot of things that they otherwise wanted to do. So I think it’s very important that we continue to stay motivated and continue to do the things that we’ve done, which have stopped them from really acting on their worst impulses.
As far as a concrete legislative proposal is concerned, the worst thing about the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision -- and we could spend hours talking about how bad it was -- is that it dumped all of these habeas corpus cases, these detention cases, onto the district courts with no guidance about the rules or procedures that would govern those proceedings.
And as a result, district judges have actually been releasing people who obviously ought to remain held, and doing it under circumstances where we know at least one in five are going back to the jihad. And I suspect it’s a much higher number. I think Congress has to get into the game here and prescribe some strong procedural rules to guide the courts in how these habeas proceedings are going to take place.
In the criminal -- in the regular criminal civilian courts, we don’t let judges make it up as they go along. They have to follow the federal rules of criminal procedure and the federal rules of evidence, and all sorts of prescriptions that Congress gives them.
This is much more important. We’re dealing with people who, if liberated, want to mass-murder Americans. And I think it’s really incumbent on Congress to act to stop the judges from doing what they’re doing, which is releasing a lot of people who want to go back to killing Americans.
Karen Lugo: We have time for three questions. So I think I’m going to try to address one to each of the panelists. And this one would be starting with Andy -- what is the -- what are the appropriate criteria to determine if alleged terrorists should be tried in federal courts or in military commissions? And do you favor a national security court?
Andrew McCarthy: I do favor a national security court. And I could go on at great length about why. But let me just try to answer the first part of the question, which is -- I think when we’re talking about military commissions, we’re talking about war criminals -- people who have either carried out or been caught in the act of carrying out, or plotting, war crimes against the United States. Those people need to be tried by military commission. If I had my druthers, I would stop having the big fight about, you know, should it be civilian or should it be military court, and try to develop a court that was more tailored to the threat that we’re dealing with.
But given that that’s not in the cards right now, those people belong in military commissions. And I think other people who are -- particularly if they’re captured inside the United States, doing things like Material Support to Terrorism -- presumptively, they belong in the civilian courts. And those are cases that we not only should do; we should do as many of them as we can.
Karen Lugo: Thank you.
And to John Yoo, since you’ve already mentioned your brilliant column about Justice Stevens, and what Obama should do next as far as Supreme Court Justice -- what do you think we can do, as far as influencing the decision on approval or confirmation of the next Supreme Court Justice?
John Yoo: That’s a great question.
You know, I think Obama is going to have to nominate, for his own base, someone who’s pro-abortion and pro-affirmative action. You know, those are the hot-button issues of the last 20, 30 years in Supreme Court nominations. I don’t think anything anybody can do is going to change that. But I think he has a lot of flexibility in who he chooses, in terms of their views on national security.
And so, if Republicans press for that issue, and pick that out as the most important issue to fight about, I think you could push Obama into picking someone much more centrist on those, even though they might not share the views Republicans have on those other two issues. That’s one.
The second thing is, Democrats, I think, in the last election -- I mean, the last administration declared open season on judges. I think there’s no longer any deference that the Senate provides to President’s choice of a judge, which used to be, I think, the unbroken practice for many, many decades, where Justice Byron White -- who was appointed to the Court by President Kennedy -- didn’t even have a hearing when he was confirmed -- he showed up at the Judiciary Committee doors, ready for his hearing. And they said, You don’t need a hearing. And then they voted him, and sent him on to the Senate. Then they confirmed him, all in one day.
That’s all out the window. And so, I think that if the Democrats have opened up the floodgates on this -- as they first started with Judge Bork, I’m afraid, and then with my old boss, Justice Thomas; but then, even lower court appointees in the last administration -- I think that judges -- for good or ill, but this is the way it is now -- are subject for normal political activity and campaigning, [like] any other issue.
And so I think as part of that, then, what you and I can do is place pressure on our senators. Right? We can put up a filibuster now. And I think that if we thought there was going to be someone who was going to approve the kind of policies we’re worried about in the war on terrorism, I think that would be legitimate grounds for a filibuster.
Karen Lugo: Marc, I wish you had many more than a couple of minutes to address this -- how do you feel President Obama’s speeches overseas have affected our national security? In what way has his self-effacing tone of these speeches helped or harmed our national security?
Marc Thiessen: Depends on the speech. His speech in Cairo was a debacle. I don’t know how many people saw it. But he stood before a Muslim audience, speaking to the Arab world, and said that we had tortured people. I mean, in one speech, he confirmed all of the al-Qaeda propaganda and lies that have been spread to the Arab world. The damage that is done in such a speech is irreparable.
So yeah, he’s done a great deal of damage to our national security in confirming this propaganda. The United States didn’t torture anybody. We did what was necessary to protect our country.
And on top of that, the other thing that he doesn’t talk about -- the word that almost never passes his lips -- is freedom. Whether you’re for the Iraq war or against the Iraq war, -- they now have had an election where they’re having debates over -- a big political fight over who’s going to be the next prime minister. I mean, it’s a messy, functioning, young democracy, in the heart of the Middle East. And we’ve done great damage to al-Qaeda by helping the Iraqis stand up this young democracy.
The other day, they killed -- the Iraqi military, which is trained by the United States, with the help of the United States -- killed the top two leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Wasn’t on the front page of the Washington Post, wasn’t on the front page of the New York Times. And when the White House went and made a statement about it, the President sent Joe Biden out to make the statement in the press briefing room, announcing it.
I remember very well, when I was working for President Bush, getting the call late one evening that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been killed; not to tell anybody, but that I needed to draft a statement for him to deliver the next morning in the Rose Garden. It’s considered a huge victory. It’s a victory -- the Iraqi people hated al-Qaeda.
I mean, think about what happened with the surge in Iraq. Al-Qaeda came in to drive America out of Iraq and rally the Sunni masses against us. And the Sunni masses joined with America to drive al-Qaeda out. That’s a huge defeat.
And so the killing of a senior al-Qaeda leader in Iraq is a great moment. The President couldn’t be bothered to even say something, or [issue a] paper statement on it. He doesn’t care about freedom. He doesn’t care about the war on terror. He wants to be the Secretary of Health and Human Service. He was elected to be the Commander in Chief. And being the Commander in Chief requires marshalling words.
President Bush always told us, when we were writing his speeches, that there were three audiences that he was always thinking about when he was speaking. The first was the American people. Actually, four audiences. The first was the American people. The second were our allies around the world, and what message they took from what he said, when we had troops around the world being contributed from all these countries -- how they were going to take the message. The third was the American troops -- were they going to get a message of resolve from him. That’s why he was always criticized for never acknowledging mistakes, or so on, so forth. He wasn’t going to stand up -- as he used to say, I’m not going to get up there as the Commander in Chief and wring my hands in front of our troops on national television. And the last one was our enemies. Our enemies are watching.
And so when the President doesn’t project resolve, when he’s apologizing for America, when he doesn’t talk about victory, or freedom, or the principles of our country, and this war, all of those four audiences are harmed, and are -- their courage is undermined, and [he said] their morale is undermined.
So the President of the United States has the responsibility, as Commander in Chief, not only to run the war on terror but to rally the troops, rally our allies, and rally the American people to support the cause of freedom.
Karen Lugo: These men would all continue to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on behalf of this country in doing what they do. But let’s thank them for what they’ve done for our nation.