Ten years ago most left-thinking liberals were constantly worried about the erosion of civil liberties under the War on Terror, though they could rarely name an instance where an American citizen had actually experienced such an erosion.
This was, after all, before the days when naked scanners and drone strikes had entered the vocabulary, and the best they could do was to haul out Jose Padilla, aka Abdullah al-Muhajir, ACLU’s choirboy of the month, a Brooklyn-born convert to Islam who was being held in jail for no reason at all except aiding terrorists and plotting to build a dirty bomb.
Ten years later the lefty civil liberties types were proven right. The War on Terror did erode our civil liberties, and America’s first political prisoner in generations has spent a month in jail for making an inconvenient movie at an inconvenient time.
When Charles Woods, the father of Tyrone Woods, one of the Navy SEALS who died fighting in Benghazi, met with Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State assured him that “We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.” And they got him, officially on charges of violating parole, unofficially on charges of violently offending violent Muslims.
The woman whose policy had overthrown the Libyan government and then placed a barely defended consulate in the middle of a city of jihadists did not promise the grieving father that his son’s killers would pay. She promised him that the man who offended his son’s killers would pay. Not only would his son be the first casualty of that appeasement policy, but the Constitution that his son had sworn to support and defend would be the second casualty.
Mark Basseley Youssef is not the first filmmaker to have been sent to prison by a Democrat in the White House for making the wrong kind of movie and interfering with his foreign policy. That would be Robert Goldstein who made the The Spirit of ‘76, a movie about the American Revolution, at a time when Woodrow Wilson was trying to get Americans deeper into World War I.
Wilson’s Justice Department directed Chicago Police Deputy Superintendent Metellus Lucullus Cicero Funkhouser to confiscate The Spirit of ‘76, and Goldstein spent three years in prison and eventually died in a Nazi concentration camp. Both Youssef and Goldstein made two bad movies that were politically inconvenient. The Spirit of ‘76 was not welcome in 1917 and the origin of Muslim violence is not an appropriate topic for 2012.
Goldstein’s federal trial took place in the Southern District of California. Mark Basseley Youssef’s trial will take place in the Central District of California. The strange confluence of using Chicago politics and California federal courtrooms to cover up the nakedness of a progressive president’s policies has a certain resonance less than one hundred years later. Youssef and his video trailer made a convenient scapegoat so that progressive politicians could avoid talking about the collapse of Libya into roving bands of Islamist militias and the triumph of Al Qaeda in North Africa.
After Obama had denounced Youssef in every forum from 60 Minutes to the United Nations to Pakistani TV, he was arrested, not to protect the Innocence of Muslims, but to protect the Innocence of Obama.
Blaming the Innocence of Muslims briefly silenced the more dangerous questions about what had gone wrong in Benghazi and the even more dangerous questions about what had gone wrong with the Arab Spring. Youssef, like Goldstein, was a foreigner, and an excellent choice as a scapegoat. And for weeks people focused on Youssef and his many aliases, and not on the question of why Americans died in Benghazi.
Americans died in Benghazi for the same reason that American hostages had been taken in Iran and for the same reason that Leon Klinghoffer had been murdered on the Achille Lauro and US Marines had died in Beirut. They died because their government had appeased Muslims, had given their terrorist groups hope that they could achieve their aims if they killed enough people, had saved them at the moment of their greatest weakness and had elevated them to power.
The innocence of Obama is intertwined with the innocence of Muslims. If Muslims are innocent of terror, then so is the foreign policy that has empowered them. But if Muslims are guilty of terror then the politicians who have pandered to them are guilty of enabling it at the least. If Muslims are innocent of terror, then Obama is innocent of complicity in their terror. But if Muslim terror is a true thing, then the man who helped them unleash it by toppling stable governments and replacing them with Islamist movements and militias shares in their guilt.
The War on Terror has not impeded the civil liberties of those who oppose the war, but of those who oppose the terror.
Under the new civil liberties, the right of a Muslim to praise terrorists, upload videos promoting terrorism and even fund terrorist charities would be sacrosanct under the Bill of Rights. But make a movie mocking Mohammed and suddenly the Bill of Rights won’t be returning your phone calls as you are being frog-marched to your new cell.
In civil liberties circles it is claimed that the war against terrorism has deprived Muslims of their civil rights, but in reality Muslims have gained rights, while we have lost them. The balance between the civil rights of Americans and the need to avoid offending Muslims has been shifting their way, and we all pay the price when we fly and soon enough we will begin paying it when we talk.
America’s first political prisoner in generations is under arrest for offending Muslims and as a cover for Obama’s failed policy of appeasing Muslims. If history is any guide, then he will not be the last. The more bombs go off, the more buildings burn and the more questions are asked, the more Youssefs will be needed to deflect those questions and protect the innocence of Muslims and of their political panderers.
The War on Terror is a war waged to convince Americans that there is no such thing as Muslim terrorism and to convince Muslims that they should stop being terrorists.
The more people die of Muslim violence, the more the innocence of Muslims must be upheld, because it is no longer just the innocence of Muslims that is at stake, but the innocence of the political establishment that has looked away from Muslim terrorism. And a political establishment determined to protect its innocence will go to any length to cover up its crimes
After the Arab Spring and the Libyan War, it has become impossible to untangle the guilt of Obama from the guilt of Islamists. That is the dirty secret that the establishment is determined to protect. The cover-up of Islam’s conduct has become their cover-up of their own conduct as well. So long as Islam can claim innocence, they can claim innocence as well, and those who challenge the innocence of Muslims and by extension the innocence of the political establishment will become the first political prisoners.
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