Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Some Thoughts on Hitchens

Andrew Sullivan quotes Christopher Hitchens on his decision to join the ACLU lawsuit against NSA surveillance of suspected terrorist international communications with persons (possibly US citizens) in the U.S.

Scott Johnson at Powerline has characterized the motivations of the plaintiffs, including Hitchens. It makes thoughtful reading. Shame on Hitchens for joining this fight, at this time, against so effective a weapon in the arsenal. That he has been as resolute as he has, in seeing the threat and calling it by name, makes the sudden reluctance of this warrior all the more troubling. Perhaps we will come to see his logic, or his retreat from the argument. I doubt I’ll come to terms with his conclusion, that this President takes too much liberty with his explicit and implicit powers, as I am in the camp of those who say we could do so much more, and with more vigor.

I am no lawyer, but it strikes me that some of the parties involved have no real legal standing in the suit, and the others are actively involved in a struggle to defeat the U.S. and the current administration. Some do so via political struggle, some via legal maneuvering, but fellow travelers are they all, with the intent of frustrating U.S. military and intelligence efforts against known forces of terror.

Some in the suit are prominent and active in defense of accused terrorists. That may give them reason to think their efforts to defend their clients in legal proceedings might be damaged. It should also strongly suggest, that at least for some of these plaintiffs, their effort to enjoin this suit is no more than another tactical move in the Al Qaeda playbook. That’s a known and widely reported strategy of the Jihadist, to use our legal systems against the infidel. Honest critics of Administration policy should be very cautious indeed at discounting such motivations and stratagems as McCarthyite paranoia.

Congress voted to give President Bush as Commander in Chief broad powers to wage war, even if in doing so they evaded (and failed in) their Constitutional responsibilities to declare war and direct spending (not to wage war, I might add, which is a power and responsibility of the Executive Branch). They did so because we are at war, and yet the war is very different from any we have fought in the past, and the enemy difficult to define, aligned with rogue nations, but not defined by nation states.

Hence the illogic and fruitlessness of diplomatic or law enforcement solutions to the problem.

Surely the NY Times will never be convinced in the logical inconsistencies of their own reporting (and biases), then and now. But I retain faith that thoughtful liberals such as Hitchens, ones who can reach common ground with conservatives, who likewise remember the older liberal (and truly progressive) tradition, can be won over.

Beyond that, I want to answer the concluding question posed by Sullivan in his post:

why are there not more conservatives skeptical of a newly intrusive government power? Has it occurred to them that these powers may one day be deployed by a president they don't trust?

As very well documented by now, the Clinton Administration, led in the fight by Jamie Gorelick of “Wall of Separation” fame, early and often sought, took, and defended Clinton era surveillance efforts that are identical to or exceed those sought by the Bush Administration. This Government power may be instrusive to some, but it is not new by any means.

And deployed they were, by a President that in fact was broadly distrusted and despised by many of the supporters of the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. William Jefferson Clinton, to be precise. And an administration for which there were some non-trivial accusations of political dirty tricks with multiple Presidential powers, despite few convictions.

It seems to me that conservatives not only survived two terms of Clinton and undiscussed excesses of Federal Government power without much damage. Some might say they were invigorated, and gained the means of a power reversal they still enjoy.

Hitchens has been a solid soldier in the Global War on Terror, and perhaps we can overlook his sudden change of heart on an important tool of counter-terrorism.

(Via Instapundit)

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