Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be prosecuted in a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay.
In a statement befitting this whiniest of administrations, Holder was querulous. “Members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the Administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States,” Holder said. “Those unwise and unwarranted restrictions undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could undermine our national security,” he complained. And in case this point wasn’t clear enough, he pouted yet again, saying, “Sadly, this case has been marked by needless controversy since the beginning, but despite all the arguments and debate that it has engendered, the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators should never have been about settling ideological arguments or scoring political points.”
It was never really about “settling ideological arguments or scoring political points”; it was about having an honest debate over how best to protect the nation in accordance with our laws and values.
What Holder neglected to mention is that (as the Wall Street Journal inconveniently points out) for the first two years of the Obama presidency Democrats controlled Congress—and Democrats passed a law that blocked the funding for civilian trials for Guantanamo detainees. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, hailed the decision to try KSM at GITMO as the “final nail in the coffin of that wrong-headed idea.”
Barack Obama’s self-righteous pronouncements and promises from earlier in his presidency and candidacy are now melting like a snow cone in summer. The apex of the president’s arrogance may have been his speech to the National Archives in May 2009, when he suggested that he alone would wash out the stain on America’s reputation that Guantanamo (among other things) represented. “By any measure,” Obama said, “the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. That is why I argued that it should be closed throughout my campaign. And that is why I ordered it closed within one year.”
Obama’s order, among the first of his presidency, is now inoperative. The former Chicago community organizer has learned that it is far easier to give a speech than it is to govern a nation competently.
In many respects, the president is locking in the national security architecture set up by his predecessor. Obama’s moralizing sermons have bowed to reality. Many of them now look shallow and simplistic. Against his wishes, contrary to his promises, the right thing is being done on several fronts. And the president and his attorney general are apparently enraged by it.