Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

03/15/2010 (9:32 am)

The Gitmo Bar: How Deeply Compromised is the Holder DOJ?

Allow me to draw your attention to a fascinating and vital debate being waged among blog heavyweights on the right over what was originally called The Al Qaeda Seven, but has come to be more appropriately labeled The Gitmo Bar. The topic: does the fact that several attorneys in the Department of Justice defended Guantanamo detainees render them incompetent to prosecute the war against al Qaeda? Primary participants include former US Attorney Andy McCarthy pitted against PowerLine’s Paul Mirengoff, with side comments from Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthamer, Mark Steyn, Ann Coulter, all against a backdrop of the usual poo-flinging from the left.

At this point, everybody in the debate agrees that the answer to that specific question is “No.” However, a number of players, championed by Andy McCarthy, are arguing that the core beliefs of some attorneys, beliefs that led them gladly to volunteer for the specific pro bono work of defending al Qaeda’s worst, so hamstrings them in the prosecution of the war against Islamic violence that their very presence in the Department of Justice endangers Americans — indeed, that President Obama’s ideological agreement with these attorneys renders his entire foreign policy impotent against Islam-inspired terrorism.

The debate was kicked off about two weeks ago in response to an advertisement produced by a public advocacy group called Keep America Safe, over the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder had appointed what he represented as seven attorneys to his staff who had performed “pro bono” legal work in defense of detainees at the prison at Guantanamo Bay. KAS was demanding that Holder release the names, claiming a public right to know. Here’s the ad to refresh your memories:

Paul Mirengoff, over at PowerLine, reacted to this badly, taking “al Qaeda seven” as a slur against a venerable legal tradition of defending unpopular clients. McCarthy responded by producing what I regard as the definitive statement about the issue in an editorial at the National Review:

Jihadists believe it is proper to massacre innocent people in order to compel the installation of sharia as a pathway to Islamicizing society. No one for a moment believes, or has suggested, that al-Qaeda’s American lawyers share that view. But jihadist terrorists, and Islamist ideology in general, also hold that the United States is the root of all evil in the world, that it is the beating heart of capitalist exploitation of society’s have-nots, and that it needs fundamental, transformative change.

This, as I argue in a book to be published this spring, is why Islam and the Left collaborate so seamlessly. They don’t agree on all the ends and means. In fact, Islamists don’t agree among themselves about means. But before they can impose their utopias, Islamists and the Left have a common enemy they need to take down: the American constitutional tradition of a society based on individual liberty, in which government is our servant, not our master. It is perfectly obvious that many progressive lawyers are drawn to the jihadist cause because of common views about the need to condemn American policies and radically alter the United States.

That doesn’t make any lawyer unfit to serve. It does, however, show us the fault line in the defining debate of our lifetime, the debate about what type of society we shall have. And that political context makes everyone’s record fair game. If lawyers choose to volunteer their services to the enemy in wartime, they are on the wrong side of that fault line, and no one should feel reluctant to say so.

The political context — what sort of government we choose to vote for in coming elections — is the first and largest concern, but not the only one. McCarthy in a later point in the discussion recalls American attorney Lynn Stewart, whose defense of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman included acts that a jury decided amounted to material aid of an enemy, resulting in her being disbarred and sent to prison. A review of that case reveals deep sympathies between the American hard left and Islamic radicalism that can apparently spill over into overt acts against the United States in wartime. If there exist attorneys with similar sympathies in the Justice Department, we need to know, and they need to go.

Ann Coulter, in her characteristically snippy dismissal of Mirengoff’s concern, highlights the apparent sympathy between al Qaeda and the American left by noting that these particular detainees were anything but unpopular, but in fact carried a sort of radical chic among top law firms that attracted 34 of the 50 largest firms in the nation to defend them, and gave progressive attorneys opportunities to congratulate each other over “speaking truth to power.” This odd-seeming affinity between progressives and radical Islam has been explored before: it was the subject of David Horowitz’s somewhat arcane book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, and also the subject of one of my earliest essays, back when this blog was just a personal Yahoo page.

The common link appears to be hatred for the Christian West. Progressivism and Islam each apparently believe that in order for its goals to be achieved, the Christian basis for Western civilization must be neutralized by undermining its devotion to individual liberty and conscience, and the economic vitality that these create. The irony lies in the clear divergence between the goals of progressivism and those of Islam, which are, in fact, competing religions. Each apparently believes that once the Christianity of the West has been dismissed, that they will easily defeat the other. So, for the time being, progressives, who believe in a collective consciousness under a secular, progressive state, are cooperating with violent Islamic fundamentalists, who believe in a collective consciousness under sharia law, enforced by a religious, Islamic state. (For the link between American fundamental liberty and Christianity, see here, here, and here.)

wryBobThis explains to some degree why it is that Western progressives choose to side with Islamic radicals against their fellow Westerners. There’s no immediately apparent reason why they ought to; they could just as easily have chosen to defend their Western, Christian neighbors against the common threat posed by Islam, which is both migrating and, in some forms, invading, and then later, once the Islamic threat had been vanquished, return to squabbling with the right over power in America. Instead, they chose their affinity to statism over their affinity to Westernness, and proceeded to cooperate with Islam in taking down Christianness in the West. This buttresses (but does not actually prove) my own thesis that these movements have a common source in Hell, and that ultimately, what they hate is the name of Christ and the liberty and prosperity that arise from welcoming His rule.

At any rate, the debate proceeded through another few rounds, with this thoughtful response from Mirengoff, this interjection from Jonah Goldberg, Saturday’s comment from McCarthy, Goldberg’s reply on Sunday, and McCarthy’s final comment on Sunday. Attorney Stephen Jones’ contribution (Jones defended Timothy McVeigh) in the Wall Street Journal is correctly dismissed as a red herring, since nobody disagrees that unpopular clients need representation, nor is anybody, least of all Keep America Safe, claiming that any lawyer who defends Guantanamo detainees is necessarily a member of al Qaeda.

McCarthy intimates that further revelations indicating potentially shocking sympathies between DOJ attorneys and their pro bono clients at Guantanamo are forthcoming. We should pay close attention.

The reaction of the Left to this serious and relevant intellectual discussion was singularly anti-intellectual, but sadly predictable. They picked up on Mirengoff’s disagreement, and used a disingenuously-manufactured sound bite to slander Liz Cheney, one of the founders of Keep America Safe. Sam Stein at Huffington Post called Mirengoff and asked him a leading question comparing Cheney to former US Senator Joseph McCarthy, recalling the (leftist-historian-enhanced) fright over Communism in the 1950. HuffPo’s editors then mischaracterized Mirengoff’s answer in the headline, “Conservatives Turn Against Liz Cheney — As Bad As McCarthy.” Mirengoff explained mildly that Stein had misused his words, but the left quickly flung their new talking point far and wide: using Google to query “Liz Cheney worse than McCarthy” results in 4.7 million hits on that combination of words:


Andy McCarthy (no relation to Joe) points out a crucial difference between right and left in this debate, one that highlights the reason that I am calling for national partition to separate ourselves from the progressives. Even the most extreme responses from the right — I classify my own call for partition as one of those — are political, and well within the ethical and legal mechanisms available to citizens of good character: we want to know who to vote for, we want to know how to petition the government, we ultimately want sound national defense policy. In stark contrast to this, the political left in America has engaged in an 8-year-long witch hunt against attorneys for the Bush administration that is far outside the bounds of civil society. The goal of this ongoing vendetta is to destroy the attorneys who counseled the President to construct the enhanced interrogation regime. They don’t care which mechanism they finally use to destroy them; they have attempted to ruin their reputations in their neighborhoods, take their jobs, end their careers, prosecute them in American courts, prosecute them in international courts. It was only by the intervention of a single, Democratic attorney with a sound professional ethic and the right position in the DOJ that attorneys John Yoo and John Bybee escaped prosecution by the Holder “Justice” Department. This entire, decade-long campaign aims to enforce a simple declaration: counsel your clients differently than progressive dogma dictates, and they will destroy your life. This is not the rule of law, it’s scorched earth. It’s mob justice, by thugs.

For what it’s worth, I agree that the phrase “al Qaeda Seven” is unfair. I also agree that Keep America Safe was correct in calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to release the names of attorneys who represented Gitmo detainees, which he did through a back door a few days later (the number is now 10, and counting.) And I agree that it is perfectly appropriate to examine precisely what the sympathies are of these attorneys whose prestigious firms took such delight in defending America’s enemies.

The debate over the Gitmo Bar included some interesting discussion regarding the distinction between Islam and Islamism (peaceful vs. violent jihad) that deserves some comment. I’ll leave that ’till tomorrow.

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March 16, 2010 @ 12:11 pm #

Would the original military tribunals set up by the Bush administration have used civilian defense attorneys? That would have removed the temptation to grandstand by progressive lawyers.

March 17, 2010 @ 8:21 am #

Would the original military tribunals set up by the Bush administration have used civilian defense attorneys? That would have removed the temptation to grandstand by progressive lawyers.

No, they did not. However, Civilian defense attorneys deliberately took up the cause of the detainees in civilian courts, claiming that the courts had jurisdiction. The military tribunals were put on hold wherever a civilian challenge occurred, pending the outcome of the civilian challenges.

And then, dishonest leftists began using the delay of the military tribunals as proof that military tribunals don’t work! It even showed up in the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Beaumedienne v Rumsfeld. The delay was entirely the result of detainees choosing to challenge the process in civilian courts, and the military’s decision to wait for the outcome of those challenges.

March 18, 2010 @ 11:11 am #

That’s what I thought. I wish I were surprised.

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