Skip to comments.Brennan gets it wrong at NYU
Posted on 02/16/2010 9:15:26 PM PST by Jet Jaguar
John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser and top counterterrorism aide to President Obama, has come under increasing fire recently over the governments handling of Umar Abdulmutallab. Republican critics have complained that the Detroit bomber was read his Miranda rights too quickly, meaning vital intelligence could not be extracted from him, and called for him to be treated as an enemy combatant and therefore subejct to military tribunal. Both Brennan and the White House said Republicans were playing politics, with Brennan claiming that unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda (as opposed to the founded fear-mongering that Brennan would presumably approve of).
Brennans counterterrorism talk at New York University law school last weekend was an attempt to further rebuff his critics. Instead, he managed to get several things quite spectacularly wrong. I am far more concerned about US national security at the end of this speech than at the beginning of it.
First off, Brennan makes a mistake common amongst government officials by getting involved in religious disputes he has no business being involved in, saying that terrorists:
[A]re not jihadists, for jihad is a holy struggle, an effort to purify for a legitimate purpose, and there is nothing absolutely nothing holy or pure or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.
Whether we agree with Brennan is neither here nor there. The problem is that I have no idea why the deputy NSA feels he has to try and be a theologian, and what makes him qualified to rule on the naunces of jihad. It is not the role of government counterterrorism officials to instruct anyone what Islam or any religion is and what it isnt.
Brennan also commented that We are not waging a war against terrorism because terrorism is but a tactic that will never be defeated. When I heard this I thought I had been transported back at an undergraduate university classroom. The National Security Strategy of September 2002 which laid out the principles of the war on terror did not claim it could end terrorism, but actually aimed to prevent the Saddams of the world from acquiring doomsday weapons which they could then provide to terrorist groups. While terrorist training camps were uprooted and al-Qaeda pursued, the war on terror as perceived by Bush was essentially a war on state capacity. Brennan is misrepresenting previous US policy in the crudest of ways.
He went on to claim that the 20% recidivism rate for those formerly detained in Guantanamo is not bad, as in the US prison system it is closer to 50%. It is entirely the wrong comparison to make. First off, a 50% recidivism rate is a terrible statistic in the first place Brennan almost uses as it as a source of pride. Secondly, 50% of those leaving prison are not intending to commit terrorist acts in which they hope to kill as many as possible. That 1 in 5 who leave Guantanamo are intending to contribute to a cause that desires exactly that can in no way be described as a not bad situation.
It was also depressing to hear Brennan talk of violent extremists . This is a phrase lifted directly from Whitehall instructions not to refer to any possible Islamist dimension to terrorist acts, out of fear that it is misunderstood in Muslim communities. The Islamist aspect of Major Nidal Hassans murderous rampage was also whitewashed entirely by the Pentagon in their report into the Fort Hood shootings. Removing Islamism from the equation entirely is a backwards step. The US is following the UK by refusing to acknowledge that interpretations of parts of Islamic text has led to an assumption among a small amount of extremist Muslims that there is a divine justification in terrorism. This is not a controversial view among most reasonable people yet neither government is willing to publicly accept what is clearly the truth.
The talk carries on in a similarly disheartening vain. Obamas counter-terrorism strategy appears to be taking on a more British flavour by the day. And Britains record on this is nothing that any US government should be aspiring to match.
Perhaps by 2013 we can get back to being the United States of America, a free, proud and prosperous People of the most powerful country in the world.... maybe we will, if we can last that long.