Alex Massie

Because nothing enhances security like torture...

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The worst column I've read* today was written by the Washington Post's Richard Cohen who, I think, likes to style himself some kind of liberal. Note: this doesn't mean he's my kind of liberal. Anyway, here's how his execrable piece begins:

There is almost nothing the Obama administration does regarding terrorism that makes me feel safer. Whether it is guaranteeing captured terrorists that they will not be waterboarded, reciting terrorists their rights, or the legally meandering and confusing rule that some terrorists will be tried in military tribunals and some in civilian courts, what is missing is a firm recognition that what comes first is not the message sent to America's critics but the message sent to Americans themselves. When, oh when, will this administration wake up?

Never mind that other countries - including Britain - seem to have managed to try terrorist suspects, including non-natives, in civilian courts without this making anyone feel "less safe" or encouraging the bad guys to redouble their efforts.

Cohen continues:

The announced closing of Guantanamo has also suffered from a peculiar Obama-style naivete. It is now apparent that there are some bad people there who should be detained way past the time they are eligible for AARP membership. It's true that the world does not like Guantanamo, but then it's also true that the world is not an al-Qaeda target.


For that matter, Cohen seems to think that closing Gitmo - that is, moving detainees to a different location - would be some kind of namby-pamby concession to latte-sipping euro-weenies and, what's more, do nothing to improve US security. Well, perhaps it wouldn't but it's also obviously the case that keeping detainees at Gitmo does nothing to enhance American security either.

No, all Cohen wants is the comforting feeling of increased security, regardless of whether or not the grounds for those feelings actually do anything to improve security. Evidence and analysis, to say nothing of justice, ethics and decency, be damned. It's a bizarre fusion of Oprah and Bill Kristol that is just as idiotic and deplorable as you would think any such grisly combination must be.

Finally, Cohen's approach actually dignifies AQ and its associates, affording them an elevated status they scarcely merit. These malevolent fools want to be considered wartime detainees. So why accomodate that desire? Better to treat them as especially gruesome, but still common, criminals.

*There may well be worse ones I haven't read but Cohen sets the bar pretty high.

UPDATE: Adam Serwer has more on Cohen's appalling column.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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