The news yesterday that a Guantanamo detainee has been moved to New York to stand trial struck me with bemusement.
The Obama administration has apparently determined that it can roll over opposition to bringing detainees into the country for trial and imprisonment. Arguments against doing so are fear‐based pap, and political losers.
House Minority Leader John Boehner has not failed to provide. He said in a statement:
This is the first step in the Democrats’ plan to import terrorists into America.… . There are more than 200 of the world’s most dangerous men held at the Guantanamo Bay prison. Does the Administration plan to transfer all of them into our nation in this way?
Boehner’s apparent aim was to make political gains by appealing to the fears of a domestic U.S. audience, suggesting that President Obama is not safeguarding the country. He — and most U.S. politicians today — are “on tilt” about terrorism, playing to a “base” of caterwauling Islamophobes while the bulk of the American public looks on bewildered and disappointed.
But put aside domestic audiences. Think of what Boehner’s comment signals to international audiences, particularly, say, disaffected men in the Middle East: Americans are scared to death of terrorists. Just sitting in Guantanamo can make you “one of the world’s most dangerous men” to U.S. political leaders. Swathe yourself with the Al Qaeda brand and you can become a global menace. Boehner’s fear of terrorists encourages opponents of the U.S. to adopt terrorism as a tool against us.
Over the long haul, exhibiting bravery in the face of terrorism will tend to discourage it. Being brave is desirable and politically popular. Minority Leader Boehner has Republicans looking weak and scared in the face of terrorism and — having been ignored by Obama — politically weak too.