December 28, 2009

Al-Qa'idah members - criminals or combatants?

AQAP press release

The recent case of the 23-year old Nigerian who attempted to blow up an American airliner on a flight from Europe to the United States on Christmas highlights a continuing problem that goes back at least as far as the presidency of Bill Clinton. Clinton believed that persons who conduct acts of terrorism are basically criminals and should be handled by the judicial system.

President Obama initially referred to 'Umar al-Faruq 'Abd al-Mutalib as a lone extremist and an "alleged bomber." In fact - as later acknowledged by the President and his confused Secretary of Homeland Security - 'Abd al-Mutalib was trained in Yemen by al-Qa'idah. The poster above is part of a press kit released by al-Malahim, the media branch of the al-Qa'idah in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Note that al-malahim is Arabic for "fierce battles, slaughters."

My translation of the Arabic on the poster:

----The Al-Qa'idah Jihad Organization in the Arabian Peninsula
----The operation of Brother Holy Warrior
----'Umar al-Faruq al-Nijiri

The use of the honorific name 'Umar al-Faruq al-Nijiri, translated as 'Umar al-Faruq the Nigerian, is a common style among al-Qa'idah militants. Often they will use a kunya - Abu ____ is the most common - followed by a geographic designator. That is why you read about many militants with final names al-Masri (the Egyptian), al-Libi (the Libyan), al-Maghrabi (the Moroccan), etc. A good example is Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi (Father of Mus'ab, of Zarqa' - a city in Jordan).

It appears that President Obama is reverting to the same Clinton policies that failed to prevent al-Qa'idah from mounting attacks on the two American embassies in Africa in 1998, the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 and the World Trade Center in 2001. Following the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, President Bush attempted to have captured al-Qa'idah militants labeled as "unlawful combatants" with no legal rights under the Constitution, nor eligible for protection under the Geneva Conventions. This has been successfully and unfortunately challenged in U.S. courts.

The court did however agree that al-Qa'idah detainees can be tried by U.S. military tribunals, which seemed like a workable compromise. However, in its attempts to put the previous administration (and some of our intelligence officers) on trial, Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to try at least four of the senior al-Qa'idah leadership in federal courts in New York City. With that decision comes the attachment of all legal rights of American citizen - right to remain silent, right to counsel, rules of evidence, etc.

The Obama Administration is treating committed enemy combatants as common criminals. The poster above belies that mistaken theory. These people are not common criminals - they are warriors. Misguided by a perverted interpretation of Islam, yes, but warriors nonetheless. They have an organization, a hierarchy, resources, plans and a fervent commitment that far exceeds criminal enterprise. Criminals have a profit motive - these mujahidin (holy warriors) have a political and religious ideology.

These photos show 'Abd al-Mutalib's underwear and the explosives hidden inside. This is not the work of a criminal - this is the work of a committed mujahid, a holy warrior, a terrorist.

'Abd al-Mutalib's underwear

PETN explosive
This amount of the explosive PETN (a major ingredient of the terrorists' preferred explosive Semtex) is more than enough to destroy an airliner in flight - it is more than used by the "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid. Fortunately, PETN requires the use of a strong detonator - the acid used by this terrorist was not sufficient to cause a detonation and only started the PETN on fire. I have lit Semtex with a match (don't ask) - it burns hotly but does not explode.

What is critical in the Clinton/Obama approach is how we can treat people like 'Abd al-Mutalib. Both Clinton and Obama are lawyers and view the world from that particular optic. Evidence, arguments, rules, procedures - and civility. None of those apply to this war in which we find ourselves.

Once we attach citizen's rights to these terrorists, we lose the ability to effectively interrogate them for useful intelligence. Does the President not believe that 'Abd al-Mutalib may be able to provide information on al-Qa'idah personalities, plans, training, capabilities, contacts, procedures, etc.? We need to extract and exploit all we information can from these captured combatants, not allow them to "lawyer up" and deny us the intelligence we need to better defend ourselves.

These militants are not criminals, they are combatants - start treating them like it. 'Abd al-Mutalib should be in an interrogation cell in Guantanamo, not a jail in Michigan.