The No Jihadi Litigator's War

Yesterday, Ed Morrissey looked at this piece by Peter Beinart:

Peter Beinart makes an interesting, if somewhat contradictory, argument at the Daily Beast regarding Dick Cheney’s argument that the Obama administration doesn’t really think it’s fighting a war against terrorists. On one hand, Beinart argues that the Obama administration successfully rebuked Cheney through its reference to its own rhetoric, in which they used the term “war” as recently as the inauguration almost a year ago. Beinart then argues that Cheney was right after all, and that Barack Obama should embrace the idea that he isn’t fighting a war against radical jihadist terrorism:

But they missed the larger point, which is that while America is obviously at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it isn’t actually at war with jihadist terrorism. Rather than proving Cheney wrong, the White House should have done something more audacious: Prove him right. …

Read both pieces; unsurprisingly I think Morrissey gets the better of Beinart in this debate. Then consider this new headline, which is currently being featured at Hot Air: Va. suspects in Pakistan say mission was jihad not terrorism

Five Northern Virginia men arrested in Pakistan indicated Monday that they plan to fight terrorism charges that Pakistani police are recommending by using a strategy seen in U.S. courtrooms: that they were preparing for jihad but not planning any terror attacks. [...] The men told a Pakistani court that they had neither sought nor established contact with extremist groups and traveled to the region only “to help the helpless Muslims,” according to their Pakistani attorney. As they entered the courtroom, one of the men, Ramy Zamzam, told reporters: “We are not terrorists. We are jihadists, and jihad is not terrorism.”
Pakistani police say the men were in contact with a Taliban recruiter, were seeking to join al-Qaeda and went to Pakistan to carry out terrorist acts. The FBI is also investigating the men, and officials have said the Justice Department is likely to consider charges in the United States.
The emerging legal strategy reflects a view among some lawyers that prosecutors have misused the word jihad, especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that it is a peaceful term that can mean studying Islam and caring for the sick.

“Jihad can take all types of forms, and it’s a great disservice when government officials use jihad and terror interchangeably,” said John K. Zwerling, whose client, Seifullah Chapman, was one of 11 Muslim men convicted after Sept. 11 in federal court in Alexandria of being part of a Virginia jihad network in the so-called paint-ballers case.

After 9/11, could we even imagine that the decades-old (and cowardly) terrorist action of Islamic Fundamentalists against the West would be reduced to tactics of semantics, on all sides?

Sort of how I’d imagine a war fought by litigation might be: we’ll defeat terrorism by ascertaining what the meanign of “is” is.

With the upcoming show-trial of Kalid Sheik Mohammed, we’ll get to see war prosecuted in the courts, soon enough. What a disaster that’s going to be! Let’s imagine:

“Objection your Honor! As the term “jihad” is currently under debate in another court, its use in this trial may be considered prejudicial to my client. We move that the terms, “jihad,” and “jihadi” be thus disallowed at trial. We further object to the use of the words “terrorists,” “extremists,” and “war,” as each of these terms, thanks to history, have become amorphous and may be interpreted in ways misleading to a jury or prejudicial to my clients, who are entitled to due process.”

Oh, speaking of war-by-litigation, Moussaoui’s conviction has been upheld! Mostly because, um…of his own confession.

I sure am glad that all the morons are out of power and the smart lawyers are back in control, aren’t you? KSM’s show trial is going to be a showcase ending in lunacy and sorrow.

Washington Examiner: Treating Terrorism as Ordinary Crime
“A stupid and dangerous game”

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Bender

    “Jihad can take all types of forms, and it’s a great disservice when government officials use jihad and terror interchangeably,” said John K. Zwerling

    And Zwerling does a great disservice to the defense bar, and the legal system in general, when he does not merely defend his clients, but seeks to advance and justify the criminality of their acts.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Anchoress, I fear you’re right; the KSM trial will end in lunacy and sorrow. I’ve opposed trying terrorists as ordinary criminals, from the beginning. And I’m always opposed to putting clever legal types in charge! I work in a legal office, I know what those guys can be like! Semantics? Splitting hairs? Oh, man. . .

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Just you wait! In re KSM, the whole thing might get thrown out because of Miranda rights! (At any rate, you just know they’re going to drag that in at some point! If that doesn’t get the case thrown out, it’ll at least delay things, and muddy the waters!)

  • Margaret

    As I understand it, “jihad” means struggle, and can mean an individual’s internal struggle (against sin, etc.) as well as the murder and mayhem inflicted on “infidels” by the Islamic terrorists.

    I wonder if the semantic game is intended to put the U.S. Government in the position of criminalizing jihad. This is how it will be spun: a Moslem’s duty to examine his/her conscience—prosecuted as an evil thing!

    Many in the Moslem world have shown themselves to be thin-skinned, quick to take offense, and apparently enjoy a permanent state of indignation.

    [The "permanent state of indignation" is becoming endemic among many groups. I'm of the opinion that the whole society is thin-skinned and too quick to take offense, at almost anything. And I think these semantic games help all that along. Keeping things poorly defined allows everyone to take offense at almost anything. More and more, this line from Marcus Aurelius is singing to me: "Take away the complaint, 'I have been harmed' and the harm is taken away." -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Semantic games are never a good idea.

  • dry valleys

    When reading about Islamic fundamentalists at Heresy Corner I was reminded of Islamic Rageboy- remember him? I once saw a clock with his enraged face on it- I wonder what he’ll get up to next, eh?

    I am of that section of the left which never saw jihadists as owt other than implacable enemies. Because the fact is, the Muslim world has got its fair share of problems, but this lot exploit them & contribute to them rather than making any attempt to get them alleviated. So this fatally undermines the root cause argument. While some liberals are not fully awake, a lot are- I hail the work of Johann Hari in particular in this department, & his chum Malalai Joya who is an Afghan feminist & whose work is unsettling- such as her opposition to western military force- but compelling. I don’t so much carry a torch for the Hitch but he is also under no illusions.

    What we really need is for western liberal feminists to somehow get the women to rise up against this set of eunuchs. We really need to grasp the fact that a lot of people who have never committed an act of violence in their lives, & are fully anti-terrorist, are nevertheless bitterly opposed to liberal values. But I see that it’s always hard for people to assert themselves against a loud, dominant & powerful minority.

    This Anjem Choudhary is really provoking me though. I would probably laugh if they kicked him out. Did you know he carries out his agitation whilst living on welfare? Remarkable. Apparently he is facing opposition but watch this space.

  • Texas Red

    The use of “jihad” as referring to anything aside from physical struggle, especially against the infidel and apostate, dates to shortly after the Great Mutiny in India in 1857. South Asian Moslems who wanted to return to the British Government’s good graces (and to get jobs in the government once the crown took over from the East India Company) developed concept of greater and lesser jihad. Until that point, jihad meant what most of us take it to mean – armed “struggle.” Andrew Bostum, among others, has a good history of the practice and the concept.

  • Kurt

    Slightly off-topic, but related. Did anyone else see this story about the Muslim high school students who wore t-shirts glorifying 9-11?

    I’d hope that the authorities would do more than just confiscate the shirts, but I suspect that that was as far as it went.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    My predictions for 2010:

    1. Islamic Rage Boy will be up to—no good.

    2. Western feminists will support Islamic women when Heck freezes over, and starts serving frozen yogurt.

    (Pray for the Iranians; they are rising up against the mullahs, and, so far, they’re having a hard time of it. As for welfare, it’s allowed far too many like Choudhary to agitate against the West.)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Kurt, yes, I saw that story; I’m surprised they went so far as to confiscate the shirts.

  • Tempus Fugit

    Obama attended a madrassa as a kid. He’s the jihadchurian candidate. Well, he sure acts like it.

  • dry valleys

    What is Ophelia Benson if not a Western feminist & secularist who criticises Islam alongside all other religions?

    I have got both the books she co-wrote with Jeremy Stangroom. They are withering attacks on “postmodernism” & admit that Islam is probably the most reactionary of them all. But you’ll search in vain for a conservative sentiment there. They also solidly disagree with right-wing “solutions” to the problem of theocracy.

  • Gayle Miller

    Shakespeare understated the case!

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    One Western feminist/secularist who, apparently, is opposed to all religions, doth not a strong, liberal, feminist opposition to Islamic oppression of women make. I seriously doubt feminist, anti-religious secularists are ever going to get women in the Islamic world to rise up.

    For one thing, at least on this side of the Atlantic, they’re pretty solidly anti-Israel, hence unwilling to do, or say, anything that would appear to be supporting “Zionism”; if this means ignoring the plight of Islamic women—well, that’s the way the politically correct ball bounces.

    I probably would “search in vain” for a “conservative sentiment” in Ms. Benson’s writing; honestly, I wouldn’t even expect one from a feminist/secularist, any more than I’d expect a stirring defense of atheism from a Christian apologist.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Sadly, Gayle, I’m beginning to think he did!

    (The Bard is da man! He knew!)

  • dry valleys

    Sam Harris Responds To Koran Armstrong

    Armstrong, along with her pals Madeleine Bunting (Britain’s answer to Ada Calhoun) & Terry Eagleton (the answer to a question someone somewhere bitterly regrets asking), is not well liked in the sort of circles I frequent.

    I once met one of Eagleton’s disciples. He really did hold the view you’re attacking. But I don’t, & didn’t at all enjoy the experience. Whereas I do like popping by this blog.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    In all honesty, I think the stance that “all religions are equally bad, and equally to blame for religious fanaticism” is dishonest, and dodging the question; a dodge to evade the “Islamophobic/racist” accusation (and/or a fatwa, and the fate of Theo Van Gough), and taking the opportunity (a pretty safe one, in the modern world) to bash Judeo-Christianity.

    It wasn’t Baptists, who steered airplanes filled with civilians into the Twin Towers on 9/11. It wasn’t a Buddhist who perpetrated the Ft. Hood massacre, a Hindu who was arrested in the recent “panty bomb” plot and it wasn’t members of the Bah’ai faith, or the fighting Wiccans, who’ve been behind all the terror plots uncovered in 2009.

    And, of course, getting (kind’ve) back to my original point, it does nothing to help oppressed Moslem women—or oppressed Moslems, period (remember the Iranian protestors); it’s not an attitude that helps much of anybody, really. It dismisses whole blocks of the population: Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc. since they’re, allegedly, just as irrational and dangerous as Islamic homicide bombers, and does nothing to help those secular progressives purport to champion.