Back in 2004, John Kerry was pilloried for suggesting that fighting terrorism was a law enforcement issues. His opponents instead mocked his approach as effeminate and ineffective, preferring the testosterone-fueled war and torture strategy of Bush and Cheney. Bush and Cheney might have persuaded more people, but Kerry was fundamentally correct. For fighting terrorism is primarily an issue of law enforcement. It is a criminal activity that must be dealt with like any other criminal activity, where basic human rights are respected and all are treated equally under the law. And over the past few years, despite the fevered imagination of Cheney and his Thiesseneque defenders, the agents of law enforcement have scored many victories, while the torturers have left behind a legal and moral disaster in their wake. The arrest of the would-be Times Square bomber is yet another example.
But many on the right still don’t get it. If we are not torturing or bombing somebody, then something must be wrong. Even now, the usual suspects are making a fuss, with John McCain criticizing the decision to read the Times Square bomber his Miranda rights. These same people prefer military tribunals, locking people up for years without charge, and torture. As well as violating the moral law, these tactics are bound to backfire and will actually increase terrorism.The other issue is the hypocrisy. For these standards seem to only apply to Muslims. Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist; nobody called for these tactics against him. When an anti-government zealot hijacked a plane, flew it into a building and killed people, there was no testosterone-fueled outcry – in fact, some of these very people expressed sympathy with the person. Peter King, one of the most aggressive armchair warriors, has a record of “palling around with terrorists” himself (the Irish Republican Army). And yet for a Muslim, or somebody who is not white, the gloves come off.
Let is then apply common sense. Let us fight all crime, including terrorism, with the criminal justice system. Let us not violate anybody’s basic human rights. Let us not demonize the “other” as the dark-skinned “jihadist” that must be destroyed at all costs. Let us forsake war, and fight for justice instead. This is the Catholic way. It should the American way.