It is said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. If that is true, then Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary, has paved a super-highway to Hades in his misplaced effort to show compassion towards an unrepentant terrorist. MacAskill’s decision to release convicted terrorist, Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi, is yet another example of how President Obama’s lack of leadership in international affairs encourages our enemies and confuses our friends.
Al Megrahi is a convicted mass murderer, the only individual convicted in connection with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. On that fateful day of December 21, 1998, the Pan Am flight 103, Clipper “Maid of the Seas,” detonated violently over Lockerbie, killing all 270 on board, as well as 11 people on the ground. Prior to the attacks on September 11, the Lockerbie bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack against Americans and remains the single most deadly attack in Scotland.
For this act of violence, Al Megrahi received a sentence of life imprisonment by a Scottish judicial panel with the understanding that he would be ineligible for consideration for release for at least 27 years. He served 3123 days in prison — or roughly 11 days per victim. MacAskill claims it was compassionate to release him, because Al Megrahi is dying of cancer. Al Megrahi was released Libya, received a hero’s welcome, and will live out the rest of his life in relative comfort.
There is a growing group of policymakers believing there is virtuousness in providing charity and leniency to terrorists at the expense of the innocent lives of citizens. They argue that failing to provide such compassion places civil society at risk and violates the law. In this case, MacAskill put it plainly, “Mr. Al Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them. But that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days. … Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people. No matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.”
If that argument sounds familiar to you, it should. While today the President and Democrats try to score political points by condemning the Scottish Justice Secretary, I would caution the White House and Democrats not to protest too loudly.
President Obama has been espousing a similar argument of respecting terrorist “rights” since his first days in office. Instead of focusing on winning the war in Afghanistan (something the President campaigned on), the President has been all but consumed with ensuring the rights of terrorists are respected and prosecuting former Bush Administration officials. President Obama, remarking on Guantanamo in May of this year, said, “We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and keeps us safe.” Placing the rights of terrorists above protection of the American people is only one facet of the new “Obama Doctrine,” where we coddle insolent dictators, terrorists, and bullies.
It is difficult for the United States to condemn Scotland with any credibility when it shows no moral leadership of its own. In the past six months, what has the Obama Doctrine accomplished?
We condemned Israel for using force in self-defense against terrorists, then provided money (to Gaza) that will ultimately wind up in the hands of those terrorists (Hamas); President Obama feels it is important to do a brief sit down and photo-op with Hugo Chavez, an anti-democracy thug and enemy of the United States; President Obama listened to Daniel Ortega extol at length the evils of the United States, then in response, our President makes a joke throwing former President Ronald Reagan under the bus.
The U.S. sent the Secretaries of State and Treasury to China at the height of our economic crisis to remind them we value money more than human rights; the United States remains steadfast in efforts to talk to Iran’s leadership, regardless of whatever inhumanity they inflict on their own citizens, or the policies they pursue in developing nuclear weapons; the U.S. sent proxies from the State Department to try and negotiate with Al Qaida and Taliban affiliates.
The U.S. sat and watched while North Korea fired a nuclear missile over Japan, then threatened to fire one at the United States; President Obama is pressing to liberalize relations with Cuba, a repressive communist regime; President Obama sold out the Poles to placate the Russians on missile defense; President Obama bowed before King Abdullah; and the President figuratively kowtowed to the Russians on strategic nuclear deterrence. Moral equivocation and expediency are hallmarks of this Administration’s foreign policy.
Most remarkably, when the Hondurans exercised their constitutional law and threw out Manuel Zelaya for trying to convert his government into a Chavez-equivalent, Obama sided with Zelaya and against the constitutional government of Roberto Micheletti.
So is it really any wonder why our closest ally felt it would suffer few consequences if it chose to release a terrorist like Al Megrahi?
Osama Bin Laden, videotaped at a dinner celebrating the success of the 9/11 attacks, said, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” In other words, people naturally respect strength. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated that sentiment years earlier by saying, “If we know anything we know that weakness is provocative.” Since Reagan, conservatives have abided by the axiom of “peace through strength.” This new band of leaders seems intent on following a strategy of “peace through weakness.” That weakness creates chaos, a lack of will, and invites our enemies to attack.
Weakness is more than the lack of power. No one would question America’s military power; it did not stop the 9/11 hijackers from killing thousands of our people in the broad light of day. Weakness is also not having the will to carry out the acts that protect your citizens. Whether it is the release of a prisoner so he can go home to his family or the distaste for counter terrorism policies that are effective but politically bitter, these acts reinforce for enemies a key lesson — they can attack us and suffer little to no consequence.
If I now look at the United States, from the outside, based on this new weak foreign policy, I would conclude with the exception of Pakistan and Afghanistan the United States will take no direct action against terrorists. I would conclude that the U.S. would move swiftly to extract itself from Iraq. I would conclude the U.S. is deeply confused about how to govern international affairs and sends mixed messages to countries. I would conclude that for President Obama, political expediency is more important than any set of core values. Finally, given Al Megrahi’s release, and the inability of the U.S. to preclude it, I would conclude that the western coalition is all but imploding.
In short, I would conclude that the global environment is one of weakness, and — as Donald Rumsfeld said — weakness is provocative.
High above the Scottish highlands, the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103 was the first stab at the order of civil society. The United Kingdom and the United States responded to that attack by attempting to enforce international law. The Scottish judicial system convened in the Netherlands and Al Megrahi and an accomplice (who was later acquitted) received a fair trial. By most accounts, that was a just and moral outcome. It was consistent with the law, it was consistent with American values, and it demonstrated our resolve.
Government is not virtuous if it abandons the rule of law and places citizens at greater risk. It is not compassion to favor an individual and to place at risk thousands or millions of innocent civilians. It is not compassionate to release someone justly convicted merely because one feels guilt that the convict will die in prison. Our leaders assuage their guilt at the potential cost of our lives. Will President Obama have to address Americans in the wake of wrecked city one day and say, “Well, our people our dead — but feel good about the fact that we didn’t water board anyone”?
Compassion should not be a ruse for pacifism or eschewing the hard task of confronting aggression. When we make decisions, we must have the will to stick by them. That is the truest demonstration of our power. Our friends must believe their fate, and ours, are inextricable. Our allies must understand that in confronting terrorism, there is no other alternative to a united front. What makes Al Megrahi’s release so painful was the fact that it was our dearest ally that betrayed us. It is also the clearest indication that our policy framework is broken. If our friends won’t follow us, how can we expect anyone else to respect us?
The framework that works to keep people safe is clear. We must find our enemy, capture him if we can, kill him if we must, and hold him accountable for the heinous acts of violence perpetrated against innocent people. We must let the world know that we will stand for the rule of law and would fight those who would seek to disrupt the civil society. That is what just society does — that is what is the most compassionate — that is what is most consistent with the rule of law. Charity is properly shown to the victims, not the perpetrators. Compassion is properly shown to those who are in distress, not the individuals who cause others pain.
Any other course of action places innocent people at risk. The road to Hell will be paved not just with our good intentions, but also in the blood of our own citizens.
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