Does Barack Obama believe it's time for America to apologize to al Qaeda?
Does he share the increasingly vocal calls of his fellow liberals that Americans should not just apologize to Osama and his followers but pay reparations as well? Having cited the U.S. treatment of Nazis, does he now believe the U.S. government should be subjected to a class action suit by his trial lawyer allies on behalf of any surviving Nazi soldiers or their descendants?
You think I'm joking, right? Wrong.
The push has begun among Obama's fellow-liberals for reparations to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda warriors. Look no further than the Los Angeles Times review of the new book by liberal journalist Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. Mayer's indictment of the Bush administration's fight against terrorism has predictably received glowing reviews from the gatekeepers of liberalism, including a July 15th review from Times staff writer Tim Rutten.
In wonderfully liberal style that is beyond parody, Rutten uses a book review to endorse the idea of paying money to Osama's fighters who, in the eyes of liberals, have been denied their "right" of habeas corpus at Guantanamo. The denial of habeas to non-Americans captured on foreign battlefields is, of course, also a major campaign point for Senator Obama. Obama, restating his long-held position about captured al Qaeda fighters having the right of habeas corpus, was prompted by the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush. The liberals on the Court, with the mind-boggling addition of Reagan appointee Anthony Kennedy, held that contrary to Bush administration and congressional policy, not to mention all of American history, the prisoners of war or "detainees" picked up off the battlefields (in this case Afghanistan and Iraq) are in fact entitled to the same constitutional rights as American citizens.
Within weeks of this Obama-approved decision, his allies in liberalism have now started lobbying not simply for habeas corpus rights for al Qaeda but reparations as well. They believe American taxpayers should pay monetary damages to bin Laden terrorists, with Mr. Rutten of the Times approvingly citing the liberal editors of the Jesuit magazine America: The National Catholic Weekly. In their July 21st issue these presumed Obama supporters say this:
Finally, in the years ahead our country must still come to grips with our national acquiescence to the politics of fear, which has led to the detention and abuse of hundreds of individuals. Among the necessary steps will be restoration of freedom to innocent detainees, accompanied by public apology and some monetary restitution for the years they lost to incarceration. Furthermore, Congress needs to accept responsibility for its complicity with the executive in laws that denied suspects rightful appeal. A national truth commission should be instituted to establish political accountability for the decisions, policies and statutes that placed suspects outside the protection of the law.
In other words, if you have been captured on the field of battle fighting the U.S. military on behalf of the global jihad and, as a result, are now on an extended stay at Gitmo, liberals feel the appropriate policy of the United States government is to 1) apologize for capturing you and 2) pay you some cold American cash to ease your pain and humiliation.
This sentiment is the obvious next step behind the Obama contention that foreign enemies are deserving of the same constitutional rights as American citizens. To the extensive applause of liberals like Ms. Mayer and Mr. Rutten, Obama has insisted that the "principle of habeas corpus, that a state can't just hold you for any reason without charging you and without giving you any kind of due process -- that's the essence of who we are." Exhibiting a considerable ignorance of American history, he went on by saying:
"I mean, you remember during the Nuremberg trials, part of what made us different was even after these Nazis had performed atrocities that no one had ever seen before, we still gave them a day in court and that taught the entire world about who we are but also the basic principles of rule of law. Now the Supreme Court upheld that principle...."
Unsurprisingly Obama's rehash of American treatment of German POWs is flatly wrong. Around 200 German war crimes defendants went on trial in what most people commonly refer to as the "Nuremberg Trials," with another 1,600 tried under the laws governing military justice. All these trials, of course, took place after the German surrender in May of 1945. None occurred during the war itself. The trials ran from 1945 until 1949.
The obvious question never seems to occur to Obama. If America's only problem was with a sum total of about 1,800 German soldiers, why all that disturbing fuss known as World War II? What happened to all the Germans who weren't killed outright when they were captured on the battlefields of Europe and North Africa as al Qaeda fighters are being captured now in Afghanistan or Iraq? And what about all the captured Italians and Japanese who were busily fighting America in the 1940s?
TO BE SPECIFIC, almost a half million of them were brought to America. Once here they were stashed in 511 internment camps sprinkled all around the good old USA from North Carolina to Iowa to California. And no, I'm not talking about or including here FDR's infamous internment camps for 120,000 Japanese-American citizens, who did indeed have their constitutional rights violated. We're talking about captured Nazis, Italians and Japanese -- warriors on the battlefield for Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini, the bin Laden's of their day. From the viewpoint of the L.A. Times' Rutten and Jane Mayer, that would mean these people were imprisoned in 511 "American gulags," not just one measly Gitmo. Not a single one of these men were given their habeas corpus rights. They were not tried. Not one. They were held as prisoners, forced to do whatever labor their American captors thought suitable until America had won the war.
Forced labor was their lot. Like the case of a German POW known to history only as "Hans" who was made to load and unload trucks at the E.G. Morse Poultry house in Mason City, Iowa. Hour after hour, day after day, with no lawyer from the ACLU to come to his rescue and no Jane Mayer to write him up sympathetically, young Hans was forced to do the backbreaking labor American men weren't around to do because they were overseas fighting Germans. Then there was the young German who signed himself in a note to an American girl only as "R." "R" was frustrated that his status "thwarts all my plans" and described what he called his "instantaneous dead life here." "R" was in this vicious state of affairs because the Roosevelt administration had him doing his forced labor at a cannery in Owatonna, Minnesota.
Then there was "Jerry." Whether that was really his name or he identified himself as such because it was the American slang for Germans is not known. How did "Jerry" find himself in the wilds of Fairmont, Minnesota? He was captured in North Africa where he was trying to kill Americans as a member of Nazi General Erwin Rommel's murderous Afrika Corps. Did I mention that "Jerry" was crying at his sad state one particular day that he was standing in downtown Fairmont during a momentary pause in his labors? It seems the day in question was June 6, 1944. Minnesotans in Fairmont were listening to radio accounts of D-Day and the fierce fighting that was in progress as American soldiers sought to break the iron grip "Jerry's" fellow countrymen had imposed on all of Europe. Jerry's tears, of course, were not being shed for the Americans charging those beaches. Beaches where, according to the D-Day Museum, almost 7,000 Americans were lost that June 6th as they fought the followers of a zealot obsessed with mass murdering Jews and establishing a thousand year Reich.
Quite aside from these "American gulags" in America were the American gulags in Europe and North Africa. The number of prisoners, according to General Dwight Eisenhower, was almost overwhelming. There were a quarter million Axis prisoners that had to be dealt with in Tunisia alone. The Battle of the Bulge all by itself produced German prisoners at the rate of 10,000 a day. Here's this from the late historian Stephen Ambrose, an Eisenhower biographer, in a 1991 article in the New York Times:
There was widespread mistreatment of German prisoners in the spring and summer of 1945. Men were beaten, denied water, forced to live in open camps without shelter, given inadequate food rations and inadequate medical care. Their mail was withheld. In some cases prisoners made a "soup" of water and grass in order to deal with their hunger. Men did die needlessly and inexcusably.
This, of course, on top of the fact that none of these hundreds of thousands of Nazi "detainees" were told of their habeas corpus rights by Allied troops.
So now what? Sixty-three years have passed. Isn't it time make amends to the Nazis?
WILL OBAMA, MAYER and Rutten have the courage to follow their arguments to their logical conclusions? If the idea is to have American taxpayers fork over damages to Osama's men, why not Hitler's? Where are the trial lawyers who have been flocking to Guantanamo? The size of the damage pot in a suit against the U.S. government for the treatment of Nazis would, one suspects, be considerable. Not to mention that many of the men in these "American gulags" doubtless have descendants who should, according to this line of thought, be recompensed for the horrors visited upon their families by America and the "men of zeal" (Mayer's favorite phrase for the Bush-Cheney administration) led by Franklin Roosevelt.
Amazingly, Mayer isn't satisfied with just ensuring that al Qaeda fighters get their day in court. Doubtless uncomprehendingly (one would hope) she chastises Abraham Lincoln for his "infamous" decision to suspend the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War. One can only be stunned at the use of the word "infamous" here. As written, she leaves the impression she would just as soon, with a sigh of resignation, accept the existence of slavery rather than impose on the rights of white Confederate sympathizers Lincoln saw as a serious impediment to his objectives of preserving the Union and ending slavery. Her sentiments, while startling 143 years after the war ended, are a reminder of the "dark side" exhibited by the Democrats of the day. Not only did they violently object to Lincoln's actions, in 1864 they ran on a platform that proclaimed the war a failure. In short, supporters of slavery before the war (and instigators of the Ku Klux Klan and segregation after the war) were prepared to accept slavery for blacks as long as the white folks had their habeas. Is this the logic Mayer, Rutten -- and more to the point Obama -- are endorsing?
To be blunt, yes.
What is the difference between, say, German detainees Hans, "R," and Jerry and an al Qaeda Gitmo resident named Abdullah Salih al Ajmi? The first three remained lawyerless while they waited out World War II in Iowa and Minnesota. The last, Abdullah, went through Gitmo's thoroughly lawyered process and was released. On March 23, 2008, he showed up in Mosul, Iraq, when he drove a truck packed with 5,000 to 10,000 pounds of explosives into an Iraqi Army base. He killed 13 Iraqi soldiers and wounded 42 on his last mission, a mission that would never have occurred were he still in Gitmo.
Are mistakes made in war? Obviously, yes. No one would ever be foolish enough to deny it -- whether in this war or any other. It is, as history sadly says, the nature of the beast. Should the now out-in-the open liberal demand for reparations to al Qaeda be an issue in this campaign? Should the thinking behind it be exposed and understood? One would hope that Senator McCain, the only man in this race who actually has seen war close up, would raise the subject.
Is it really okay with Obama that Americans pay damages to Osama?
Jeffrey Lord is the creator, co-founder and CEO of QubeTV, a conservative online video site. A Reagan White House political director and author, he writes from Pennsylvania.
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