Rove Is Right

June 27, 2005

Given the liberals’ endless drumbeat against the War on Terror — Iraq theater — and their preoccupation with indicting America, the Bush administration and the military for our treatment of prisoners in Gitmo and elsewhere, it’s just a little silly that they would take umbrage with Karl Rove’s “controversial” remarks.

Instead of debating whether Rove meant to indict the entirety of liberaldom in his speech to the New York Conservative Party, or just the types, to which he specifically referred, we should be careful not to miss the thrust of his message.

Regardless of whether most liberals and Democrats initially supported military action against Afghanistan — and even Iraq after being led kicking and screaming by overwhelming popular support to endorse the attack — far too many of them have been fighting President Bush over almost every other aspect of this war since it began.

But we can even set that aside for the moment. Instead, let’s just fast forward to the present. Is there any doubt that liberals recommend a radically different approach to the war than most conservatives?

The liberals’ general attitude toward the war and the treatment of prisoners both seem to flow out of their blind spot concerning the nature of war and of our enemy — and that’s being charitable.

The war on terror is global in scope with Iraq being its current primary venue. The terrorists are not a criminal gang, but a war enemy of the worst kind. This enemy doesn’t honor the normal rules of war, such as trying to minimize casualties to civilians by not mixing in with them (wearing uniforms) and not targeting them for attack.

Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who served under George H.W. Bush, in a recent interview with Fox News’ Brit Hume set the record straight on our historic treatment of war prisoners, whom we’ve never treated as criminals entitled to constitutional rights. In fact, Barr noted, the maligned Bush administration has insisted on conferring far more rights on these prisoners than the law requires.

The Framers, said Barr, wrote the Constitution “not for the world, but … the American people.” They provided that when the government is enforcing laws against its own citizens, those citizens should have maximum protections to ensure that innocent people are not incarcerated — even at the risk of letting guilty people go free.

“But when a foreign enemy comes and attacks the people there is no neutrality.” Our concern then is to win the war and “we cannot hamstring the military by imposing all the standards that we apply domestically to law enforcement.”

When we capture terrorists fighting against us on the battlefield, our inquiry — preferably to be adjudicated by military tribunals — should be to determine whether they are enemy combatants of the United States. If so, we should hold them — as we always have — for the duration of the war, because the purpose of the detention is not punishment, but national security — to keep them from returning to the battlefield (or the streets of America, for that matter) and killing us.

Indeed, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld reminded us in a separate interview on Fox, that of the prisoners we have released from Gitmo, we’ve “already found 12 of them back on the battlefield trying to kill innocent men, women and children.” Isn’t it manifestly worse, in the context of war, to risk allowing the guilty to go free so any one of them could come back and kill 50 innocent people?

Secretary Rumsfeld also provided compelling answers to other liberal criticisms. Here’s a brief summary: 1) the “insurgents” in Iraq are not idealists with a vision or revolutionaries fighting some tyrannical regime, but enemies of the Iraqi people trying to destroy their newly elected democratic government; 2) our troop levels in Iraq are being driven by the military commanders in the field, who are trying to achieve a delicate balance between a level of troops sufficient to engage the enemy and train Iraqi security forces versus that number that would make us an easier target at greater risk, and could also alienate the Iraqi people against America (as occupiers); 3) our commitment to this war can’t be governed by polls; 4) we have a policy against torture and inhumane treatment of enemy prisoners, and all known violators of the policy have been punished, but holding prisoners for the duration of the war does not constitute torture; and 5) regardless of the opinions of armchair civilian “generals” at home, including politicians, the three leading commanders on the ground have testified strongly that we are not in a quagmire in Iraq.

No matter. Liberals will continue to call it a quagmire, characterizing it as a contained revolutionary war and not part of the war on terror, and undermine our cause there — such as recklessly demanding that we telegraph our withdrawal date. And they will continue to say we are torturing war prisoners.

Can you imagine the implications for our national security and world freedom if they were in charge and their criticisms were converted into policy? Karl Rove obviously can, and he deserves praise for calling a spade a spade.