JIHAD ON TRIAL -- BRIEFING BY ANDREW C. MCCARTHY:
Summary Account by Eric Bergel
In Willful Blindness, McCarthy reflects upon his role as the lead prosecutor in the historic case against the "Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was brought to trial for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
McCarthy recounted his involvement in the case, as well as the lessons he learned through his experience. His overarching point was that the U.S. government did, and to an extent still does, consciously avoid the fact that Islam is the animating force behind Islamist terrorism. He said:
One reason for the U.S. government's willfully blind attitude toward terrorism, McCarthy observed, was its insistence on pursuing the trial with the utmost deference to political correctness. McCarthy explained how, during press conferences, the Justice Department repeated the politically correct lines about Islam, but inside the courtroom, the legal process did not permit such discretion. "What jurors learned and saw," McCarthy revealed, "was that the wave of terrorism that we're already dealing with was generated by a solid ideology and that the Blind Sheikh was a very important person and not a fringe…. And that's a lesson that was learned in that courtroom twelve years ago, but has not, for whatever reason, managed to carry itself outside the courtroom to the point where it grabs the majority of people like I think it has to."
McCarthy said, "You can't take Islam out of Islamic Terror." McCarthy himself learned the truth of this adage in the course of his preparation for the trial. Although Abdel-Rahman never took the stand, McCarthy had to prepare for the contingency that he would. To plan for the cross-examination of the Blind Sheikh, McCarthy trained under the premise that, since Islamists represent a fringe group of Muslims; he would be able to trap the Blind Sheikh into admitting that his ideology differed from the Qur'an. In his research, however, McCarthy was unable to uncover any instance where Abdel-Rahman's Islamist ideology deviated from Islamic scripture.
McCarthy summarized what he learned about Islam, saying:
McCarthy concluded that, while not all who practice radical Islam practice terrorism, there exists a "healthy portion [who do] … too healthy for our security."
McCarthy also assessed the most effective methods of counterterrorism, arguing that terrorism is fundamentally a political issue of national self-defense, rather than a legal issue of enforcing criminal law. Trying to pursue national security challenges only through legal methods, which is what the U.S. practiced in the 1990's, is a "prescription for a suicidal result."
Between 1993 and the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Justice Department made a massive effort to prosecute terrorism cases, but, over this entire period, only twenty-nine terrorists were convicted and none, besides the Blind Sheikh, were top-level personnel. "Osama bin Laden," McCarthy reasoned, "was indicted by the United States in June, 1998, and adding new counts to his indictment hasn't deterred him much."
Instead of processing terrorist suspects exclusively through the court system, McCarthy asserted that the "only sensible counterterrorism strategy is a holistic, comprehensive one that brings to bear all of the tools of government." McCarthy's approach would not only include the courts, but also the resources of the U.S. military, various intelligence services, and the Department of the Treasury. Above all else, however, McCarthy felt that it is imperative that the U.S.A. recognize the central role that Islamist ideology plays in terrorism, and to make this the basis of all future policy.
Originally Published in Middle East Forum Wires, October 6, 2008
Reprinted from Middle East Forum News, November 13, 2008
Reprinted with Permission of the Middle East Forum
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