The White House's Strategic and Moral Disasters

Published: Wednesday, 05/10/2006 12:00 am EDT

The Moussaoui case could have been settled long ago, with the same result and the same horrific sentence, had it not been for the government's single-minded pursuit of death. That pursuit is an apt metaphor for the wrongheadedness of what the Bush Administration still calls, despite occasional spasms of discomfort with the term, the war on terror. The campaign against Al Qaeda in particular and Islamist terrorism in general plainly has aspects of war-fighting, but it has equally important aspects of crime-fighting and arguably more important aspects of political and ideological struggle. For the Administration, the trope of war has proved useful both for mobilizing the government and for intimidating domestic opposition, winning elections, and aggrandizing executive power. But it has also abetted the rush to the strategic disaster of Iraq and the moral disasters of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and torture. Finally, it has conferred on criminal terrorists a status they desperately want but do not deserve. Bin Laden wished for war--war between Islam and the infidels--and war is what we gave him; Moussaoui wished for martyrdom, and our government would have granted that wish, too, if not for the jury in Virginia.

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