By now we all know that the Obama administration would prefer to call the War on Terror an "overseas contingency operation." And they'd prefer to pursue CIA interrogators more than they'd like to go after terrorists.
All of this is in keeping with their September 10 mindset. They want to return us to the way the Clinton administration viewed terrorism-- as a problem of criminal law enforcement, not something to be prosecuted as a war. This, despite the fact that Usama bin Laden took advantage of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal to declare war on the United States. And despite the fact that Saddam Hussein used the distraction of the Clinton's domestic troubles to boot U.N. arms inspectors out of Iraq.
Americans paid with their lives for that fatal error in judgment. The attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa (1998) and the suicide mission to blow a hole in the hull of the USS Cole (2000) show how lethal such misjudgments can be.
The recent events in Scotland show the futility of treating war as a criminal justice issue. The only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was released unconditionally after only eight years in prison this month. He had been sentenced to life in prison.
Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the press he was appalled, but qualified it by saying he was speaking "just personally." The Justice Department's Richard Kolko wouldn't even go that far." There remains an open indictment in Washington, D.C. and an open investigation." Thatshould strike fear into al-Megrahi's heart. And in Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi's heart, too.
President Reagan was roundly criticized for launching a raid against Qaddafi in 1986. But the president said then "they can run, but they can't hide." He was determined to let those who attacked Americans know that we would pursue them to their lairs.
Once, when Libyan jets' radar locked onto U.S. jets over international waters, Reagan left orders to shoot down any aircraft making aggressive moves against our forces. How far would we pursue Qaddafi's jets once they'd attacked us, Reagan was asked. "Right into their hangars," he replied.
The release of the only man convicted murderering 270 innocent civilians stinks. It should result in the toppling of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labor government. Surely no one can have confidence in his spineless government.
But the larger question is this: Did Gordon Brown get a green light from the Obama administration to let this convicted murderer go "scot free?" Did the British government even consult with Washington before taking this despicable action?
What does this discreditable affair say about the "special relationship" that has existed for a century between Great Britain and the United States?
We are only seven months into this new administration. The early indications are not good that we have a seasoned and serious team manning the helm of the ship of state. For the sake of the country we all serve, let's pray they learn quickly.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union.
J. Kenneth Blackwell is a board member of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. He served as mayor of Cincinnati and as U.S. Human Rights Ambassador at the U.N.