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Mar. 14 2010 - 9:24 pm | 2,027 views | 1 recommendation | 8 comments

The Spurious Slurs of Andy McCarthy

In his latest posts at The Corner, Andrew McCarthy continues to write as though every detainee ever held at Guantanamo Bay is a member of al Qaeda. Nowhere does he acknowledge that some people designated as enemy combatants by the Bush Administration were actually innocent, or that some of the lawyers he is maligning deserve credit for helping to free innocent men. Had Mr. McCarthy’s preferred policies remained in effect, these innocent men would still be rotting in a Gitmo prison cell today. In that way, he transgresses against the core American principle that all men are endowed by their creator with an inalienable right to liberty.

Mr. McCarthy’s writing on detainee issues would be far more intellectually honest if he acknowledged rather than elided the existence of these innocent people. Instead he is escalating his attacks on lawyers who represent detainees both innocent and guilty, going so far to write at The Corner that “Islam and the Left are not perfectly aligned, but they are substantially aligned, much more so than most people realize… the issue isn’t so much whether, in a vacuum, Leftist lawyers are pro-al Qaeda or pro-Islamist. It is where their sympathies lie as between two opponents: the United States as it is and Islamism.”

This is an extraordinary charge — that the sympathy of “Leftist lawyers” is with Islamism rather than the United States. I’d go so far as to say that it is ridiculous on its face. But let’s see what evidence the former federal prosecutor offers to back up his assertion:

The Marxist Center for Constitutional Rights has aggressively advocated for al Qaeda for years. CCR is the backbone of the Gitmo Bar, coordinating the representation of al Qaeda detainees by the legions of volunteers from our country’s major law firms. While doing so, CCR has pushed for the indictment of Bush administration officials for war crimes and bragged that its recruitment of lawyers effectively shut down interrogations, depriving the United States of vital wartime intelligence. What more does CCR need to do to prove that, as between the United States and the Islamists, CCR is with the Islamists?

Interesting, isn’t it? For Mr. McCarthy, a belief that Bush Administration officials committed war crimes by torturing detainees is evidence that someone sides with Islamism against the United States! Of course, it is exactly those harsh interrogation tactics, also known as torture, that CCR bragged about stopping. The organization isn’t opposed to lawful interrogations, nor does it seek to deprive the US of wartime intelligence. General David Petraeus, architect of the Iraq War surge, believes that Guantanamo Bay should be closed, and that the interrogation tactics favored by Mr. McCarthy and opposed by CCR negatively impact American security, increases the terrorist threat to American citizens, and hurts American efforts in the War on Terrorism.

Of course, General Petraeus would never argue that Mr. McCarthy is “with the Islamists” because his favored detainee and interrogation policies hurt America’s efforts in the War on Terror, but if he did make that argument, it wouldn’t be any more specious than the slurs Mr. McCarthy hurls at the CCR. This isn’t to say that the organization is always correct in its positions, but unless Mr. McCarthy has some additional evidence that it has sided with Islamism against the United States, his argument amounts to the odious assertion that folks who honestly believe waterboarding is torture, that the Bush Administration committed war crimes, and that torture shouldn’t be used even if it elicits useful information have sided with our terrorist enemies. This is quite something when one remembers that by Mr. McCarthy’s lights, the president possesses the unilateral, unchecked power to declare these Americans enemy combatants, stripping them of their Constitutional rights and imprisoning them indefinitely with no right to contest their status.

In another post at The Corner, Mr. McCarthy writes:

So let me make sure I have this straight. If you’re a “progressive” lawyer who volunteers to represent America’s enemies for free in offensive lawsuits brought against the American people during wartime, and then you are placed in a policy-making position in the Justice Department, we’re not allowed even to suggest that you be identified, much less to infer that the sympathies that impelled you to donate your talents to al Qaeda might affect your decision-making at DOJ.

This passage is notable for the dishonorable tics in Mr. McCarthy’s rhetoric — he again neglects to mention that not all of the Gitmo detainees actually are enemies of America. He obscures the fact that the American people wouldn’t consider an innocent man suing for his freedom (or a guilty man suing in a way that preserves the due process rights of other innocent Americans) to be “offensive lawsuits brought against the American people during wartime” in anything but a meaningless technical sense (see Julian Sanchez on how bad guys make good law). And most egregiously, he asserts outright that these lawyers donate their talents to al Qaeda! Of course, none of these lawyers represented the organization al Qaeda or advocated on its behalf. They represented individual clients, including many who weren’t members of al Qaeda.

And although it is perhaps redundant at this point, should anyone imagine that this debate is merely about transparency — and I actually agree that the Department of Justice should be transparent about all its attorneys — I leave you with this last quote from Mr. McCarthy:

I believe many of the attorneys who volunteered their services to al Qaeda were, in fact, pro-Qaeda or, at the very least, pro-Islamist. Not all of them, but many of them.

It is terrifying that this man recently held a powerful position in the United States government.

(Bookmark this blog. On Twitter, follow Conor64.)


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  1. collapse expand

    Obama, reid, pelosi are the guys old tailgunner joe mcarthy was looking for…he was ahead of his time

  2. collapse expand

    It is terrifying, but worthwhile to remember. McCarthyism (now Cheney’ism?) is nothing new, and it’s not going away. It’s nothing more than cowardice channeled through intellect. McCarthy seems simply terrified by an uncontrollable world and so bends over backwards to find enemies where there are none. He goes far enough to find enemies in the very foundations of our way of life. He is certainly no patriot. I think one could say truthfully that he hates us for our freedom. We must remain always on guard against his way of thinking.

  3. collapse expand

    It’s terrifying that the MSM takes this guy seriously. It’s terrifying that the conservative movement pays him to write such malicious stupidity. Buckley must be rolling in his grave.

  4. collapse expand

    Friedersdorf, you’re so desperate for attention you must continually try to ride the coattails of your intellectual superiors.

    Al Franken made his name in punditry not by being a failed radio host of a failed radio network, but by constantly going after wildly popular political figures like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly.

    Then there are even less talented hacks like Connor Friedersdorf and David Frum, who have figured out the formula. Attack popular conservatives, then count on a lot of free advertising when they mention your name to their audience of millions.

    Make your own way, Friedersdorf. Try to make a name for yourself without trying to piggyback off the success of others.

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    About Me

    Conor Friedersdorf is a writer, a Californian by upbringing, and a nomad at present. Refresh his page often.

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