Thursday, August 21, 2014
Where Is the Outrage?
I support Americans' right to assemble peacefully, to protest peacefully when they believe an injustice has occurred. I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
I wish my government did, too.
For more than a week now, Americans have witnessed scenes in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., where a black teenager was shot and killed. They haven't always been peaceful — or anything resembling it. What are they protesting? A young man died. That is a sad thing. Some would call it an injustice.
Before you make any assumptions about me that are not true, hear me out. My definition of injustice is when justice has been denied. Has justice been denied in this case? No. The system has not had time to do what it was designed to do.
Many of the people I have seen involved in the protests in Missouri say they want justice — but they don't. They want revenge. Those are two different things. Justice requires facts, evidence. Revenge does not.
If anyone — in Ferguson or anywhere else — tells you he/she knows the police officer was guilty of murder, he/she is lying — because no one knows all the facts. That is — supposedly — why we have trials. To see the evidence, hear the testimony, then sift through it all and decide what the truth is.
Murder, by the way, is a legal term that is reserved for a case in which a jury has ruled that someone's death was caused deliberately by someone else. Until a jury has made that determination, legally (based on the laws of the state where the death occurred), no murder has happened.
And I can tell you — as one who covered my share of trials in my reporting days — that almost no one knows the whole story until that trial has been held.
We don't really know what happened in Ferguson two weeks ago. We should reserve judgment because we do know that our system requires that we presume the innocence of the accused until he has been proven guilty in an open court. If I am ever accused of anything and find myself in court, I want that presumption of innocence. For it to remain strong, it cannot be denied to anyone. Nor can due process.
That is so important because often there is no unambiguous evidence of someone's guilt, and all the available evidence must be studied before a conclusion can be reached. Criminal charges of any kind are far too serious to be left to emotion.
We do know what happened in Iraq, though. It is not ambiguous. We don't know precisely when it happened, only when the video of the execution of photojournalist James Foley by an ISIS terrorist surfaced. Foley's beheading wasn't accidental. It was intentional. It was carried out by an apparent Briton — but nearly all of him — including his face — was hidden by black clothing.
He wasn't necessarily British. I have taught many foreign students; some spoke with distinctly British accents, but they weren't from the U.K. They came from other countries. Without exception, they were schooled in British schools by British teachers, and if you spoke to any of them on the phone, you would assume they were British. But they weren't.
The English–speaking jihadists were recruited deliberately. It's obvious. With their British accents, they can blend into places like America without arousing any suspicion while waiting for their assignments. Such accents are regarded as non–threatening by most Americans. And, even if they don't necessarily look British, with our borders as wide open as they are, who's going to notice another undocumented foreigner?
I am outraged on several levels by this act of blatant barbarism.
While I have done other things in my life, I will always consider myself a journalist. I never faced the danger that Foley clearly did, but I have known those who did. And when something like this happens, it is like a death in the family. I never met James Foley, but, as I say, I have known many like him.
The president, who never hesitates to stick his nose where it doesn't belong domestically, especially when it involves white on black crime (of which there is remarkably little), took some time from his vacation to acknowledge the murder — and took the unprecedented step of revealing details about a U.S. mission that failed to rescue Foley earlier this summer — then rushed back to the golf course in Martha's Vineyard, which is where he was when Foley's family held their emotional press conference.
He didn't have a photo op with Foley's family the way he did with Bergdahl's — even though he could have negotiated for Foley's freedom when he went against American policy to negotiate for Bergdahl's release.
What reason was there for disclosing details about the mission that failed? Politics. It was the president's way of getting credit for being tough — yes, he did try to do something, but, oops, it just didn't work. And, for all you bad guys, here's what we tried to do with material that we have at such–and–such location. Do you think that put any Americans in jeopardy? I do.
The president, along with his media enablers, is loath to use the word "evil," even when really no other word is sufficient. This is one of those times.
In just an hour or so on the internet last night, I found two references — in the New York Times and U.S. News and World Report — to ISIS' brownshirts as "militant."
My father is OK with the use of the word "militant," but I'm not. It strikes me as flippant. When I hear the word "militant," I think of the protests of the '60s — when campus militants, as they were called, threw Molotov cocktails at buildings — and people. Mostly, those "militants" were protesting for something (i.e., civil rights) or against something (the war in Vietnam). Sometimes, people got hurt. Occasionally (but, really, not that often) people were killed.
But it was never as blatant, as cold–bloodedly deliberate as the slaying of James Foley.
We need a word for these ISIS people. Judging by their behavior, people is far too generous, but there are those who would object if they were called animals, which is much closer to the truth. Do we need a new word? I'm not so sure. I think it would be appropriate to call them 21st–century Nazis. In the '40s, if someone said the word Nazi, you knew precisely what it meant.
Like the 20th–century Nazis, these people cannot be appeased. They are intent upon killing Americans. They said they would execute more Americans — and all they're looking for is an excuse. They asked for $132 million for Foley, then, when they were told that time would be needed to raise the money, they stopped communicating altogether.
They weren't interested in the money. They already control the oilfields in Iraq and Syria as well as all the sources of revenue in the larger cities. All the request for time to raise such a huge sum did was take away an excuse to kill an American, but they had another one ready. They blamed the pin–prick airstrikes and warned that, if they continue, more Americans will die. Obama said they would continue.
Do you doubt that they will make good their threat? I don't. Not for a second. They clearly want to kill Americans — and they want Americans to see them killing Americans.
It was naive for anyone to believe that the war on terror was over. Now, I fear, it will be deadly.
Do you believe that, somehow, ISIS will fail because evil always fails? The Nazis didn't fail. They were beaten by the Allies. It is the only way to deal with this kind of people. I regret having to say that because it contradicts the way I was brought up. But as long as these people exist, they are a deadly threat to us and our modern allies. Our friends in Europe should be especially concerned, being as close to ISIS as they are, geographically.
A few months ago, we observed the 70th anniversary of D–Day, the event that marked the turning point of World War II. A sustained effort is needed now if we are to rid the world of the menace that threatens us today.
We cannot delude ourselves into thinking it is over until it really is.