Cliff May

It’s often said that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were a “wake-up call’ – that they forced both the political class and the public to seriously (if belatedly) address a peril that for years had been minimized and marginalized.

But as Andrew McCarthy makes clear in his masterful memoir, “Willful Blindness,” slumber persists; too many people still do not recognize that “in an age when weapons of mass destruction have become more accessible than ever before, militant Islam may actually pose an existential threat to the United States. At a minimum, it constitutes a formidable strategic threat.”

Advocates of a strong defense have been opposed at every turn by leftists who blame America first (“chickens coming home to roost”), paleo-conservatives who believe that Americans venturing abroad inevitably stir up hornets’ nests, and libertarians who see threats to civil liberties behind every counterterrorist initiative.

The fact that there has not been a catastrophic attack on American soil for nearly seven years has emboldened this anti-anti-terrorist coalition. They are certain that the reason we have not been hit recently – as have London, Madrid, Bali, Baghdad, Kabul etc. -- has nothing to do with any actions taken by the Bush administration.

In fact, a new book, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals” by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, claims that in the aftermath of 9/11 President Bush and Vice President Cheney “panicked,” implementing policies that have fueled anti-American terrorism and violated both domestic and international laws.

According to this narrative, the administration created “an American gulag” in which hundreds of innocent Muslims have been subjected to abuse, humiliation and torture. Ms. Mayer goes so far as to charge that Bush and Cheney made “torture the official law of the land in all but name.”

The purpose of this cruelty – the use of “KGB methods” – was not to elicit life-saving information about terrorist schemes, Ms. Mayer asserts. It was to obtain “false confessions.” For what purpose is mysterious since another indictment is that Bush has acted as though the U.S. has the legal authority to detain unlawful combatants for the duration of hostilities. (It does not appear to have dawned on Ms. Mayer that every president in every past war has had the same authority.)

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.