Cliff May

The liberal media are eating this up. On a public radio program last week I appeared with Ms. Mayer. The moderator was not much interested in whether her narrative was truthful. Instead, he wanted to know if I agreed that the clear implication of her book is that we need a “truth commission,” similar to that established in South Africa after Apartheid, to reveal whether the Bush administration committed “war crimes.”

Taking a short cut from indictment to conviction, Washington Post “White House Watch” columnist Dan Froomkin described “The Dark Side” as “another major book chronicling the descent into lawlessness.”

And a Post review by Boston University professor (and Barack Obama supporter) Andrew J. Bacevich asserts that Ms. Mayer has established once and for all that “in George W. Bush's Washington, the decisions that matter are made in secret by a handful of presidential appointees committed to the proposition that nothing should inhibit the exercise of executive power.”

One might ask: In William J. Clinton’s Washington, was the decision to bomb the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan – suspected of manufacturing chemical weapons under a deal struck between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden – made at a town hall meeting?

More to the point: Does anyone seriously believe that a war against shadowy terrorist groups can be prosecuted with no more secrecy than that which surrounds health care policy-making? (And, come to think of it, wasn’t Hillary Clinton’s health care task force shrouded in secrecy?)

The New York Times’ Frank Rich knows what went wrong: Bush and Cheney watched too much TV. “Possessed by the ticking-bomb scenarios of television's '24,' all they want to do,” he says, “is protect America from further terrorist strikes.”

One might argue that the federal government’s primary obligation is to protect America. But that cuts no mustard with those who, as Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot writes, insist “we pull out of Iraq, repeal the Patriot Act, roll back the executive branch’s surveillance authority, force the release of Guantanamo’s detainees or remand them to the normal criminal-justice system, impose even greater restrictions on interrogations of terrorist suspects, and generally dissipate the sense of urgency that has animated American counterterrorism efforts since 9/11.”

What would follow such unilateral disarmament is not difficult to predict. Even then, what are the chances that any anti-anti-terrorists would then finally awaken?

Cliff May

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