You might expect the lead prosecutor against the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to tout the criminal justice system as the premier strategy to fight terrorism. If so, you're wrong.
It is precisely because of Andy McCarthy's experience in that capacity that he understands -- in a way others can't -- the crippling limitations of law enforcement and criminal prosecutions in combating global terrorism.
Though he led the Justice Department prosecution team that convicted Omar Abdel Rahman, the "Blind Sheik," McCarthy is painfully aware that "as a class, baby-boom attorneys know nothing of war. Prosecutors included." Even this successful effort left way too many militants in place and encouraged the idea that they could attack us with impunity.
The entire orientation of the criminal justice system is to protect the rights of innocents, affording the accused due process and a litany of other constitutional protections. But we are at war with an enemy who doesn't fight wars according to conventional rules. If we continue to treat them as criminal suspects rather than enemy combatants, they'll always be many steps ahead of us in a war that only they are fighting. While our government frets over their constitutional rights -- rights to which enemy combatants have never been historically entitled -- it abdicates its duty to protect American lives.
Before the 9/11 attacks, we simply did not understand that Islamic terrorists had declared war against the United States and that to have any chance in this war, we'd have to engage them militarily.
But even today, partly because of our successes in fighting the war, a good portion of our society won't or can't see we are at war. Among those realistic enough to recognize we are at war, far too many think we can pacify the terrorists if we'll just engage in smarter diplomacy, reform our "imperialistic" impulses and otherwise alter our foreign policy.
In his book, "Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad," McCarthy debunks these myths and makes a compelling case -- sure to drive the purveyors of political correctness to apoplectic distraction -- that the Islamic jihadist enemy we face isn't at war with us because of our geopolitical malfeasance or this or that indignity we've allegedly visited upon them.
Their hostility, their aggression, their bellicosity, indeed their brutality, argues McCarthy, springs from Islam itself and its sacred writings. Indeed, the primary cause of Islamic terrorism, he says, is Muslim doctrine.