Just whom are we trying to impress?
That's a question that occurred to me when, on his second full day in the presidency, Barack Obama announced we would close the Guantanamo detainee facility within one year.
It's a question that has kept occurring to me over the last year and nine days, even though Obama and his administration have proven unable to keep that promise.
Whom are we trying to impress by ruling out enhanced interrogation techniques on unlawful combatants, techniques that produced valuable intelligence that saved American lives? Whom are we trying to impress by limiting questioning to the Army Field Manual?
That's a good guide for handling prisoners of war and other lawful combatants covered by international law. But whom are we trying to impress by extending those protections to those who are not covered by the Geneva Conventions or other treaties we have signed?
Whom are we trying to impress by trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed in civilian courts after he already pled guilty to a military tribunal? And trying him in New York City, where the trial will cost something like $1 billion and tie up Lower Manhattan for years?
Would these people we are trying to impress be that much less impressed if the administration belatedly follows the advice of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kirsten Gillibrand and stages that trial on a military base or elsewhere outside of New York City?
And whom are we trying to impress by treating the failed Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab not as a military combatant but as a common civilian criminal, even though he launched an attack on the United States from outside the country? Whom are we trying to impress by administering Miranda warnings and telling him that he has a right to a lawyer and the right to remain silent?
If the answer to these questions is that we are trying to impress Islamist terrorists, we have clearly failed.
It is a matter of simple fact that the announcement that we would close Guantanamo and other policy changes did not prevent Abdulhakim Muhammad from killing U.S. soldiers at the Little Rock recruiting station last June. It did not prevent Nidal Hasan from killing U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood in November. It did not prevent Abdulmutallab from attempting to blow up Northwest flight 253 over U.S. or Canadian airspace on Christmas Day.