Victor Davis Hanson

Attorney General Eric Holder has developed a bad habit of accusing others of acting in bad faith while doing so himself.

Take the issue of Guantanamo Bay. In Aspen, Colo., last week, Holder accused Congress of playing politics in preventing President Obama from closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center -- as Obama had serially promised to do within a year of his inauguration.

But this accusation is disingenuous for a variety of reasons.

Obama campaigned on calls to reverse the Bush administration anti-terrorism protocols, charging that they were either unnecessary or counterproductive. Then, when invested with the responsibility of governance, Obama suddenly reversed himself on almost all of them -- tribunals, renditions, Iraq, the Patriot Act, targeted airborne assassinations and Guantanamo Bay. Holder himself -- in the quite different political climate of 2002 -- once supported the detention of terrorists without regard for the Geneva Conventions. What made him so radically change his views?

In fact, any time Obama wishes to close Guantanamo Bay, he can simply carry out his earlier executive order, in the same manner in which President Bush opened it without congressional approval. In blaming Congress, Holder does not mention the real reasons why the president broke his promise: The American public now wants unrepentant terrorists to stay in Guantanamo rather than be incarcerated and tried in civilian courts here at home.

Holder got himself into trouble last year when he played politics by announcing that the administration would try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the terrorist architect of 9/11, in a civilian courtroom. The boast was supposed to contrast an enlightened Obama team with the demonized Bush administration's supposed lawlessness in confining Mohammed to Guantanamo.

But after New Yorkers protested against holding the trial next to the scene of the 9/11 crime, Holder backed off. Meanwhile, the president rushed to assure the nation that Mohammed would be "convicted" and have "the death penalty ... applied to him." At that point, Bush's planned military tribunals seemed a lot less prejudicial than Holder's planned civilian show trials.

Holder's continual refusal to link radical Islam with the epidemic of global terrorism is likewise entirely political. When asked at a congressional hearing whether radical Islamic terrorists were behind the Fort Hood killings, the attempted Christmas Day bombing and the foiled Times Square bomb attack, Holder refused to identify that obvious common catalyst. He cited instead a "variety of reasons." The nation's chief prosecutor was not looking at the evidence, but adhering to a politically correct predetermined dogma.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.