Will We Fight to the Finish?

Will We Fight to the Finish?

By Ed Koch - October 29, 2008

I was truly astonished to read the recent comments of two British experts who, in The New York Times of October 22nd, criticized the United States "for what they described as its overly militaristic approach to fighting terrorism and warned of a further erosion of civil liberties."

The two "experts" are Stella Rimington, former director general of Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5. The other is Ken MacDonald, the top prosecutor for England and Wales who assails what he refers to as the "Guantanamo model, in which the rights of defendants are severely curtailed or eliminated by governments in search of a response to the terrorism threat." According to the Times, Ms. Rimington says "that she hoped the next president would stop using the phrase 'war on terror.' She also said there had been a huge overreaction to the attacks on September 11, 2001, explaining it 'got us off on the wrong foot because it made people think terrorism was something you could deal with by force of arms primarily.'"

I pretend no special expertise on how to deal with terror suspects, but I do believe there is a vast difference between criminal acts generally involving individuals or a small group engaged in a conspiracy to commit a crime, as opposed to terrorist acts. Criminals are attempting to make an illegal buck or engage in random or premeditated acts of violence. Terrorists, on the other hand, are seeking to impose their will on government and affect its foreign policy.

In the case of Islamic terrorists, they are part of a worldwide conspiracy aimed at bringing the West to its knees. For example, the 19 Muslim terrorists on 9/11 were really enemy soldiers on a mission to inflict terrible damage on America. In my view, terrorist suspects should not be afforded the same rights as ordinary criminals. But what about terror suspects who are U.S. citizens?

The several Americans charged with terrorist acts have sought in various federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, to be treated differently than non-Americans held under similar charges. To date, so far as I know, those attempts have not been successful. In the case of Jose Padilla, the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal and made a decision that upheld the President's authority to designate him and detain him as an "enemy combatant." Padilla was subsequently convicted. In the case of John Walker Lindh, he pleaded guilty and did not pursue appeals, accepting a plea bargain. So the net affect is to keep open these constitutional issues. I have great confidence that the United States Supreme Court will try to apply common sense and justice when and if it takes up these matters.

The fanatical Islamists take as part of their religious obligation the forced conversion of the infidel. Christians and Jews who refuse to convert or pay tribute and recognize the superiority of Islam are to be killed.

Last week, there were reports in both Iraq and India of attacks on Christians in both of those countries -- in Iraq by Muslims and in India apparently by fanatical Hindus.

I fear a lessening of support in the war on terror worldwide. We in the Western world, particularly in the U.S., lead a good life in comparison to much of the rest of the world. But many are unwilling to pay the price for protecting that freedom. The Islamic terrorists look forward to death as martyrs as a result of their killing infidels, entitling them to be taken to heaven, where they will enjoy the services of 72 virgins.

It was shocking when Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church said that adoption of parts of sharia law were "unavoidable," and "certain conditions of sharia are already recognized in our society."

The two British experts say they are concerned about the way we pursue terrorists, endangering American rights of privacy. Yet, as The Times points out, "the intrusion on individual privacy here [Great Britain] is greater than in America. Surveillance cameras are ubiquitous - in subway stations, in residential neighborhoods, on highways - and their pervasiveness is one reason that the police were able to track within 24 hours the travels of the cars used in the failed bombing attempts in London and on the Glasgow airport in 2007. The surveillance has probably made the British citizenry the most watched in the world, outside of Singapore."

Our very lives and the survival of our civilization in the war against Islamic terrorism are at stake. This war will go on for many years. Do we have the intestinal fortitude and sufficient belief in our Western civilization to fight for it no matter how long the battle, I frankly am no longer sure. In Great Britain, there have been many more terrorist acts then in the U.S. since 9-11. Is it because of our vigilance and war on terror and Britain's determination to treat the Islamic terrorist attacks as crimes, rather than as terror conducted by mortal enemies of freedom?

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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