- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

Much ado in our country and Europe has been made of alleged mistreatment and torture of suspected terrorist prisoners. First, there were stories and hand-wringing over the treatment of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

More recently, Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, equated our military’s treatment of captured Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist suspects, held at Guantanamo Bay, with something that would have “been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings.” That statement not only demonstrated ignorance of the horrors committed by the Nazis, Soviets and Pol Pot but supplied ammunition for people seeking to destroy us.

Regardless of how we feel now about the treatment of actual and suspected terrorists, I can envision a day when Americans will care less about interrogation techniques used to get intelligence about terrorists. That day will come when a chemical or biological attack in one of our cities kills and injures tens of thousands of Americans. If that day comes, you can bet the rent money the Dick Durbins, the Nancy Pelosis and others who’ve undermined and attacked our interrogation efforts, complaining about our not treating international cutthroats humanely, will blame the attack on President Bush. The last thing they’ll do is blame themselves for sabotaging our efforts to get intelligence that might stymie terrorist plans.

It’s tempting to invoke the Geneva Convention protections that are afforded prisoners of war. Geneva Convention protections did apply to Iraqi soldiers captured in our war with Iraq, but they do not apply to terrorists or even soldiers out of uniform. In earlier times, when common sense prevailed and we had the will to defend ourselves, that was understood and appreciated.

In World War II, German soldiers captured not wearing their own army’s uniforms were lined up and shot. In 1942, a German submarine landed eight Nazi saboteurs on the beaches of New York and Florida. Two months after a secret military tribunal, convened by President Roosevelt, six of the eight were executed, though they hadn’t killed or bombed anyone — just being here was enough.

For those of us around during World War II, can we imagine anyone, much less a government high official, having said, “The treatment of detainees is a taint on our country’s reputation, especially in Germany, and there are many questions that must be answered. These questions are important because the safety of our country depends on our reputation and how we are viewed, especially in Germany”? If you substitute “the Muslim world” for “Germany,” you have the statement by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Here’s my question to you: If a biological or chemical terrorist attack kills and wounds tens of thousands of Americans, how much would you care about “our reputation and how we are viewed in the Muslim world”? What will you think of leftist politicians, intellectuals and news media people preoccupied with whether we’re treating Taliban and al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to the Geneva Convention?

Let’s be clear about one thing. I’m not suggesting we treat captured terrorist suspects the way the Japanese treated American POWs during World War II. While harsh interrogation techniques are by no means a guarantee useful information will be acquired to thwart a deadly attack, our interrogators should be permitted to employ every method at their disposal.

There’s an important terrorism issue for Muslim communities, especially those residing in Western countries. They should be concerned about backlash and retaliation against Muslims in the wake of a large-scale disaster. Muslims must make it absolutely clear, as have spokesmen for the Free Muslim Coalition (www.freemuslims.org), that the terrorists do not speak for them, and they must report terrorists within their communities.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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