Is the Gitmo bar pro-Islamist? A response to Andy McCarthy

At the Corner, Jonah Goldberg took issue with the suggestion that the so-called al Qaeda Seven, i.e., current Justice Department lawyers who in the past defended terrorists and terrorist suspects, are pro al Qaeda. He wrote:

I don’t think these lawyers are traitorous or anything like that (which is not to say that it’s impossible). I think they subscribe to a coherent ideological view about the war on terror and priesthood of the lawyer class. I think that view is dangerous, wrong and naive, but it ain’t treason.

Andy McCarthy, a great favorite of all three of us at Power Line, responded that he believes “many of the attorneys who volunteered their services to al Qaeda were, in fact, pro-Qaeda or, at the very least, pro-Islamist.” Early in his post, Andy took no position regarding the DOJ attorneys who volunteered their services to Gitmo detainees. But later, Andy (while kindly praising my normal thinking) objected to my contention that it was inappropriate of Keep America Safe to suggest that the DOJ attorneys share al Qaeda’s values. Thus, he seemed to put the DOJ lawyers back into issue.
Andy responded to my contention by asking: “Which values?”

Jihadists believe it is proper to massacre innocent people in order to compel the installation of sharia as a pathway to Islamicizing society. No one for a moment believes, or has suggested, that al-Qaeda’s American lawyers share that view. But jihadist terrorists, and Islamist ideology in general, also hold that the United States is the root of all evil in the world, that it is the beating heart of capitalist exploitation of society’s have-nots, and that it needs fundamental, transformative change. . . .It is perfectly obvious that many progressive lawyers are drawn to the jihadist cause because of common views about the need to condemn American policies and radically alter the United States.

But it was never obvious that the DOJ lawyers demonized by Keep American Safe volunteered to defend jihadists because of common views about the need to condemn American policies and radically alter the United States. It was not obvious (and could not be) before the identity of these lawyers was known; nor, based on anything I’ve seen, is it obvious now.
Moreover, putting the DOJ lawyers back to one side, the fact that a lawyer condemns American policies and wants “radical” change in the U.S. doesn’t mean he or she shares al Qaeda values (I agree with Andy that many who defended Gitmo detainees do condemn important American policies and want radical change). To address this issue, we need to return to Andy’s question: “What values?”
Andy agrees that the terrorist defending bar parts company with al Qaeda on “means.” In other words, they don’t favor suicide bombings and other forms of violence as a way of imposing an agenda.
But it is obvious to me that all or nearly all of the terrorist defending bar parts company with al Qaeda on virtually all of its “ends.” Earlier in his post Andy listed what he (and I) take to be the key ends: the imposition of Sharia law (with all that this encompasses) “as a precondition to Islamicizing. . .society,” and the rejection of separation of Mosque and state.
I’m aware of no evidence that the leftist lawyers who defend Gitmo detainees, or the American left in general, desire these ends. To be sure, the American left has an unappealing vision for American society. But that vision does not include second class status for women, repression of homosexuals, Islamic prayer in public schools, or other fundamental elements of the Islamist vision.
Andy recognizes this, I think. That may be why, in his discussion of the values many detainee lawyers allegedly share with al Qaeda, he changed the subject from the core Islamist values he so correctly identified earlier in his post to major discontent with America and the desire to see it radically change.
But these sentiments are far too general to count as shared values. The American left (and quite possibly more than a few of those who defend Gitmo detainees) would like to see an overhaul of our health care system, a significant redistribution of income, more government intrusion into the economy but less into certain private spheres, a less interventionist foreign policy, and weaker armed forces to limit our ability to influence the world.
Most of these issues are matters of indifference to Islamists and, indeed, are agenda items they would not implement if they were in control. Islamists would certainly like to see the U.S. weaker and less involved in the world, but not only because that would make it easier for them to engage in conquest. The American left does not, as a general matter, favor Islamic conquest which, again, is at the core of al Qaeda’s value system. At its worst, the left sees such conquest as a matter of indifference compared to the cost of doing something about it.
At this point, it may be useful to compare (a) the relationship between al Qaeda and leftist lawyers of today and (b) the relationship between Soviet Communism and those American leftists who were falsely accused of being communists during the McCarthy era (I’m mindful that not all of the accused were falsely accused). Many of the wrongly accused leftists thought very badly of the U.S. Some I knew and have read about were appalled by racial segregation, deeply offended by the way income was distributed, and unhappy with important aspects of our foreign and national security policy including aspects of our policy towards the Soviet Union. But they didn’t desire the expansion of Soviet power and they didn’t favor the imposition of a communist system in the U.S.
In my opinion, these individuals have much more in common with communists and the professed values of Soviet Communism than today’s leftist lawyers have in common with al Qaeda and the Islamists. Yet, it was wrong to accuse them of being communists, pro-communist, communist sympathizers, Soviet agents, etc.
I think it’s also wrong to suggest that those lawyers who represent al Qaeda members and who also condemn American policies and favor radical change in this country are, by virtue of this, al Qaeda (as in “the al Qaeda Seven”), pro al Qaeda, or pro Islamist.


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