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Either We’re At War Or We’re Not

By: Steve Yuhas

On Wednesday another convert to Islam was arrested in what the F.B.I. is calling a real attempt to bomb an American Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Maryland. Antonio Martinez, who called himself Muhammed Hussain, is a U.S. citizen and was arrested by authorities after he attempted to detonate a bomb outside Baltimore.

There is no question that his action was an attempt to kill in the name of Islam.  As he attempted the fake detonation the words Allah Akbar flowed easily off his now radicalized tongue.  What is uncertain is whether or not what he did is a crime or an act of war and how he should be treated now.

America has been fighting the War on Terror since September 12, 2001.  Before the very public invasion of Afghanistan began there were already special operation troops and CIA assets on the ground in countries all over the world acting on America’s behalf to avenge the murder of thousands of people – also perpetrated by Islamic fanatics.

Today we are in an unofficial state of war against terrorism.  A Lexis search is clear that legislators, the judiciary, and both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama refer to our action against terrorism as a “war.”  Given that, it should be asked whether or not the war is happening only at locations overseas where we have conventional troops and drones firing on the enemy or if the war can also be fought on American soil.

Last month a Somali-born man was apprehended after yelling Allah Akbar when he was dialing a cell phone he thought would detonate a bomb he planted near a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Oregon.  The F.B.I. was involved in that case too and nobody was harmed.  The question here; however, is whether or not what the Islamic fanatic did was an act of war or a criminal act.

To put it plainly, we are either a nation at war or we are not.  If we are at war then these two should be in the custody of the United States military and being treated as enemy combatants.  Only if we are not at war should the F.B.I. and the Justice Department have control of the “cases” against these two Islamic fighters.

All one need do is look at how these two are being treated and it is not difficult to conclude that the War on Terror is a war that some would like to keep exclusively overseas.  Both men are in custody by the United States, but not the military.  If their acts were committed overseas we would not even debate who should have control of them, but because it happened here we’ve decided that the same people responsible for the prosecutions of Martha Stewart and Barney Madoff should be in charge here too.

It is absurd to keep referring to the struggle against radical Islam as a war and then, when you have an opportunity to treat actual enemy combatants to the rigors of military justice you back out and hand them over to civilians, give them lawyers, and allow juries to determine their fate.

Alarm bells should have sounded throughout government when last month’s trial of an al Qaeda member brought to the United States nearly ended in acquittal because of one juror who refused to convict.  We got lucky and he was found guilty of only ONE count out of nearly 300 because one juror was intransient in his obvious guilt.

Jihadists belong in military tribunals and when they are picked up in the United States when they are caught with a detonator in their hand with what they believe are bombs either around a Christmas tree or focused on a legitimate military target during war, Servicemen, they should be whisked away to a prison like Guantanimo Bay in Cuba (GITMO).  They should not be sent to the local lock-up where run-of-the-mill thugs and criminals are held.

Some will disagree with me that military installations are legitimate targets by people with whom we are at war, but if we are at war those are the only legitimate targets according to the many Conventions we, and most governments, are party to.  In the event we are not fighting a state it is even more obvious that we should treat perpetrators of acts of war upon the United States with no “official” foreign national backing to the same justice as we would a fighter picked up on the battlefield.

United States territory is no less or more part of the War on Terror than any piece of real estate in the world.  If it is an act of war to fire at an American Soldier or Marine in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, or any other place on earth then it is equally so to make the same attempt here at home.  It is even more an act of war to contravene every convention and treaty and make civilians the target as happened just last month in Oregon.

Radical Islam is now part of the American culture and we must begin to treat it like the scourge it is.  If we cannot stomp it out with the power of persuasion then we must begin to fight it the same way here at home as we would fight it in the caves and deserts overseas.  Not doing that puts us at a greater risk because as the radicalization of young converts to Islam occurs so too will their acts of war against us.

Martinez should be handed over to the military and the F.B.I. and all government agencies should be told and reminded that we are a nation at war and that the rules of war apply on U.S. soil as much as it does anywhere else in the world.

People may not like it, but the blood of the American people and the treasure of our citizens should not be sacrificed in order to feel good about how we treat monsters who would just as easily detonate a bomb killing innocent men, women, and children at a Christmas tree lighting as they would fire on the position of Marines or Soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Either we are at war or we are not and in the event of the latter stop saying it and bring the troops home because all is lost when we will not fight them the same way they fight us.  With every last drop of our intensity with a willingness to sacrifice the niceties to the realities that people want to kill us in the name of Allah.

Steve Yuhas is a radio talk show host on AM 600 KOGO in southern California. He may be reached at www.steveyuhas.com or steve@steveyuhas.com

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