Andy McCarthy Still Won't Acknowledge Innocents at Gitmo

Once again, Andy McCarthy has penned a lengthy piece about War on Terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay that neglects to mention that many of the people held there were completely innocent. This intellectually dishonest omission — one that I’ve called to his attention on multiple occasions — bears directly on the former prosecutor’s sustained effort to discredit the lawyers who make up what he calls The Gitmo Bar. I can see why Mr. McCarthy writes his articles in this misleading way. How much easier to persuade one’s audience that these lawyers aren’t patriotic Americans when one pretends that all their clients were members of Al Qaeda. Or perhaps Mr. McCarthy is uncomfortable admitting that if he had his way, even the innocent folks released from Gitmo would still be rotting there without lawyers or the right to contest their imprisonment.

In case any readers are confused about why Mr. McCarthy’s views are so dangerous, let us take a detour to Clayton, Michigan, where nine militia members were arrested over the weekend in what Attorney General Eric Holder called “an insidious plot.” As reported by The New York Times:

The court filing said the group, which called itself the Hutaree, planned to kill an unidentified law enforcement officer and then bomb the funeral caravan using improvised explosive devices based on designs used against American troops by insurgents in Iraq.


The Hutaree — a word Mr. Stone apparently made up to mean Christian warriors — saw the local police as “foot soldiers” for the federal government, which the group viewed as its enemy, along with other participants in what the group’s members deemed to be a “New World Order” working on behalf of the Antichrist, the indictment said.

Plainly, this was a terrorist plot planned by religious extremists. Should you doubt that, imagine what you’d say if Al Qaeda members assassinated a police officer, waited for the long funeral procession with hundreds of cops on motorcycles, and killed dozens of them by exploding the kinds of IEDs used in Iraq. Moreover, if you’re Andy McCarthy, you believe that being American citizens shouldn’t afford a terrorist any additional rights. I haven’t seen Mr. McCarthy call on Eric Holder to declare these people enemy combatants, nor has Marc Thiessen demanded that they be water-boarded, but that is the course those men recommend when terrorists are captured. I’d call them “accused terrorists,” but Mr. McCarthy never makes the distinction — his position is apparently that if the president says you’re a terrorist, it is so, or at least it may as well be so, since you’re an enemy combatant who shouldn’t have any right to an attorney or to challenge your detainment.

Imagine that President Obama actually treated the Michigan suspects in this fashion — that he removed them entirely from the United States criminal justice system, shipped them to Guantanamo Bay, rammed their heads against walls, water boarded them dozens of times each day, placed them in stress positions, stripped them naked to humiliate them, etc. And that this continued for months. What if he detained them for years, never charging them with a crime, or offering any evidence of their guilt save his word and a folder full of documents classified top secret that no one else was allowed to see. If the President of the United States had that power, you might say, he could seize any innocent person on earth, accuse him of being a terrorist, and imprison him for life, or at least until the end of his tenure. He could seize Andy McCarthy himself, and what procedural argument could the man make?

The aforementioned positions, and their sweeping, radical implications are the reasons that Andy McCarthy’s views are dangerous, and also help explain why the Gitmo Bar, which pushed back against these tyrannical claims, represented the interests of the American people. In his piece, Mr. McCarthy alleges that some members of the Gitmo Bar broke the law in the course of representing their clients by unnecessarily, negligently, even maliciously showing them material that would endanger the lives of CIA agents. If that is correct, the lawyers in question should be punished. Unsurprisingly, Mr. McCarthy uses these allegations against specific lawyers he doesn’t name to tar the whole Gitmo Bar, a guilt by association tactic that is both dishonorable and intellectually dishonest.

Criticism as harsh is justified by the opening salvo in Mr. McCarthy’s piece, a display of intellectual malfeasance that combines straw manning, misdirection, and the strange suggestion that The Gitmo Bar would represent former Bush Administration lawyers if it really believed in counsel for unpopular clients. The only consolation in the piece is the realization that its author’s foray into journalism was preceded by his leaving government, where he would’ve been in a position to advance the dangerous views that he cannot adequately defend, or even acknowledge.


5 Responses to “Andy McCarthy Still Won't Acknowledge Innocents at Gitmo”

  1. Steve Weinberg Says:

    Why is it that so many self-anointed American “patriots” subvert the very principles that help make the United States great in so many ways? How can anybody calling himself or herself a patriot subvert the doctrine of innocent until proven guilty, subvert the principle that every accused individual deserves adequate legal representation, subvert the transparency of the court system?

    • Sean Nelson Says:

      Because those who proclaim their patriotism the loudest are generally doing so to quash dissent, not to affirm any noble principles. The Andy McCarthyite right (which is most of it) has defined “patriotism” down to the point where it means simply: agreement with today’s right wing talking points.

      Or, to paraphrase the McCarthy argument: because terrorists hate freedom, and conservatives hate terrorists, therefore if you are against the conservative position you are for the terrorists. (Which is to say: ignore the question, stop just short of calling your opponent a traitor, and knock over a straw man or two.)

  2. Derek Scruggs Says:

    What Steve Weinberg said. The impule to authoritarianism that these types have leads me to believe they would’ve been royalists in 1776.

  3. Terrorists & Cognitive Dissonance Says:

    […] there’s a major side-point to be made. Conor Freidersdorf: Imagine that President Obama actually treated the Michigan suspects in this fashion — that he […]

  4. Poussez – Modern Identity | HMWL Says:

    […] Andy McCarthy Still Won’t Acknowledge Innocents at Gitmo ( […]

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