2. Material Support to Terrorism As noted above, my post was not limited to the AECA. Federal law prohibits material support to terrorism. In fact, since being enacted in the mid-Nineties, the material-support laws have become the backbone of anti-terrorism prosecutions. Numerous sympathizers of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas organization have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms for providing assets that can be useful to terrorists in their operations.
As I recounted in the post, Senator Bob Corker unabashedly asserted that the U.S. government knows its support of the “rebels” means “some people are going to get arms that should not be getting arms”; yet he rationalized that this had to be overlooked for the greater good of “support[ing] the free Syrian opposition.” Under federal law, however, there is no overlooking it. Having a (purportedly) higher purpose is not a defense for the knowing provision of material support to terrorists.
In fact, many material-support prosecutions involve donations to ostensible Islamic charities. Sounding much like Senator Corker, the defendants routinely claim that, while they knew some of their support would probably fall into terrorist hands, this was a risk worth running because they had a higher purpose, to promote social-welfare activities. Those defendants are now serving decades in prison. That’s because American law — at least when you have a Justice Department that enforces it — draws a bright line against terrorism. If an entity facilitates terrorism, even as only a small part of its activities, our law deems it radioactive, such that contributing to it is a felony, period. It doesn’t matter that the donor says he had good intentions.
Obviously, in Syria, as in Libya, the Obama administration and those who support its policy want a different set of laws for themselves from the one that Americans are obliged to follow. But Congress’s job — especially the loyal-opposition part of Congress — is to act as a check against executive lawlessness. Here, sadly, Congress is encouraging the administration to violate the law.
3. Bring Back the Bush Doctrine . . . and Try Following It A dozen years ago, following the 9/11 attacks — themselves the foreseeable result of Clinton-era fecklessness about al-Qaeda and solicitude towards “moderate” Islamic supremacists — Republicans rightly sensed that it was time to demonstrate firm resolve. President Bush spoke for them, and for most Americans, when he laid down an unambiguous, unapologetic marker: “You are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
Now, by contrast, the Obama administration has quite intentionally moved us away from that shining but fleeting moment of strategic clarity. What we need is an opposition party that resists. What we need is an opposition party that remembers why what President Bush said in the days after nearly 3,000 of us were killed needed both to be said and acted on. What we need is an opposition party that says if one dollar or one bullet goes to al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood, that is one too many.