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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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‘You Don’t Read A Terrorist His Miranda Rights’: An Interview With Professor Michael Widlanski


Michael Widlanski

Michael Widlanski

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What do you make of groups like CAIR that condemned the NYPD? Some people argue that if these groups truly loved America and embraced moderation – as they claim to – they would be the first ones to support any measure necessary to protect America and root out the radicals from their midst.

Absolutely correct. When you see groups like CAIR coming after the police or the army, you know that their real objectives are not to safeguard America or the rights of innocent, law-abiding Muslims. You also, of course, know it from other things – like the money they’ve transferred to all sorts of questionable organizations and people.

Many conservatives argue that one of the obstacles to fighting radical Islam is our refusal to define it as our enemy. Rather, we talk of a generic war on “terror,” which of course is just a tool, not an enemy.

Most of the terrorism in the world today is carried out by Muslims, and that was already true in the 1990s. This is a war, and terror is the weapon of choice because even a few well-trained men with minimum weaponry like box cutters can bring a whole country to its knees with a careful operation.

But is it a war against terror or a war against the people who use terror?

It’s a war against terror and the people who use terror. Terror is a very specific kind of operation. It aims to undermine democratic government by undermining the faith of the people in their elected officials.

Terror doesn’t work against dictatorships because a dictator immediately uses total force and kills all the terrorists and any innocent people standing near them, or not even near them – and it’s all over. You couldn’t use terror against an Adolph Hitler or a Stalin or the ayatollahs in Iran because they’ll use total force against you.

But if you’re a terrorist and want to undermine the faith of the people of Israel, Britain, Spain, or the United States in their government, terrorism is a very effective strategy. So you have to destroy both the people who use it and the very idea that it can be used.

But are we really fighting everyone who uses terror? Aren’t we only fighting a specific group of people using it – namely, radical Muslims?

My book focuses on Arab Islamic terror, but I think Arab Islamic terror is most of the terror in the world today.

You say that terror would never work against a Hitler or a Stalin. In your book, though, you write that America could never act like a Hitler or Stalin since Americans don’t have the stomach for it. Instead of saying they don’t have the stomach for it, why not encourage them to have the stomach for it?

I think you have to fight hard – but you don’t fight dirty. When you get the terrorist you kill him. You don’t read him his Miranda rights or give him a proper burial at sea.

Why not fight dirty?

Because we don’t want to become what they are. You could defeat the terror in Gaza by wiping out Gaza, right? We could kill a million people, but is that what we want to be? No. So what we do is we fight firmly. I’m not saying we’re fighting as we could in Israel, for example; I would fight more firmly. But you don’t become what you oppose.

But why not do it as a “one-shot” deal? You fight dirty for a year or two and then when it’s all over, you return to normal.

It wouldn’t even take a year or two. It would take 10 minutes.

Then why not do it?

Because then you become a murderer like they’re murderers. You don’t drop an atom bomb on everybody from the other side. They’re not cockroaches. There are people there who didn’t commit the crime. If it’s a war, and you can’t differentiate sometimes and a few people are next to him, and you have to do it to save yourself, okay. But to deliberately go out and kill everybody who’s anywhere near the other side – you don’t do that.

Two points, though. First, many innocent civilians are really not terribly innocent since they often give, if not direct aid, then indirect aid and moral support to terrorists. And second, you mentioned the atom bomb. President Truman killed 150,000 Japanese people because he said, “Better them than us.” Why don’t we say that too: better them than us?

The atom bomb saved more than a million lives because it prevented the physical invasion of Japan which would’ve led to at least another million causalities. Truman, though, would not have launched a weapon that would have killed the whole Japanese population. That also would’ve solved the problem but he felt it wouldn’t be right to save a million lives by killing 50 million people. And he was right.

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About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.


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