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Sunday, July 2, 2006
Steyn Goes Over the Top
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:26 pm

In the Chicago Sun-Times we find columnist Mark Steyn having turned the rhetoric up to “11″: Court finds a right to jihad in the Constitution

There are several ways to fight a war. On the one hand, you can put on a uniform, climb into a tank, rumble across a field and fire on the other fellows’ tank. On the other, you can find a 12-year-old girl, persuade her to try on your new suicide-bomber belt and send her waddling off into the nearest pizza parlor.

The Geneva Conventions were designed to encourage the former and discourage the latter.

I understand Steyn’s point about the regular solider versus the irregular one, but there is a substantial and glaring problem with his logic here: the Geneva Conventions have absolutely zero applicability to suicide bombers, as the very nature of their attacks mean that rules of imprisonment become rather moot.

Perhaps the slopping thinking came about due to his desire to employ the following rhetoric

The same kind of inspired jurisprudence conjuring trick that detected in the emanations of the penumbra how the Framers of the U..S Constitution cannily anticipated a need for partial-birth abortion and gay marriage has now effectively found a right to jihad — or, if you’re a female suicide bomber about to board an Israeli bus, a woman’s right to Jews.

There is a great deal of space in which to debate the Hamdan decision and the applicability of international treaties that deal with the treatment of prisoners, but to call this SCOTUS “finding a right to jihad” is ridiculous.

For one thing, the Hamdan cases essentially limited the kind of tribunal that could be used against the prinsoners at Guantanamo, and left room open for the legislature to give the President what he wants in that regard. While I fully understand that the case has implications beyond that narrow issue, the notion that this case represents some major defeat in the war on terror for the US is simply an over-reaction. The notion that the only way we can be safe is for the President to be able to do whatever he thinks is necessary is a non sequitur.

Further the notion that such decisions some equate (as Steyn does in his concluding paragraph) some major diminution of western civilization strikes me as a substantial over-reaction.

Indeed, I would point out that those who are seriously concerned about the war on terror need to dial back their rhetoric some before they take a very serious issue and turn it into a boy-who-cried-wolf scenario in which their shriller and shriller pronouncements are more and more ignored.

All these kinds of columns do is tickle the ears and egos of those who already agree with Steyn. All well and good, I suppose, but really not what the main goal of political discourse ought to be.


  1. Well, given that a more appropriate definition of jihad might be “striving in the way of God,” I should have to think that “the right to jihad” has been in the US Constitution for a good long time.

    If I were a Muslim, I would be really offended by Steyn’s phrasing (not that he’s unusual here). And if I were a Jew, I think I would be rather offended by his far-too-clever turn of phrase at the end of the same paragraph in which you quoted his comments on jihad.

    Comment by Matthew Shugart (Guestblogger) — Sunday, July 2, 2006 @ 6:56 pm

  2. […] ents on Hamdan decision
    By Bryan S. (guestblogger) @ 10:24 pm

    What Dr. Taylor wrote earlier this afternoon, coupled with my earlier post suggests that the “frame” of the recen […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Quick judgments on Hamdan decision — Sunday, July 2, 2006 @ 10:24 pm

  3. Mark Steyn was never and will never be a bright journalist. I recommend you to ignore his articles.

    Comment by anonymous email — Monday, July 3, 2006 @ 5:47 am

  4. Matthew,

    Both valid points-and I should have commented on that ill-advised pun.

    And anonymous: truth is, I tend to do as you advise, but saw the headline and felt the need to comment.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Monday, July 3, 2006 @ 9:28 am

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