Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay — An Administration Without a Plan

Over the last month our nation has focused a great deal of attention on Gen. McChrystal’s substantial troop request for our mission in Afghanistan. This is the sort of matter which we should be talking about, because the debate between a counter-insurgency versus counter-terrorism approach, which is at the heart of this decision, is sure to set the tone for policies and missions well beyond the Afghan borders.

But as important as the debate is, Secretary Gates and field commanders are reminding us that there comes a point where the lack of action makes the decision for us. This troop request comes with a reasonable window of opportunity attached. The president’s continued inaction on this front and his failure to come to a conclusion on a long-term strategy for our mission in Afghanistan creates uncertainty for our troops on the ground and puts into question our resolve in the ongoing war against international terrorists and those who aid and abet them.

However, another key component of our approach to combating terrorism and terrorists is also lingering without a conclusive plan and course of action — the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the handling of the remaining detainees. While the troop level debate has drawn all recent attention, this policy decision is also one with tremendous impact.

As you will recall, on Jan 22, 2009, President Obama signed executive orders regarding Guantanamo Bay, interrogation techniques and detention policies. One of the executive orders required that Gitmo be closed within a year. However, as the months passed, it has become obvious to all, including the administration, that such a timetable was unfeasibly aggressive. In fact, to date even some of the most basic aspects of closing the base remain undecided.

Whether the facility is closed by January 2010 or at a later date is not the only subject for discussion here. Rather, this quandary serves as yet another example of this administration’s inability to set and execute effective strategies when it comes to our fight against terrorism. With a backlog of detainees waiting for trial and no clear plan on where to house them once the facility itself is closed, it is clear just how vital it was for the administration to come up with a comprehensive plan before pronouncing the closure of the facility.

Obvious as this it, it seems to have escaped the Obama administration, not just back in January, but even now, late in October.

On Tuesday, the administration achieved a minor “victor”’ with the Senate’s passage of an amendment to the $44 billion Homeland Security budget which will allow the government to continue to transfer detainees from the facility to the United States for prosecution — with the very telling caveat that before any additional transfers take place, the administration put a plan in place.

Yes, you heard that right — the Senate will allow terrorist suspects to come to the United States once the president actually comes up with a plan on what do with them once they are here.

No word yet on when just such a plan will be forthcoming. You can be sure I won’t be holding my breath.

This past Monday, the city council of Standish, Mich. took the initiative by voting 6-0 in support of the city’s willingness to proceed with plans that would allow the transfer of the remaining Guantanamo Bay detainees to the soon-to-be closed maximum security facility located in their small Midwestern town. Word is they would have passed the resolution even sooner had they not been trying so hard — and failing — to get straight answers out of Washington.

So while Congress passes measures allowing for transfer of detainees once a plan is developed and an administration asks to close the facility without any clear direction on how, at least we can count on the Standish City Council to take decisive action.

Perhaps once they have settled the matter of Guantanamo Bay, the town of Standish could help President Obama along by voting on a resolution concerning troop levels in Afghanistan. That is the type of decisive leadership that is certainly absent in Washington these days.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.

A Prize for Hope

So much has already been said and written concerning President Obama’s startling receipt of a Nobel Peace Prize this past Friday that I don’t want to bore you with a regurgitated version of yesterday’s news.

But with so many commentators and pundits, on both the left and right, raising understandable questions about the validity of conferring such an award on an American president who has been in office for less than a year and really accomplished so little…well, it’s gotten me thinking. As a country, we have had many successful past American presidents who have had such a significant, positive impact on the course of global affairs — too many of whom are no longer seen relevant or historically noteworthy, but from whom we must learn.

According to Alfred Nobel’s will, the prize for peace was to be awarded to the person who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses.” Given that, we can only assume that Mr. Nobel intended the award be given to those who have achieved tangible accomplishments and invested considerable effort, not merely talked of the goals of peace.

Interestingly, President Obama was especially recognized by the committee for his goal of nuclear arms reductions and focus on strengthening international diplomacy — certainly two worthwhile foreign policy goals. But President Obama’s one major speech on nuclear arms reduction is just that…one speech.

When compared to the policy aims of past presidents — including my father, who made nuclear arms reduction and eradication a centerpiece of his presidency and beyond — current political chatter seems so broad. And when compared to the foreign policy successes of Ronald Reagan, who personally bridged the coldest of barriers to halt a spiraling nuclear arms race and aggressively confront the Red armies of oppression, the current political discourse looks little more than hope without substance.

Ronald Reagan was successful not because of his strong opposition to nuclear weapons, but because he backed that opposition with real pressure on the rest of the world — pressure marked by action. He was able to walk into the 1986 Reykjavik negotiations with the Soviets and tell Gorbachev that a 50 percent reduction in weapons was insufficient and that together they needed to work for the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons. And then Reagan was able to walk out of that meeting and bring to bear all the needed economic, military, social, and political pressure. The next year Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed a treaty which abolished an entire category of nuclear weapons, an unheard-of agreement.

If President Obama is going to live up to this premature award, this is the legacy he must meet and strive to surpass. He has said he accepts this award as a call to action, and this is exactly what it must be. We no longer face the threat of Soviet hegemony, but rogue states such as Iran and North Korea present genuine threats and must be countered not only with calls for nuclear reduction, but with steady determination and overwhelming strength.

Just today, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called talk of Iranian sanctions “premature,” signaling yet another wrinkle in the global posture towards Iran. Negotiations and diplomacy are crucial to any effort. My father, who opened frank negotiations with the Soviets, knew that better than most, but he also knew that we can’t be seen as willing to let negotiations fail should the resistance prove too strong.

As for the Nobel, thankfully my father understood that most political awards were nothing more than philosophical beauty pageants. Rather, he knew that action and results were the true measure of an individual, a presidency and a nation. Time and experience will show the measure of President Obama.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.

An Overlooked Crisis

As our health care system is debated in Congress and we continue to face down pro-choice challenges in the bill, I want to take the time to remind all of us of another vulnerable segment of our population. This is one area in which we should be in full agreement, but still one we too often overlook: the thousands of children in need of adoption by loving families who are instead consigned to a struggling foster-care system.

These are children who have been through so much already, who have lost their parents to tragedy, to the streets, or who have been pulled through the trauma of abuse or abandonment by the very person who should love them the most. Through no possible fault of their own, these young ones have seen the hardest side of humanity, and they desperately need a steady and loving hand to guide them.

As much as we may bicker over the politics of life and the role of government in of our social services, on a fundamental level the hardship of these children deserves nothing less than our compassion, support, and perhaps the very opening of our homes. We must understand this, not as a peripheral issue, but as a true crisis of child welfare, and a battleground for our future.

In this country, there are 129,000 children waiting to be adopted. Most of those are already legally severed from their birth parents and could therefore be adopted into new families with no delays. But last year alone, over 28,000 children were left without families.

This does not need to be the case. Improvements to the adoption system in our country have made the process smoother, faster, and less expensive than it once was. Children in foster homes can be adopted without legal complications. Those who choose to adopt an infant can be paired with their child from before birth and even build a relationship with the birth mother.

Over and over again, in personal stories and in comprehensive studies, we are shown the overwhelming benefits of adoption. Children left in foster care not only struggle with being bounced from place to place in shifting relationships, but also face a terrible struggle when they leave the system and are left with no family support, no adequate resources, and a lack of practical preparation. Conversely, children who are adopted — either as infants or later in life — have proven that strong, successful families do not require ties of blood, and children can rebound from early trauma and experience deep healing and love.

Many of you know that I myself was adopted as an infant. I can think of no greater blessing than the family I was brought into, of the chance for a new life from the start. Every child is a gift from God, and every child deserves a loving family. As individuals and as a nation, we must make that understanding a priority moving forward.

I invite you to visit http://www.arrow.org/, the home of Arrow Child & Family Ministries, an organization I have been proud to partner with for many years now. There you can learn more about the pressing issues of child welfare in this country, the policies and practices for which we advocate, and the steps your family can take on behalf of these children, perhaps even making one of them your own. Together, we can protect children and benefit families for generations to come.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.

Time for President Obama to Get Behind the General Consensus on Afghanistan

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, President Obama’s personal choice to lead U.S. and coalition forces and operations in Afghanistan, has officially made a request for between 30,000 and 40,000 additional troops. He asserts that without this troop infusion, we run a very real risk of failing to meet our military objectives in Afghanistan, failing to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and ruining the hope of providing a stable enough atmosphere that the Afghan military and police can eventually assume control of their internal security and defend against external threats.

McChrystal is not alone in this request. Gen. David Petraeus, the brilliant architect and manager of the United States’ successful “surge” in Iraq who now commands United States Central Command, has attached his name to the growing list of supporters for the troop increase request. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has also indicated that more troops will be needed to avoid failure in Afghanistan.

Avoiding failure on this front is a non-negotiable. Such a failure, in both military and political terms, would be catastrophic to American interests at home and abroad. Such a scenario would likely include a revitalized Taliban and Al Qaeda that are ceded strategic territory in which to thrive, train and plot. And just as importantly, it would give these murderous thugs the type of public relations victory they have been seeking since the September 11 attacks — similar to their failed effort to bog down and cause a hasty retreat of U.S. troops in Iraq.

President Obama, it is time to listen to your field generals over liberal Washington politicos, just as you did in February of this year when you approved an initial increase of 21,000 troops. President Obama, it is now time to give Gen. McChrystal the troops he needs to get the job done.

There is no doubt that sending our brave men and women into harm’s way is one of the most difficult decisions a president has to make. No one should criticize the president for taking a few weeks to thoroughly review this latest request — especially in light of our numerous obligations throughout the globe which have stretched our troops and their equipment quite thin recently. A troop increase of this magnitude requires consideration and long-term planning.

However, in this case, I am concerned that the president is weighing not only the military calculations, but that, due to his political party’s internal politics, he is also being forced to weigh the intra-Democratic Party political consequences of his decisions at a time when liberal voters, interest groups and political operations are gearing up for the critical 2010 mid-term elections.

President Obama owes much of his success in the primary elections to his early opposition to the Iraq War, and the loyalty that gave him from the anti-war left. Now some of that block are trying to collect on a conflict where not long ago President Obama told us, “the world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos.”

Vice President Biden has also been in his ear opposing the troop level recommendations. Speaker Pelosi and the lead Democratic Senator on the Armed Services Committee have both stated their strong opposition to any additional troops. Some have even started to talk of a timetable for withdrawal.

There are no easy decisions when waging a war. Right now though, President Obama has personally talked with the commanding officer in Afghanistan only once in the 70 days Gen. McChrystal has been in command, and I can guess how that stacks up against conversations with his party’s vocal left-wing. There may not be easy decisions, but the best decision our president could make right now is to turn that ratio inside out so that he can start making the right decisions to win this war and bring our troops home with victory.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.

Newspaper Profitability — Is it Critical to our Democracy?

Today, as you read this column in your favorite newspaper, I hope that you can appreciate the irony of where I am choosing to voice my opposition to President Obama’s expressed “happiness” to look at proposals to provide federal funding to help “rescue” the struggling print segment of the Fourth Estate. Just what we need…more of our tax dollars going to pick and choose segments of the public sector that the administration deems worthy of assistance.

I do agree with President Obama when he states that good journalism is “critical to the health of our democracy.” While I think we can all agree that the media find maintaining neutrality and hiding biases difficult in many circumstances, one cannot discount their role in keeping this nation’s representatives in check and sometimes even holding them accountable for their actions. The essential nature of a free press was so recognized by our Founding Fathers that it was enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

But these views on the importance of journalism in a free society does not mean I am willing to submit or subscribe to the theory that we can abandon the principles of a free market in order to pick and choose select private industries deemed worthy of receiving federal dollars to bolster their chances of surviving the ever-changing marketplace.

Today, many of our nation’s longest standing print outlets are struggling to garner advertisers and subscribers. The impact of the challenging economy on advertising budgets and the ease and freshness of online news sources have put traditional newspapers in a challenging position. However, rather than arrogantly assuming government dollars may be the key to their continued viability, we should step back and take note of the countless periodicals that are withstanding these unfriendly challenges to their profitability by exploring new, creative ways to remain viable during times of economic hardship and increasing competition from the online community.

We are not facing the end of the press, but a necessary and perhaps even desirable evolution in the particular form and style of our media sources. Journalism is diversifying, not dying. This is the free market at work.

But this administration and this Congress seem to think that government is the solution — the only answer. The answer to what? To help struggling financial institutions as well as the auto and newspaper industries gain an advantage? But what industry, what sector is next? Perhaps they should next look at helping revive the now-defunct Arena Football League?

As we look out over our nation as it attempts to climb out from the devastating economic morass of the last 18 months, we can still see so many Americans out of work and countless small business struggling to make ends meet. How can President Obama talk about continued bailouts — especially one directed toward the media — when we fail to address the concerns of the small businesses that make up a majority of the jobs in our country? How about targeted tax cuts/rebates for these small businesses instead?

Sadly, it appears to be political. The president seems more concerned about the influence of blogs and other online informational resources on the political process than he does about helping the working families of our nation by being judicious and fair with their tax dollars. He claims that many of the online news options are simply carefree when it comes to the facts. Or perhaps he does not appreciate the online use of facts that is helping to shape our health care debate?

But regardless of his reasoning or intentions, one thing is clear: the use of our tax dollars to bail out the newspaper industry is just one new example of a federal government that is intent on expanding its own power and reach — all the while trampling on America’s traditional notion of capitalism and free markets. Now, that is something worth reporting.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.

The Politics of Race — Flames Fanned by a Former President

The Democrats, led by certain members of Congress and former President Jimmy Carter, have developed a new tactic to dismiss growing displeasure with President Obama’s policies. As his approval ratings continue to drop, hesitancy over health care has snarled the plan’s progress, and tens of thousands marched on Washington this past weekend, the left has decided the entire opposition can be dismissed by the obfuscating charge of racism.

Just Tuesday, former President Carter told “NBC Nightly News,” “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American.”

No one wants to fall in with racists, to heed racially motivated comments, or to be lumped in with their kind — so, to President Carter’s thinking, what choice do we have but to ignore the discontent of any American and praise the administration blindly?

This sort of mindset is not only ignorant, but actually dangerous. A former president of the United States has equated opposition to nationalized health care, government bailouts, and out-of-control spending, to racist motives solely because the sitting president is black. Is that the sort of progress we need in this country? Progress where we can no longer have a national debate because of skin color? That’s not the sort of progress President Obama has advocated.

President Carter has failed to account for the fact that millions of Americans are simply fed up with the big government policies coming out of Washington — the same policies they denounced under President Clinton, at times under Republican Presidents Bush, and certainly from a certain President Carter. Perhaps Carter could take the time to recall conservative frustration when Republican President George W. Bush’s administration spent too much for their liking, or liberal frustration on social issues. Were those concerns racist? Of course not!

In that same interview, Carter also chastened us that, “No matter who he is or how much we disagree with his policies, the president should be treated with respect.”

It seems to me that the ones forgetting that creed have not been the millions who fear government interference in their insurance plans, children’s education, and small businesses. No, the one who seems to forget that is none other than President Carter himself.

After all, let’s remember now who it was who called President George W. Bush’s sitting administration the “worst in history.” Or do you recall the claim that President Bush had inspired an “overt reversal of America’s basic values” and that his “arrogance” and “fundamentalism” were taking the country in the wrong direction?

Could it be…Jimmy Carter?

Of course we should treat our sitting President with respect, and I will be the first to stand against those who do not treat President Obama as the duly elected leader of this country, and you had better believe that I will oppose any racially-motivated attacks against President Obama or any other leader or individual in this nation.

But in a democracy, in this great and free country, we retain the right of dissent, the right of free speech, the right to oppose government policies and the direction of our leadership, and the right to speak that disagreement publicly. If we lose that freedom, if we allow it to be suppressed by claims of racism, then what sort of free society are we?

Moreover, with his comments, President Carter is in essence telling independent voters across the country, including those who may have voted for Obama in 2008, that if they disagree with the president on any issue, their disagreement must stem from racist motives rather than clear thinking. Now that is not smart politics, and it’s something Democrats should stand up and oppose as well.

These latest comments by Carter cannot help by remind me how fortunate we were as a nation that my father’s election removed him from office.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.

When Should “a Thousand Words” Give Way to Silence?

On August 14 a young Marine Lance Corporal, Joshua Bernard, was struck by a Taliban-fired RPG during an ambush while on patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. This American hero suffered severe leg wounds and eventually succumbed to his injuries on a field hospital operating table.

According to friends, Bernard was a young man whose strong faith guided him on a path of service — eventually leading to his enlistment in the Marine Corps. His passing is a tremendous blow to his family and friends — and to an eternally grateful nation.

Similar stories of sacrifice and loss have been playing out across our nation as our young men and women continue to serve in harm’s way. What makes this story even more tragic is a decision by the Associated Press that crosses the bounds of decency.

You see, the Associated Press has reporters and photographers embedded with the Marines as they conduct combat operations. AP photographer Julie Jacobson, an embed in Afghanistan during the ambush, captured images of Bernard as he lay mortally wounded. Sensing opportunity, the Associated Press team put together a narrative entitled “AP Impact – Afghan – Death of a Marine” also using the work of journalist Alfred de Montesquiou along with cameraman Ken Teh, in which they inexplicably included the image of the slain, young Marine.

Even after appeals from the family and Defense Secretary Gates, the AP went forward with its publication over their objections on the grounds that it conveyed “the grimness of war.”

While I applaud many in the press who jeopardize their own safety at risk to cover our men and women in battle, the actions of the Associated Press here also jeopardize the already fragile relationships Americans have with members of the press. Unbiased reporting from the battlefield is crucial to relaying the truths of war back to all of us at home. But incidents such as this, where the media puts its own agenda (be it personal, professional or political) ahead of the respectful treatment each of us would expect if this was a member of our family, are why so many of us are skeptical of what is reported in newspapers, online and on television.

This young Marine, his family and friends deserved better. They deserved to remember their son, their friend, their fellow-Marine, as he lived rather than through the lens of a media team more interested in furtherance of their own aims than of common decency. Now the man has been forgotten for the news story. And the terrorist enemies who caused this casualty should not have their works widely distributed internationally — surely to be used as propaganda.

Many news organizations understood this, and, in respect and compassion, chose not to run the photograph. I am thankful for their sense and restraint. Nevertheless, this is a test which more than 20 news outlets failed.

The grimness of war is something we all need to be consistently reminded of — teaching us about the sacrifices of the few who, on our behalf, defend our freedoms as we go about our daily lives. These stories, and the courageous individuals behind them, must never be forgotten, nor should the horrors they endure be lightly pushed aside.

In this instance, however, the worldwide distribution of an image of an American hero as he passes to his Creator is something far too graphic and, moreover, intrusive to pass the test of responsible journalism — and that of responsible human behavior.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.

New Coalitions for a New Age

Summer is coming to an end as is evidenced by the return of children to school, the start of football season and the breezy hint of cooler temperatures to come. Looking at the political calendar, we are nearing the eight-month mark of the Obama administration and their allied, Democratically-led Congress.

So, as Congress sits in recess and the nation braces for the upcoming national health care fight, I thought it an appropriate moment to talk about the future of Republican politics. Not just how we can defeat health care or win more congressional seats in 2010 — but how we develop the coalitions necessary to ensure we are a party capable of standing strongly 10, 20, 50 years into the future. In essence, we must ensure we are a lasting party equipped to defend the principles of limited government, lower taxes, free markets, a strong national defense, and individual rights and responsibilities.

Today, with government spending increasing astronomically, with the prospect of one-fifth of our economy — in the form of the health care system — being turned over to government controls, these guidelines are all the more important. Thirty years ago, my father understood this, and that legacy has passed down to us.

Even as conservatives, we will not always agree, but if we respect those with dissenting opinions, we can grow even stronger in our determination to follow our shared values. Americans are increasingly, and rightfully, growing skeptical of policies that emphasize budget-busting government solutions, as opposed to empowering individuals, families and small businesses. Conservatives have a great opportunity and platform to move beyond the media stereotypes of Republicans as demoralized and dysfunctional and come together to reassert our strength and fight for our freedoms. Liberal, conservative or independent, there is much that unites us.

My father understood that good governance required strong coalitions. In order to move forward, this is something the Republican Party will need to understand as well. Today, as political maps show the Northeast and the Southeast entrenching further along party lines, the coalitions and partnerships which will shape our future are increasingly found in the West.

We have a new proving ground in the independent-minded West, with states like New Mexico, where the presidential election was decided by less than 6,000 votes in 2004 and by a mere 366 votes in 2000, and Colorado, a state so intensely contested between President Obama and Senator McCain in 2008. The West has always been a region of fierce independence and a willingness to buck traditions. The challenges we face today require that spirit and creativity.

Any new winning coalition must include America’s growing Hispanic population, which makes up over 20 percent of the population in six states from this Western bloc, as well as Florida. The Hispanic community has much in common with what I call conservative values, from an emphasis on family values to issues of law enforcement and education. I have seen this in my own home state of California.

Now is the time to win back the hearts and minds of all Americans and embrace the founding principles of this great nation. With so much at stake, this is an endeavor that will require all of our participation; no one group can do it alone. This undertaking will also require practical solutions and the leadership of young Americans, whose future is ever more on the line. We must build coalitions that honor our shared traditions and principles, or we will jeopardize our future. It’s time to come together.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.

The Failure to Administer Justice — Another Lockerbie Tragedy

At a time when civilized nations are continuing to wage a collective and challenging fight against terrorist organizations, and the rogue nations that harbor them, this week’s release by Scottish officials of one of the masterminds behind the 1988 Lockerbie bombing constitutes a major setback. Just as importantly, it has had a devastating effect on the families and friends of those lost at the hands of the cold-blooded killers.

As many of you will recall, on December 21, 1988, a few short days before Christmas, a 747 en route from London to New York was downed by a bomb detonating while the plane was over the now-famous Lockerbie, Scotland. All 243 passengers and 16 crew members (189 of which were U.S. citizens) were killed as well as 11 innocents on the ground – one of the most shocking and costly terrorist acts preceding the events of 9/11.

Shortly after the conclusion of an intense investigation, the United States and British authorities indicted two Libyan intelligence agents for their roles in the bombing — in essence, concluding that the bombing was authorized by the Libyan government and carried out by the named suspects.

After several years suffering at the hands of strict international pressure and resulting sanctions, the Libyan government finally agreed to extradite its two indicted agents for trial by a Scottish court. In 2001, one of the former Libyan intelligence officers, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of the 270 victims — carrying a stipulation of a minimum of 27 years imprisonment under Scottish law.

Yet, in an unprecedented and mind-numbing turn of events, this past week, Scotland’s “Justice” Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, released the un-repentant al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds after he served a mere eight years of confinement. (al-Megrahi is said to have only three months to live as the result of prostate cancer.)

Making matters worse, al-Megrahi was received as a hero upon his arrival in Libya, and when he addressed the Libyan and Scottish flag-waving crowd; he continued to stand by his insistence that he was wrongly convicted. That’s right — Secretary MacAskill released a mass murder who has not even accepted responsibility for the actions that led to his conviction.

Following the release, FBI Director Robert Mueller aptly pointed out that, in total, al-Megrahi “served less than 14 days per victim” for his role in this mass murder. Fourteen days for the planned killing of a plane full of innocent passengers… a mere fourteen days for the killing of countless parents, siblings and even young children.

America’s justice system has come under much scrutiny in recent years. Indeed, in today’s complex world, decisions must be made quickly while still weighing the protection of innocent persons against terror against the proper treatment of prisoners. At times, in retrospect, our quick decision may not have always be the best option, but in all of this debate, no one has denied the need for a firm moral code and legal guide in our justice system, and that code should indeed include compassion.

But where the Scottish government has failed in this is acknowledging that we must have compassion for more than just the perpetrator or the indicted. In attempting to demonstrate mercy towards a convicted terrorist and mass murderer, they have failed to demonstrate compassion towards his victims’ loved ones. More than that, they have disregarded all implications for the future — not considering what this man is capable of, nor the impact his release will have on the dynamics of an entire international system.

In the midst of the miscarriage of justice, I mourn with the families whose loss has been treated so cavalierly. And as we continue to wage the battle against terrorism, I can not help the sick feeling in my gut as a murderer is welcomed home to cheering crowds.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.

The Passing of a Legend

This week I was saddened to learn that conservative stronghold Robert Novak was lost to his long battle with brain cancer. While his life was long and full, his loss will be keenly felt.

Bob was one of the old guard who defied easy description and refused to let anyone, Republican or Democrat, settle too quickly. Bob never let political leaders get away with the easy route, even when he was their ideological match. He admired toughness and strength, because that was what he himself exhibited.

Bob was born in Illinois and began his journalistic career early, before even graduating high school. Then, still a young man, he served his country as a lieutenant in the Army during the Korean War. He found his calling, though, in serving the country through his writing, and over the past several decades became a versatile commentator and the writer of the longest-running syndicated column.

During my father’s era, his column, co-written with Rowland Evans, was known as the “bulletin board of the Reagan administration,” not because he was a Reagan apologist, but because he had the connections and the determination to keep the stories coming. Love him or hate him (and there were plenty of people on both sides), you can be sure that no one could avoid him.

And he did more than just report. Before and through my father’s run for the presidency, Novak spearheaded a major push for fundamental tax reform, one which grew into a legacy. In the time of the highest taxes this country has seen, he fought for ideas and solutions, not just the status quo.

Bob was a mentor in his field and an inspiration beyond. His column not only served to provide honest, provocative commentary from a conservative perspective, but in it he also demonstrated his formidable investigative skills. Novak conducted his investigations with diligence and care, working to avoid the increasing pressure for speed over accuracy, one aspect of his integrity which will be missed by this entire community.

CNN put him on the air in their first week, and for years he co-hosted “Crossfire,” sparring with all his considerable insight and determination. His deep understanding of all things “Washington” allowed him to shine a light on these workings and put them on display before the American people with his unique skill.

Through Bob Novak’s eyes, we were able to see the grit and glamour of the political system, to call it to account, and to press for answers and accountability. In a liberalizing system, he courageously wrestled against the tide, moving in the opposite direction, fighting for small government, lower taxes, and limited powers. He has left a great void.

Bob Novak was a force to be reckoned with after five years reporting in Washington. After 50 years, he has become a legend. Republicans and Democrats can both agree on one thing — Bob Novak was a man of principle and gritty determination. American politics will not be the same without him.

©2009 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561.