A Moment of Moral Clarity

EDINBURGH--Team Bush likes to pride itself on its "moral clarity". But yesterday, in his first comments on the jetliner plot, the President probably unwittingly gave a moment of moral clarity to Team Rest of Us. The AP's lede was seemingly oblivious to this fact:

GREEN BAY, Wis. Aug 10, 2006 (AP)-- President Bush said a plot to blow up multiple flights between Britain and the United States shows "this nation is at war with Islamic fascists."

But here, transcribed by me from CNN's Pipeline video feed, is what the first sentence of the President's statement actually said:

"The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom."

This is a group of people who allegedly conspired, according to British officials like Home Secretary John Reid, to commit acts of mass murder that would have dwarfed 911. If we were at war with them, according to the Administration's own well-documented legal arguments, we would have killed them or detained them and thrown them in Gitmo. Instead, where did we--or our allies in the "war", the Brits--put them? Right where we're told by those same arguments we cannot put enemy combatants--in the criminal justice system.

We are inarguably in a war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. But these recent arrests, the President's statement tells us, are a stark reminder that, where the most serious would-be practitioners of acts of terror against us are concerned, we are not at war. We're treating them as members of an international criminal gang.