If all press is good press, Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has had a smash-up couple of weeks.
She’s made anti-Semitic remarks. She supports BDS. She’s defended the noxious Black Hebrew Israelites against the Covington Catholic kids, saying that the notoriously racist sect were actually the victims at the March to Life brouhaha. You know, fun stuff like that.
However, it’s not like we shouldn’t have predicted it. Right after she was elected as a Minnesota state legislator, she actually pushed a judge for lenient sentences for nine men who tried to join the Islamic State group, arguing that the case could be a landmark in a “restorative approach to justice” and saying that his “ruling can set a precedent and has the potential to be a landmark case in addressing extremism.”
The case, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, was the largest counterterrorism prosecution in the history of the United States. The men involved had tried to travel to Syria in order to fight with the terrorist group.
KMSP reports that the plot even involved two of the men traveling to San Diego in order to purchase fake passports so that they could travel to the Middle East.
The defense in the case had argued that the men were “caught between two worlds – the United States and pride in their Somali heritage,” KMSP reported. “The defense argued the young men were lured by propaganda on the internet that suggested that a ‘true Muslim’ should be in Syria saving other Muslims who are being killed and trying to restore the Caliphate.”
In the case of defendant Guled Omar, however, federal prosecutors noted that the defense was “mak(ing) light of what is an extraordinarily dangerous conspiracy. Far from comedians engaged in slapstick comedy in black and white film, (the Islamic State group’s) members engage in wholesale murder, rape, and cultural annihilation. But unlike the Three Stooges referenced by counsel for Omar, (the Islamic State group) films in full color.”
In her 2016 letter, Ilhan Omar said (paradoxically) that long sentences would just mean more terrorist recruitment.
“Incarcerating 20-year-old men for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence,” she wrote to Judge Michael Davis.
“Society will have no expectations of the to be 50 or 60-year-old released prisoners; it will view them with distrust and revulsion. Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment: ‘Americans do not accept you and continue to trivialize your value. Instead of being a nobody, be a martyr.’”
Or, you know, don’t join the group at all. You could draw either one of those conclusions. Probably mine, but I digress.
“The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion. We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to affect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation,” she continued.
“A long-term prison sentence for one who chose violence to combat direct marginalization is a statement that our justice system misunderstands the guilty. A restorative approach to justice assesses the lure of criminality and addresses it.
“The desire to commit violence is not inherent to people — it is the consequences of systematic alienation; people seek violent solutions when the process established for enacting change is inaccessible to them,” she added.
“Fueled by disaffection turned to malice, if the guilty were willing to kill and be killed fighting perceived injustice, imagine the consequence of them hearing, ‘I believe you can be rehabilitated. I want you to become part of my community, and together we will thrive.’ We use this form of distributive justice for patients with chemical dependencies; treatment and societal reintegration. The most effective penance is making these men ambassadors of reform.”
These men wanted to join an organization that put their capricious executions online in gruesome videos. Instead, we’re now asked to consider them as potential “ambassadors of reform.”
This is the old liberal problem of viewing the criminal justice system as a push-and-pull between the punitive and the rehabilitative. Theoretically, it can do both, but it also has one other role: protective. It keeps bad people from us.
In the case of these nine men, they wanted to join a murderous organization intent on setting up a brutal caliphate and killing anyone that got in its way, including American troops and civilians. These are individuals that we desperately need to be protected from — yet Rep. Omar believed that this was on the level of “patients with chemical dependencies.”
This is perhaps my inexperience, but I don’t see too many fentanyl addicts calling for jihad or trying to obtain fake passports.
Thankfully, Rep. Omar’s letter didn’t seem to have much effect; most of the defendants received long sentences. However, her job is now to protect the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. At the beginning of her legislative career, she wanted leniency for Islamic radicals who wanted to attack it (and virtually every other civilized entity in the world). Given her recent history, this isn’t a pleasant augury.
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