Yesterday’s Senate debate over detainee policy offered a venue for hawks like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to defend a controversial provision in a defense spending bill permitting for the indefinite military detention of terror suspects.
Critics of the provision warn that the detention provisions could result in U.S. citizens being held in indefinite military detention and denied access to civilian courts. Graham — who has previously said the U.S. should detain terror suspects indefinitely — concluded his defense of military detention for terror suspects by comparing the threat from Al Qaeda to that posed by Nazi Germany during World War II, saying:
GRAHAM: No one in World War II would have tolerated the idea that someone who collaborated with a Nazi, trying to kill us on our own soil, would have any other disposition than to be considered an enemy of the American people. Now my question for this body is, do you think Al Qaeda is an organization that doesn’t present that same kind of threat?
The European Theater of World War II took the lives of 135,576 American soldiers. By contrast, a State Department report found that 15 Americans died from terrorism in the last year — making it more likely to die from lightning strikes or dog bites — and a Duke terrorism study concluded that since 9/11, terrorist plots within the U.S. have killed 33 individuals.
Graham’s assertion that the threat from Al Qaeda can be compared to the Nazi threat during World War II is bordering on the absurd. And the death of Osama bin Laden “severely weakened” the terrorist organization, according to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
While the threat from Al Qaeda continues to pose a national security threat worthy of discussion, Graham’s comments dramatically overstate the threat facing Americans and trivialize the danger posed by Nazi Germany.