Just more bitching  

pickthisguy11 38M
60 posts
2/6/2006 11:41 pm

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Just more bitching


I must tell you that I did not write the following. I took it from the net. But it makes a good point, and should be read.

In the immediate days and weeks after 9/11 - we heard the dates repeated today in the Senate hearings: September 14, September 18, early October of 2001 - this nation was in fear of immediate, continuous, coordinated attacks. As a people we were reeling in shock, fear, rage and grief. We were understandably reacting from our place in the midst of a severe national emergency, like a nation with its house on fire.

And when your house is on fire, you grant privileges to the rescue personnel you would never allow under any other circumstances: permission for total strangers to enter your house, whisk your baby out of sight to safety, toss your belongings out the window, hose down your Reniors, hustle you off to the nearest Red Cross center. We granted intrusions into our lives in those shaky days right after 9/11 (appropriately so, in light of possible other follow-up attacks) that we would never allow under any other circumstances.

But we are now in a preventive phase and have been for several years. The questions we're grappling with as a country now are not about putting out a current fire; rather, they focus on any and all ways to avert another one. To carry out the fire metaphor: We know there is an arsonist in the neighborhood who wishes us ill. The powers we granted to the rescue workers during the fire are no longer appropriate, and at any rate would not yield the results we need. After all, four years after a home fire, we don't allow firefighters to roust us from our beds at 3 AM, to kick down our doors, to destroy our property in the name of "rescuing" us when there are only rumors of planned flames some vague time in the future.

What struck me today listening to Gonzales was that he is relying on us - and emphatically trying to rouse in us - a regression to that "Oh, my God! The house is on fire! Again!" mentality. Leahy did a nice job of cutting the attorney general short when Gonzales started his warm-up to panic pitch, beginning to evoke the dreaded day in verbal sketches clearly designed to make us see those planes flying into the towers over and over and over again. Leahy deserves a great deal of credit for shutting down that attempt to once again reduce us to a primitive, quivering state with his brusque You don't need to recap for me. I was there. We all were there. The American people were there. He couldn't have signaled sanity more clearly: That was then, this is now, and we're having a very serious constitutional discussion here, so knock off the scare tactics.

Taking the most extreme powers granted under emergency conditions - and interpreting even those powers as extremely as possible - the current administration has undertaken a vast backfill operation. On 9/11, they jumped to the very bottom of the civil liberties-limitation ravine and have systematically shored up, over the past four-and-a-half years what I'm now thinking of as Operation Backfill. For example, in the past few days I've run across repeated accounts of how they considered shooting down Flight 93 on the fateful day. Well, if we were willing to do that, the reasoning seems to go, what's wrong with torture, surveillance, killing without trial an individual suspected of plotting terror? Isn't granting the administration the right to shoot down a plane with a majority of innocent civilians aboard evidence enough that we can undertake namby-pamby warrantless surveillance? In other words, we already turned over, in our panic after 9/11, the right to do anything - anything - to protect us. Any objections we make now to lesser violations than loss of life (which we implicitly agreed to), the administration intimates, are silly.

Aside from continuing actions that are appropriate during an emergency - an attack happening this very minute - there's been a dilution and spreading of definitional terms on the proverbial slippery slope as well, making the slope not only steeper, but wider. Consider how we've gone from discussing a foreign terrorist piloting a plane to foreigners suspected of actively planning to pilot a plane to foreigners vaguely wishing they could pilot a plane into a landmark. And notice too the smudge between foreign and domestic, as well as the intentional blur from known terrorist to suspected terrorist to anyone who aids a terrorist to anyone who is "affiliated" with a terrorist (with "affiliation" totally defined by the executive branch), and from Al Qaeda to Al Qaeda enablers to Al Queda affiliates to people who mighta sorta kinda agree with Al Qaeda to American citizens who don't agree that the proper response to Al Qaeda's attack was invading Iraq (like Quakers).

What we are faced with is, as numerous observers have pointed out, is a perpetual, never-ending war, kind of a general war declared on "bad stuff" - bad people who think bad thoughts about America. This is declared to be an emergency situation, and one that will obviously never end because people will always resent and have bad feelings about the most powerful nation on earth, and thus the crisis is deemed - conveniently for the executive branch - eternal.

In short, this administration wants to argue that we will never, ever, ever be in a rational, analytical prevention phase, but more of one in which an arson unit is trying to come up with detection and preventive standards while the roof is raging on fire above their heads.

I'm not buying it.

Someone's got to tell Mr. Bush the fire's out and that what this country needs more than boogeyman visuals from its attorney general are firm, well-reasoned, coordinated, legal policies to ensure we don't catch fire again. Don't like the surveillance restrictions in FISA, Mr. Attorney General? Well, now's as good a time as any to offer calm rationalizations in front of the cameras of this country, using old, verifiable, truthful instances (the Brooklyn Bridge plot doesn't fly, Mr. Gonzales) or clear-cut, specfic hypotheticals in which these "backfilled" rights violations should be legalized to spare us an attack. Then we can have a national conversation about what rights we're willing to give up in the trade-off for personal security. Simply relying on crisis-granted powers - and even those considered by most legal scholars as illegal - is not selling me.

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