Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
--attributed to Benjamin Franklin
Apparently unsatisfied with the massive loss of human life, too many of our men of power seem determined to offer up a further sacrifice to the butchering animals who carried out yesterday's black deeds; namely, our very freedom. The fires from America's latest taste of international terrorism were still burning brightly when went up the first resort to the familiar old refrain. We're in a war, says Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, and civil liberties are treated differently in wartime. Indeed, Senator!
Opposition to our civil liberties isn't new to Lott, of course; his frequent designs on them are, by now, quite infamous. What is new is that Lott and the rest of the usual band of right-wing ne'er-do-wells now have the fear and anger generated by yesterday's barbarism to exploit for their own black ends.
Lott says he doesn't want this discussion of civil liberties to be limited to a strictly intellectual argument, and as well he should! He could hardly win this argument if those were to be its limitations.
Real security, wherever it exists, is the product only of the forbearance of our fellow man, not of any course of action by the State. Security cannot be purchased by the sacrifice of liberty, nor should we ever countenance an attempt at such an exchange. The liberty will be lost and the security will not follow. Indeed, not even the most repressive of police states has found itself secure from the ravages of terrorism, nor, if any one ever did, would any American worthy of the name ever want to live there.
--the Spirit of '76
Why someone would feel strongly enough to commit suicide in order to affect the mass murder of Americans is a subject most scrupulously avoided in our corporate press, which seems content to call for "solutions" to the problem--usually involving the sacrifice of our liberty--without ever defining what the problem is. A curious oversight.
--A Curious Citizen
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001
The editorials of our newspapers are now filled with calls for blood.
The Philadelphia Daily News:
"REVENGE. Hold on to that thought. Go to bed thinking it. Wake up chanting it. Because nothing less than revenge is called for today. ... We will demand nothing less than a full and deadly response. We have been merciful in the past with the terrorist thugs who have attacked this country. We have condemned them and imposed economic sanctions, but we have not hunted them down with murder in our eyes. Yesterday's attacks, however, amount to a declaration of war against the United States, a sneak attack even more devastating than the one on Pearl Harbor 50 years ago. At least the Japanese were honorable enough to attack a military target. This time, our enemies went after civilians, among them children."
The Minneapolis Star Tribune:
"...the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington are more than cowards, and they require more than punishment.
"They are enemies. They must be identified, engaged, defeated and put forever out of the terrorism business. America is at war. Where that war will lead, what it will entail, no one knows. Americans should, however, be prepared for a long and perhaps costly struggle. This attack demands an emphatic, sustained response..."
The Washington Times:
"For the first time in a generation, America finds herself at war, and war is the proper term. The coming days will be hard ones, for America, our leaders and for those who wish this country well. This attack has cost us. But it will cost those responsible more dearly than they may be capable of imagining... The events of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, will not be forgotten. And those responsible will be made to pay the price."
This is to be expected, and, I might add, is completely appropriate under the circumstances--we would scarcely be human if Tuesday's horrors didn't awaken within us a thirst for the blood of those responsible.
Unfortunately, there are also those among us who now demand we throw all reason to the wind and embark upon a campaign of indiscriminate murder, no different, in any meaningful sense, than that which was perpetrated upon us this week. These individuals seem to be relatively few in number, but some have attained a degree of influence which makes their public pronouncements on the subject troubling. One such creature is Ann Coulter, a wildly popular columnist and commentator in conservative circles. Here are some of the things she had to say today:
"This is no time to be precious about locating the exact individuals directly involved in this particular terrorist attack. Those responsible include anyone anywhere in the world who smiled in response to the annihilation of patriots like Barbara Olson.
"We don't need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don't need an 'international coalition.' We don't need a study on 'terrorism.' We certainly didn't need a congressional resolution condemning the attack this week.
"The nation has been invaded by a fanatical, murderous cult. And we welcome them. We are so good and so pure we would never engage in discriminatory racial or 'religious' profiling.
"People who want our country destroyed live here, work for our airlines, and are submitted to the exact same airport shakedown as a lumberman from Idaho. This would be like having the Wehrmacht immigrate to America and work for our airlines during World War II. Except the Wehrmacht was not so bloodthirsty."
Coulter does seem to offer a few token words against the futile effort to prevent terrorism by constricting civil liberties, but the cause of civil liberties hardly benefits from being espoused by a writer making blatantly racist arguments in favor of a campaign of genocide:
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war."
While Coulter's long history of intellectual dishonesty, misrepresentations, and outright falsehoods would make her views unworthy of comment in a culture which condemned such things in a writer, those dismal qualities have made her quite popular within conservative circles. We should never forget the words she's written today, but one can only hope that when, in the future, cooler heads undertake to record the history of this time, we won't be remembered for the Ann Coulters among us.
Jerry Falwell has long been a disgrace to the human race, and today saw fit to remind us of it. Appearing on Pat Robertson's despicable 700 Club program today, Falwell had this to say about the events of this week:
"The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this. And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God or successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen,’"
"Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted their agenda at the highest levels of our government."
One has no trouble imagining the ghoulish glee these "men" must have derived from the knowledge that many liberals surely perished in the attacks.
Friday, Sept. 14, 2001
The work of "libertarian" columnist Paul Craig Roberts is, even on a good day, shoddy, ill-considered, and racist; today's screed from the former Reagan underling added a stronger-than-usual element of Orwellian reasoning to this noxious blend. We "must understand our situation and how it came about," says Roberts. "Otherwise, the main impact of the war against terrorism will be the diminution of our own civil liberties." A commendable premise, certainly. Roberts then proceeds, without the faintest hint of irony, to spend the entirety of his column completely ignoring "our situation and how it came about," while arguing vociferously in favor of "the diminution of our own civil liberties"!
The columnist wants a "war" on terrorism:
"To conduct such a war would not be easy. We would have to search out and destroy terrorist camps and infrastructure in foreign countries, and assassinate leaders and collaborators.
"Much of this warfare would have to be conducted in the United States and Canada."
Why does he think so? Roberts posits the notion that there is a massive network of Middle Eastern terrorist organizations which have found "haven" in the U.S. and Canada. His only source for this nonsense is Steven Emerson. Described by Roberts as a "counter-terrorism expert," a more proper characterization of Emerson would be "loony conspiracy theorist" or, perhaps, "anti-Arab con-artist." The good people at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting gave the world a glimpse of what Emerson was really made of a few years ago. See their article here. No matter--his word is good enough for Roberts, who apparently sees no danger in calling for rooting out such a menace by any means necessary without having any evidence that the menace in fact exists at all.
And Roberts wants to root them out! Besides assasinations, he wants racial profiling, infiltration of religious and civil rights groups, vigorous domestic spying by federal agencies. These agencies, he argues, were unaware of Tuesday's terrorist attacks beforehand because they have been "emasculated" by the "American political left." He trashes the Church Committee investigation of the 1970s, which exposed horrible abuses by the CIA--this, he argues, "castrated the agency," making it impossible for it to do anything about preventing terrorism. Presumably, he prefers the days when the CIA opened our mail with impunity. And what of the FBI? "The political establishment gave the FBI fits for spying on Martin Luther King's communist affiliations. Obviously, the FBI shied away from taking on another minority group." The FBI had no real interest in King's largely imaginary "communist affiliations"; it did have a keen interest in neutralizing King as an affective civil rights leader, an interest which even lead, in one case, to the attempted blackmail of King. Hardly activities reasonable people will want to encourage in their federal agencies.
Roberts isn't reasonable, though. After spending the bulk of his column decrying the fact that federal agencies don't have as free a hand to abuse our civil liberties as they once had, he comes full circle, concluding with this, a completely bizarre complaint, given what has preceded it:
"The likely victims of our war against terrorism are the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."
Perhaps this can be avoided, but if it is, it will be at the cost of disregarding Paul Craig Roberts' advice on the matter.
The following is a statement by Ralph Neas, President of People For the American Way, on yesterday's comments by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson:
I am deeply saddened that in the wake of this week's devastating terrorist attacks, Religious Right political leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have chosen the path of division rather than unity.
At a time when political leaders of both parties are urging bipartisanship and national unity, it is truly unfortunate that Americans who watched today's edition of Pat Robertson's 700 Club television program received a far different message from Robertson and Falwell.
This is a time for a shared national commitment to bringing those responsible for the terrorist attacks to justice. It is also a time to renew our commitment to protecting the constitutional liberties and democratic values that sustain our free society. Today's comments by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell can only impede efforts to bring the nation together in pursuit of these goals.
The terrible tragedy that has befallen our nation, and indeed the entire global community, is the sad byproduct of fanaticism. It has its roots in the same fanaticism that enables people like Jerry Falwell to preach hate against those who do not think, live, or love in the exact same way he does.
The tragedies that have occurred this week did not occur because someone made God mad, as Mr. Falwell asserts. They occurred because of hate, pure and simple. It is time to move beyond a place of hate and to a place of healing. We hope that Mr. Falwell will apologize to the U.S. and world communities.
Our hearts go out to the victims of this week’s tragedies and their friends and family members. We are thankful to the police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency personnel who are working tirelessly to lead the relief efforts.
"Asked about his remarks in an interview last night, Mr. Falwell said he was making a theological statement about how various groups had so offended God that the attacks could occur. He said he did not intend to shift blame from the terrorists. 'I sincerely believe that the collective efforts of many secularists during the past generation, resulting in the expulsion from our schools and from the public square, has left us vulnerable,' he said.
"He said he did not believe God 'had anything to do with the tragedy,' but that God had permitted it. 'He lifted the curtain of protection,' Mr. Falwell said, 'and I believe that if America does not repent and return to a genuine faith and dependence on him, we may expect more tragedies, unfortunately.'"
Last night, he told CNN "I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize." Then he basically restated everything he had said on the 700 Club earlier. From the Associated Press story on the CNN comments today:
"'I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23, which says 'living by God's principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame,' he said.
"Falwell said he believes the ACLU and other organizations 'which have attempted to secularize America, have removed our nation from its relationship with Christ on which it was founded.'
"'I therefore believe that that created an environment which possibly has caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812,' he said."
Saturday, Sept. 15, 2001
An attack like this puts anyone who would speak out for compassion instead of blood lust in a very difficult position. While many ordinary citizens are calling for us to remember our humane and compassionate side and not respond with more hate and fear to match the hate and fear of the terrorists, the official voices of government and media are feeding us a 24 hour diet of the rhetoric they believe most Americans want to hear, without a trace of that ameliorating voice of compassion.
At times like this, politicians assume that it is very dangerous to their political future to say any such thing. It would very likely provoke a storm of outrage from the more bloodthirsty elements of our populace, who in times of stress seem often unable to distinguish between avoiding hatred, and condoning or forgiving crimes. But if that side of the discussion is silenced, leaving us with a one-sided public discourse, we risk stampeding ourselves into atrocious excesses in our response to the attack.
Even to decide what our actions should be, in a compassionate light, is difficult. Those who did this clearly must be prevented from acting again. We cannot allow those who did it to get away with it successfully, and follow it up with more killings. That pretty much means we have to fight them militarily. And what is the humane way to wage a military attack on an enemy?
The only answer I have is just that we need to avoid excess. We've already had one lesser administration official call for making a swift counterattack first, and verifying guilt later. Now voices at the top levels are talking about possibly waging a prolonged war against multiple enemies, to wipe out all terrorism everywhere. This rhetoric is frightening, being reminiscent of the endless unwinnable "war on drugs"--the kind of battle for which there never is a peaceful end. That is the kind of excess we must try to prevent. We must carry out whatever reprisals are required with an eye toward preventing further civilian casualties, avoiding making further enemies around the world, and ceasing when there is no longer anything constructive to accomplish by further fighting. If we fail to do these things we will simply perpetuate more violence, and become ever more isolated from the rest of the world community.
"Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others."
Patriotism: A Menace To Liberty
The following is the text of the joint resolution passed by Congress today:
To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.
Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and
Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad, and
Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence, and
Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,
Whereas the president has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States.
Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United
States of American in Congress assembled,
Section 1. Short Title
This joint resolution may be cited as the "Authorization for Use of Military Force''
Section 2. Authorization for use of United States Armed Forces
(a) That the president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements
(1) Specific Statutory Authorization -- Consistent with section 8 (a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of Section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) Applicability of other requirements -- Nothing in this resolution
supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
The text of her comments on the resolution:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart, one that is filled with sorrow for the families and loved ones who were killed and injured in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Only the most foolish or the most callous would not understand the grief that has gripped the American people and millions across the world.
This unspeakable attack on the United States has forced me to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction. September 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.
I know that this use-of-force resolution will pass although we all know that the President can wage a war even without this resolution. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. There must be some of us who say, let’s step back for a moment and think through the implications of our actions today—let us more fully understand its consequences.
We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control. This crisis involves issues of national security, foreign policy, public safety, intelligence gathering, economics, and murder. Our response must be equally multifaceted.
We must not rush to judgment. Far too many innocent people have already died. Our country is in mourning. If we rush to launch a counterattack, we run too great a risk that women, children, and other noncombatants will be caught in the crossfire.
Nor can we let our justified anger over these outrageous acts by vicious murderers inflame prejudice against all Arab Americans, Muslims, Southeast Asians, or any other people because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.
Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.
In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to "take all necessary measures" to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam.
At that time, Sen. Wayne Morse, one of two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, declared, "I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States…I believe that within the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake."
Sen. Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today. And I fear the consequences.
I have agonized over this vote. But I came to grips with it in the very painful yet beautiful memorial service today at the National Cathedral. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, "As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore."
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