Fear destroys what bin Laden could not
One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the
America that existed on 9/11. But he had help.
By Robert Steinback
Herald" -- -- If, back in 2001, anyone had told me
that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit
that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the
Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate
him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic
Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000
of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then
admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat
-- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought
our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.
If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace
torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years
without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such
procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have
laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them.
If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent
as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda
by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators,
and ridicule a 37-year Marie Corps veteran for questioning U.S.
military policy -- and that the populace would be more interested in
whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy -- I would have
called the prediction an absurd fantasy.
That's no America I know, I would have argued. We're too strong, and
we've been through too much, to be led down such a twisted path.
What is there to say now?
All of these things have happened. And yet a large portion of this
country appears more concerned that saying ''Happy Holidays'' could
be a disguised attack on Christianity.
I evidently have a lot poorer insight regarding America's character
than I once believed, because I would have expected such actions to
provoke -- speaking metaphorically now -- mobs with pitchforks and
torches at the White House gate. I would have expected proud
defiance of anyone who would suggest that a mere terrorist threat
could send this country into spasms of despair and fright so
profound that we'd follow a leader who considers the law a nuisance
and perfidy a privilege.
Never would I have expected this nation -- which emerged stronger
from a civil war and a civil rights movement, won two world wars,
endured the Depression, recovered from a disastrous campaign in
Southeast Asia and still managed to lead the world in the principles
of liberty -- would cower behind anyone just for promising to
President Bush recently confirmed that he has authorized wiretaps
against U.S. citizens on at least 30 occasions and said he'll
continue doing it. His justification? He, as president -- or is that
king? -- has a right to disregard any law, constitutional tenet or
congressional mandate to protect the American people.
Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another terrorist
attack? Are there no principles of law and liberty more important
than this? Who would have remembered Patrick Henry had he written,
``What's wrong with giving up a little liberty if it protects me
Bush would have us excuse his administration's excesses in deference
to the ''war on terror'' -- a war, it should be pointed out, that
can never end. Terrorism is a tactic, an eventuality, not an
opposition army or rogue nation. If we caught every person guilty of
a terrorist act, we still wouldn't know where tomorrow's first-time
terrorist will strike. Fighting terrorism is a bit like fighting
infection -- even when it's beaten, you must continue the fight or
it will strike again.
Are we agreeing, then, to give the king unfettered privilege to defy
the law forever? It's time for every member of Congress to weigh in:
Do they believe the president is above the law, or bound by it?
Bush stokes our fears, implying that the only alternative to doing
things his extralegal way is to sit by fitfully waiting for
terrorists to harm us. We are neither weak nor helpless. A proud,
confident republic can hunt down its enemies without trampling
legitimate human and constitutional rights.
Ultimately, our best defense against attack -- any attack, of any
sort -- is holding fast and fearlessly to the ideals upon which this
nation was built.
Bush clearly doesn't understand or respect that. Do we?
ROBERT STEINBACK - rsteinback@MiamiHerald.com
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