Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Deal With Terrorism

I love the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He's funnier even than my stupid mistake in my last blog post in misspelling Harry Reid vs. Harry Reed. He somehow finds a way to boil away all the irrelevant sound bites so that what's left is a clear, concise, and unbelievably funny look at the news. So, while I was catching up with all of his most recent episodes on Hulu.com (oh, how I love Internet Television), I heard a blip from Rudy Giuliani that called to mind something I'd been meaning to blog about for a long time. He said that there had been no terrorism attacks under George W. Bush, but there's been one now with Barack Obama.

Now, as Jon himself pointed out, he meant to say, "no terror attacks since 9/11." Only, he said it funnier. But haven't we heard stuff like this now for nearly a decade? Stuff like, "Bush's policies are working because we haven't been attacked again. Bush's policies are working because we haven't been attacked again. Bush's policies.... working... attacked again... yadda yadda yadda."

Time for somebody to blow that myth right out of the water! You see, the last time any Al Quaida attack took place on U.S. soil before 9/11 was, hmmm, let's see... back in 1993! Yes, that was the failed bombing of the World Trade Center as botched by Mohammed Salameh when he parked his damned white van in the wrong spot of the underground parking area. (Could someone please tell me why the bad guys always use a white van? That seems rather odd.) That was during the early part of Bill Clinton's presidency. Eight years passed before there were any other Al Quaida attacks on U.S. soil, with NONE of George W. Bush's Orwellian anti-terrorism tactics.

So, a "fair and balanced" evaluation of George W. Bush's anti-terrorism policies would be if no other attacks would take place within eight years of the LAST one, since that's how long it took before!

The result? It took almost exactly eight years for the next Al Quaida attack, just like last time!

You know, I remarked in my last post about how eerily similar each early cycle of a presidency seems. A repeat of Iraq, a repeat of a Haiti crisis, and a repeat of a terror strike in the first year of a two-term presidency. (I think we can assume Obama will win a second term.)

So the conclusion must be that Bush's attempts to throw all our freedoms away and wire-tap all sorts of people he had no business listening to resulted in EXACTLY NO CHANGE. It's just a three-peat of a terror strike every eight years or so, with or without the Patriot Act. So KNOCK IT OFF about how successful Bush's policies were!

You know, I've noticed that in response to a major crisis, congress goes and does something massively stupid. 9/11 crisis results in the Patriot Act, and America flirts with becoming a police state. A financial crisis hits the banks, and congress responds by bailing out the rich. And these aren't the only times when a little piece of the constitution has been sacrificed over some crisis somewhere. Whether it's with Reagan in Grenada, or Bush I in Panama, or Clinton with Haiti, some crisis seems to erode some area of governmental restraint.

I only hope the next crisis doesn't sink us.

But the question was raised in that very episode (last Monday) of Jon Stewart's show, regarding torture, and how you deal with terrorism without it. Should torture be allowed for terrorists who have been captured?

Alan Dershowitz toyed with this idea by proposing a hypothetical scenario: Suppose there were a nuclear bomb about to go off in a major city like New York. You have, in custody, one of the terrorists behind this nightmare, and he's not talking. If you torture him to make him talk, you could save millions of lives. If you don't, they could all die. What's to be done?

Most people say that torture is justified in such a situation. But here, some conservatives argue that this is a legitimate reason for letting interrogators of terror suspects have the latitude to use methods like waterboarding in Gitmo, and this is where I disagree. The issue is not whether torture is sometimes justified. The issue is whether torture should be legalized, in some circumstances.

I argue, no. Never.

Putting aside the travesty that our nation would consider legalizing torture before it considers legalizing cannabis, it should be remembered that keeping torture illegal does not guarantee that torture will not take place. It just means that the one doing the torturing would be in violation of U.S. law. This is important to remember, because it means that no one would engage in torture unless it were ABSOLUTELY necessary. And that's the way it should be.

We should also remember the phenomenon of jury nullification. A jury has the power to find a defendant not guilty, even if that person actually committed the crime. This has been a factor in situations where a murderer who keeps escaping justice gets gunned down by an avenging family member of one of his victims, and has frustratingly also been a factor in court cases long ago in the deep south, where a white man tried for his role in a lynching would be let off by an all-white jury. But in the case of torture to extract information about a bomb or other terror threat, a jury could find that such a torturer is not guilty, even though he committed the crime. With that in mind, this is the means by which someone who engages in torture as a last resort could have a legal way out -- a jury simply wouldn't convict such a hero. And, if that somehow doesn't work, the President has the power to pardon.

But consider the alternative: Suppose we give some area of the government the power to torture? Suppose we give military tribunal authority to nab suspected terrorists and torture them without benefit of civilian trial? What then?

The answer, frighteningly, is that the government has a loophole to be able to grab anyone, at anytime. Simply declare that person a terrorist, and away they go to Gitmo, or some similar off-shore establishment. Suspected Al Quaida today, enemies of a particular administration tomorrow. Then soon afterward, homosexuals. After that, all non-Christians. And after that, those declared to be phony Christians, such as Mormons. After that, the Catholics. Long before then, there's no America left.

So that's how we deal with torture and terrorism in our modern age. We keep torture illegal, thus guaranteeing that it won't be done unless we have no other choice. That way, we keep our freedoms intact, and make sure our rights to fair process are not yanked away.

And regarding those talk show hosts who insist that torture is necessary, that it should be legal, and that closing Gitmo is a mistake?

They are violators of human freedom, traitors to America, and enemies of democracy!

We might not be able to get such people arrested, nor would we be able to put them on trial for treason. Freedom of speech really does go that far. That's just American Freedom for you.

But it would be nice if Clear Channel woke up and at least took these assholes off the air.

Eric

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