Monday, January 02, 2006

Whistling In The Wind

(I wish to digress from the usual rollicking humor you'll find here to make a political statement -- for all the good it'll do -- so please bear with me. And, if you're like me, if it appears the blogger's political opinion differs from your own, you'll tend to surf away -- but let me ask you to bear with me until the end, because this statement is not what it first appears to be. Your comments are welcome, because if anyone has differing viewpoints on this, I'd sure like to hear them ...)

Let's engage in a hypothetical experiment. Let us assume, for a moment, that first thing tomorrow morning, Osama bin Laden showed up at the entrance to Baghdad's Green Zone and said, "I don't want to be on the run any longer. You're going to get me eventually anyway, and I'm tired of living in caves. The humidity messes with my portable dialysis equipment and makes my beard all frizzy."

And let's assume further that all of the Muslim militant fundamentalists, who are currently shelling and suicide-bombing and generally wreaking havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan, lay down their arms and say, "You know, there's really no upside to this. How the hell could each of us who martyr ourselves end up with 71 virgins in Heaven, anyway? Where would those virgins come from? There just aren't that many alive on the planet, you know."

So, for purposes of this hypothetical, bin Laden and al-Qaeda and Zarqawi and all other Middle East militants have surrendered or walked away. And Saddam Hussein, as we know, has already been "neutralized".

Is anyone under the illusion that the Dubya Administration would, under these best-of-all-possible circumstances, withdraw our troops from the Middle East?

This is not going to be an anti-Dubya rant (that would be just too darn easy). But, like him or hate him, Dubya has shown that he has no intention of bringing our troops home anytime soon. There will always be militant threats against U.S. interests abroad. There will always be threats to Israel, or to Saudi Arabia, or to Kingdom Come that might impact American security or our economy.

Now, the reason I posed this hypothetical is because Dubya is quite unapologetic about ordering covert wiretaps, bypassing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which required intelligence agencies to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping on communications involving "U.S. persons." [link] In fact, Dubya is now on the offensive, saying that the fact that such covert (and illegal) activity was leaked to the New York Times has caused "great harm to the nation," [link] and the Justice Department is now investigating who could have dared to tell the Times about this illegal government activity. [link]

"My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important programme in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this programme is helping the enemy," Mr. Bush said. [link]

What I want to focus on is Dubya's turn of phrase: "in a time of war". The question here is, at what point might the war end? When the war against terrorism was launched after 9/11, Dubya admitted that we were facing an enemy without a specific location or identification, with no fixed timetable or measure of victory. In other words, this war was against somebody, somewhere, and could continue indefinitely.

Does it, therefore, strike anyone else as strange to use "in a time of war" as justification for keeping illegal governmental activities secret, when by the President's own admission, the conclusion of this war cannot be reached for the indefinite future? "Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda," Dubya told the nation, "but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.
- James Madison, letter to W.T. Barry, Aug. 4, 1822

Dubya is very incensed that covert activity, whether legally or illegally carried out, has been leaked to the press. He's concerned that it could affect national security, and certainly, that's a very valid concern. But it seems to me that just as "legitimate" privacy interests "must be balanced" against national security [link], so, too, must national security needs "be balanced" against our constitutional rights.

... the First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society.
- Justice Hugo Black, Associated Press v. U.S., 1945

If Dubya and his cronies are correct, and we cannot reasonably ask what our government is up to regarding its own citizenry (even in times of war) for the sake of "national security", then we have already become a fascist state.

We are waging war in the Middle East in the name of protecting and spreading the American style of democracy. But if the freedoms that make democracy possible can't be protected and enjoyed at home, then just what the hell are we trying to spread, anyway?

Other than, it would appear, a thick layer of horse manure that they're telling us is a bed of roses ...

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, November 11, 1755

posted by Gary @ 8:19 PM


At 8:44 PM, Blogger utenzi said...

In a way we're very lucky we're in the US with a president like George W. In a great many other places on Earth I'd have to worry about the democratically-elected government converting to some other form of government. With the regressive and unending illegal control moves of this administration it would be a logical endpoint.

I sure hope the next administration peals back some of the secrecy that has been the hallmark of the past 6 years.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger jane said...

This is an excellent topic. I thought the war ended on his "Mission Accomplished" thing. But I see his 'at a time of war' as such a farce because it's a war he lied about & was self-created.
Sometimes I feel like we're in the middle of the Truman Show & all of this is just happening to us & everybody can see it's fake, but those who say this are called non-patriotic & others who see it say it's okay to violate our civil liberties; as long as it's not them, of course.
As far as bringing our troops home, remember when Murtha asked for a beginning of retreat as soon as probable? There was such hoopla because the Republicans then put in a bill requesting immediate withdrawal from Iraq. People got confused & thought Murtha wanted the immediate withdrawal, which wasn't what his bill said. My point being, now that all the Murtha bashing has stopped, Bush has said they're going to withdrawal 7,000 troops from Iraq in the near future.
I have a lot of opinions on all of this, actually too many. And I get too upset writing about it cuz I feel our country is really getting screwed & by our own leaders.
You put a lot of thought into this post. Thanks for letting me blab. :)

At 10:43 PM, Blogger Seawave said...

"We are waging war in the Middle East in the name of protecting and spreading the American style of democracy. But if the freedoms that make democracy possible can't be protected and enjoyed at home, then just what the hell are we trying to spread, anyway?"

I can't say it any better, so I won't even try.

In an administration that brilliantly maneuvers around its own deception and hides behind the skirt of morality, we may never be able to fully peel the layers of the onion back to reveal the buried truths that lie beneath the surface.

And I'm sick and tired of the accusation of treason because of the free exercise of the very freedoms being defended. The support of and prayers for all American military men and women fighting around the world are just as valid when coming from those who have serious and important questions about the war, and should never be questioned by any American, but particularly by those who work in the President's administration.

Your hard work on this post is appreciated.

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous ParkerBallpoint said...

When we're innocent and have done the right thing we have nothing to hide. Dubya puts himself and his motives above the law and blows smoke trying to shift the focus to "those who leaked". I will say this before I make my next statement: I voted for him the first time around. Now that that's out of the way, let me say that I feel Dubya's a dangerous, manipulative and self serving. We get what we deserve when we close our eyes to vote.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Neutron said...

Great post!
It's all there though in George Orwell's "Animal Farm".

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Amy said...


Well said... well said!

I came here by way of Ficken Chingers and am so glad I did! I'll definitely be back.

Blogrolling you!

Have a wonderful New Year!

At 8:50 PM, Blogger bozette said...

just stopping by to say hi.
ficken chingers sent me.

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Carol said...

I came to visit via Ficken Chingers. Not in agreement with you politically, but admire how well you expressed your opinions.

At 12:31 AM, Anonymous SignoraM said...

Finally got a chance to come back after having you as my renter and what an awesome post to come to! I won't even try to get my own feelings about the whole mess out, every time I do I just get so pissed I can't think straight. Very well said, and very good questions that deserve answers. Good job.


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