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Are We Now Becoming the Terrorists?

Are We Now Becoming the Terrorists?

Terrorism is a weapon of the weak. Shut out of the great conversations that shape our histories and unable to control the grand forces that shape our destinies, terrorists strike out in angry desperation to force those they have identified as their oppressors to pay attention to the plight of the alienated and to hear the terrorists’ demands. The events of September 11 were just such a gesture. The horror we felt watching a jet flown deliberately into a tall building and watching people leap to their deaths to escape the flames and collapse of the ruined skyscrapers filled us with a strange awe and a feeling of helplessness. We felt forced to pay attention. The first question on everyone’s lips was: what can we do? What can we do to prevent this from happening again? What can we do to punish those responsible? How we answer these questions will decide whether we live in a civilization worth defending, or if we, too, are weak.

This unprecedented attack on American soil brings into focus the connections between our freedoms, our security, and the international system. Our choices over what to do are constrained by the ways these parts of our lives are connected. Our leaders and representatives, responding to the theories and analyses of their advisors and of the think tanks that dedicate themselves to studying such questions, have already begun to speak of September 11 as this generation’s Pearl Harbor and the need to prepare for war, and of the trade-offs we will have to make for our security. Their first responses – and those of many of us – are to lash out at those who have wronged us.

However, to lash out now is a path fraught with n…

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…saster relief and peacekeepers, but we are the single largest supplier of arms to the already intensely violent Middle East. And because Israel is our strategic ally in the region, we won’t even allow discussion of whether its policies towards Palestinians are racist.

If we are to do anything, we must be ready to take a path more difficult than anyone has suggested so far. We must be ready to be thoughtful and sober, and to look for political solutions to the problems in the world that are now producing the threats to our security. Today, we feel like now is the time to act. Our pain, our helplessness, our frustration at discovering we are vulnerable makes us want to take control over our lives again. We are ready to retaliate against acts of angry desperation with anger and despair. But now is not the time to become terrorists ourselves.

Abandoning the Constitution in the Fight Against Terrorism

Abandoning the Constitution in the Fight Against Terrorism

During his terms as governor of Texas, George W. Bush made it clear that he was ignorant of the Constitution by denying due process to the people he executed and refusing effective counsel to indigent inmates. As president, Bush, terrorized by terrorists, is abandoning more and more of the fundamental rights and liberties that he-and his subordinates-assure us they are fighting to preserve.

On Thursday, November 15, William Safire-The New York Times’ constitutional conservative-distilled Bush’s new raid on the Constitution:

“Misadvised by a frustrated and panic-stricken attorney general, a president of the United States has just assumed what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens. . . . We are letting George W. Bush get away with the replacement of the American rule of law with military kangaroo courts. . . . In an Orwellian twist, Bush’s order calls this Soviet-style abomination ‘a full and fair trial.’ ”

What Bush has done by executive order-bypassing Congress and the constitutional separation of powers-is to establish special military tribunals to try noncitizens suspected of terrorism. Their authority will extend over permanent noncitizen American residents, lawfully living in the United States, as well as foreigners.

The trials will be held here or in other countries-like Pakistan or “liberated” Afghanistan-and on ships at sea. The trials will be in secret. There will be no juries. Panels of military officers will be the judges-with the power to impose the death penalty if two-thirds of these uniformed judges agree. There will be no appeals to any of the sentences. (Even in regular court martials, judges must rule unanimous…

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… Supreme Court (Olmstead v. United States, 1928), foreshadowed the advent of George W. Bush:

“Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. . . . To declare that in the administration of the criminal law, the end justifies the means . . . would bring terrible retribution. Against this pernicious doctrine this Court should resolutely set its face.”

In 1928, the Supreme Court agreed with the government’s subversion of the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections-setting the initial stage for the current vast expansion of electronic surveillance by the Bush administration-and not only over suspected terrorists. The Court has another

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