In reading a short statement by good friend Sterling, in response to my own most recent SOB entry at links for 2006-10-17, a thought occurred to me. His statement was:
The opposing argument: requiring the Writ would slow down anti-terrorist operations. I say, let them be slowed. Take care of individual liberties — or why defend America?
He asked a question that is pretty much always asked rhetorically, and I think it was in this case as well. For a brief, brilliant moment, though, I considered it as though it were asked in earnest. I realized there is an answer to this question, a serious answer, and that answer lies at the root of the George W. Bush popular voter support that got him into office and kept him there.
The politicians’ motives can be measured in the same cynical fashion we’re inclined to, as always, of course. The people who have voted for Bush and Friends, who will continue to vote for them, and who will argue in favor of the suspension of habeas corpus and the use of torture in interrogations of the potentially innocent, however, have a different and very easily identified motive, if you stop to think about it from the correct perspective.
The problem with the idea of asking why it’s even worthwhile to defend America from terrorists if we cannot keep it free is that the people who support such legislation as the USA PATRIOT Act and the Military Commissions Act do not define “free” the same way the rest of us do (except in the rare case of someone who just doesn’t care about the word “free” in this country, and only cares about strength). Somehow, in their minds, “free” is an outgrowth of something else that is very clearly and obviously at the end of these legislative policies:
They want a Christian nation. As far as they’re concerned, this is already a Christian nation in spirit, and they just want to make it a Christian nation in law and structure. Anything that stands in the way of that — anything at all — is fair game. There’s no “benefit of the doubt” in judging the right or wrong of an act: if you cannot be certain ethically whether something someone did is right or wrong, your uncertainty will not slow them for an instant. All they care about is morality, in the hard-right Christian tradition of moral good and evil. They see no distinction between social necessity in an empirical world and moral necessity in a Biblical world.
Ultimately, in the end, all “religious freedom” means is that it’ll be a hundred years or so before people can be stoned for worshipping the “wrong” God as encouraged in the Old Testament. In fact, the phrase “Thou Shalt Not Suffer A Witch To Live” holds a place near and dear to the hearts of some of these people in a very frightening way — a way that condemns neopagans and the like, even while they will give lip service to “religious freedom”.
It’s not slowing anti-terrorist operations that bothers them about the Great Writ, it’s slowing the anti-Islam war. It’s the Last Crusade they want to expedite. Terrorism is just their “proof” that those Muslims should’ve been wiped out centuries ago — or converted.
That’s probably half the civilian voter population that fervently defends stuff like the Military Commissions Act. The other half is probably just toeing the Republican party line, thoughtlessly, with no willingness to apply any critical thought to the issue.
“My party, right or wrong.”
NOTE: Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not against killing terrorists. Execution of terrorists is a great idea.
I just want to make damned sure that they’re terrorists, by a secular definition of the term “terrorist” — regardless of whether they’re terrorists for religious reasons — before the first stone is cast.