Doug Newman submitted another guest post worthy of consideration, over the weekend. Just now getting to it.
Last Sunday evening, after The Big News, someone wrote the following in their Facebook status.
“WAS IT WORTH IT? Assuming the government’s report is indeed true and OBL is dead, were the trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, not to mention the worldwide animosity created against us worth it to capture one individual that could’ve been caught with Letters of Marque and Reprisal?”
I cut and pasted the above as my status, which led to a spirited albeit civil conversation thread. An old and good friend wrote the following:
“What evidence is there that a Letter of Marque and Reprisal would have led to Bin Laden’s capture or death any sooner than yesterday or even at all? Yesterday only showed this way worked, not that it was the best way. You might as well ask if the Civil War was worth it.”
I started to reply on Facebook, but thought I would drone on at some length about these questions. Herewith:
The proper question about how the FEDGOV should respond, if at all, to a given situation is the constitutional one. Our Constitution gives us a tool to deal with things like piracy and terrorism: a Letter of Marque and Reprisal. Such letters, issued by Congress, are a type of warrant.
The 9/11 attacks, while horrific crimes, were not acts of war. There was no invading army, no naval armada or submarine force, no aerial bombing raids by a terrorist Luftwaffe and no jihad jarheads riding their LCACs ashore in Battery Park. The 19 hijackers are dead, and hence not capable of taking us over, making us all speak Arabic and pray to Mecca five times a day, forcing Sports Illustrated to do a burqa issue, yadda, yadda, yadda.
(As Fred Reed has pointed out numerous times, it has been several centuries since a Muslim country conquered a non-Muslim country.)
Had 19 American scumsuckeroos gone overseas and committed some horrific suicide attack, would that justify a war on America? If the answer is no, why do so many Americans support all these wars in response to 9/11?
Or would you rather that any Americans who could be proven to have had a hand in planning and financing the attacks be tried and punished accordingly, and that us innocents be left alone?
With this in mind, had I been president on 9/11, I would have asked Congress to issue a Letter of Marque and Reprisal. I would have demanded that those who could be proven to have been accomplices to the attacks be apprehended, tried according to the Due Process protections spelled out in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, and punished accordingly. (1)The Bill of Rights applies to terror suspects, too. And if it doesn’t apply to terror suspects, it doesn’t apply to you either.
A Letter of Marque and Reprisal would not even necessarily involve the use of the military. Moreover, it would focus our entire energy on apprehending the specific perpetrators of the crimes, and would thus very probably finish the task in much less than a decade. It would not authorize the spilling of innocent blood. It would not authorize ruinously expensive – in both blood and treasure – wars. And it would not set a precedent for further breaches of the Constitution by future presidents.
This course of action would have been worth it.
When Benjamin Franklin was exiting the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a women is said to have asked him just what had the convention had wrought. Franklin replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
In 1866, in the case of Ex Parte Milligan, supreme Court Justice David Davis wrote some of the greatest words ever to emanate from the federal bench: “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism.”
The strict limits our Constitution sets on the federal government – both domestically and abroad – become even more important during times of crisis. It is during these times that governments are most likely to take away liberties. Moreover, it is during these times that people are willing to relinquish liberty for a false sense of security.
In response to 9/11, GWB launched two wars without formal declarations from Congress. These wars resulted in the deaths of over 5000 American sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines as well as countless thousands of innocents abroad. 9/11 has been used as an excuse to spy on the American people without warrants, torture people, and declare people guilty without trial. This was most definitely not worth it.
When you allow a president whom you like to overstep constitutional limits on his power for reasons that you approve of, just know that there are other people with other agendas who want presidents that they like to overstep these limits. (Please read my article on how the Right literally begged for Obamacare.)
“But this was Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind.” I don’t give a flying rip who he was! When the POTUS can arbitrarily and unilaterally proclaim Bin Laden guilty, he can also declare you guilty. (2) When the POTUS can order the killing of Bin Laden without due process, he can also order you to be killed without due process. It doesn’t matter how severe the accusation or how overwhelming the weight of public opinion against the accused. Either the Bill of Rights applies equally to everybody or it doesn’t apply at all to anybody.
(The Constitution only grants the POTUS one direct power over an individual: the power to pardon.)
Bin Laden was never formally charged in connection with 9/11. The FBI wanted him in connection with the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and “other terrorist attacks.” However, no specific mention was ever made on his “Most Wanted” poster of 9/11. And calling 9/11 “(an)other terrorist attack” is like calling the Grand Canyon another hole in the ground.
See anything here about 9/11? Hmm. Me neither.
Osama bin Laden was most probably quite a horrible person. Nevertheless, he was a person, however hard that statement might be to stomach. And as this war was never properly declared by Congress, he is entitled to the same protections as thee or me.
(And if they really wanted Bin Laden, why did they never trace any of those recordings they claimed he made back to their origin and just nab him?)
But the feds would ne-e-e-e-e-ever kill innocent civilians. Oh yes they would. What happened at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and at Waco in 1993? I have heard the Waco massacre described as a trial balloon floated before a brainwashed nation. The Powers That Be wanted to see just how much the American people would let them get away with. As it turns out, this is a whole lot.
Spreading lurid accusations about people and then killing them without due process is something that the feddle gummint would never, ever, ever, ever, ever do to American citizens.
Blood? Money? Liberty? No, it was not worth the price at all.
Now let’s rewind things 140 years to the Civil War. (I will not drone on at nearly as much length about this.)
First, the war was not about slavery, but about the disproportionate burden that tariffs placed on the economy of the South.
Second, slavery was well on its way to extinction and would have ended without a war. (No other country “needed a war” to end slavery.) It was dying because of technological advances as well as the growing conviction in the hearts and minds of Americans that it was just plain wrong. There were, however, powerful lobbies in both the North and South in favor of preserving slavery. Lincoln’s prime objective was to save the Union, regardless of whether or not he ended slavery.
Third, the Emancipation Proclamation only freed the slaves in certain states and, in the case of Louisiana, parts of those states. It did not apply in several states where slavery still existed.
Fourth, Lincoln was a tyrant who arrested dissenting legislators and newspaper editors, censored the mails, suspended habeas corpus, and imposed the first income tax and military draft.
Fifth, secession was never forbidden by the Constitution. The Civil War put an end to the “free and independent states” envisioned by Jefferson became mere administrative subdivisions of the federal leviathan.
620,000 people, whose only offense – not crime, offense – was to exercise the same rights that the colonists exercised so bravely in 1776, died as a result.
The War of Northern Aggression – or for Southern Independence – was not only not necessary to free the slaves, but it also constituted a great leap forward, if you will, in the direction of an omnipotent central government.
When I look at all the spirited resistance to federal authority I see today over Obombercare, gun rights and medical hippy lettuce I can only think how badly we have all been lied to. A war that was supposedly about freedom actually set the table for an all-powerful federal government that today is hellbent on making us all slaves again.
Good ends do not justify bad means. What goes around comes around. We reap what we sow. And before we chop down those hedges of protection enshrined in our Bill of Rights for whatever reason – even an apparently very good reason – we have to ask one question: when those hedges are down, and the hurricane-force winds of tyranny blow, will you – yes, you – be able to stand upright?
(1) Also, had I been POTUS on 9/11, I would have pursued a policy 0f – in Jefferson’s words – “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all and entangling alliances with none.” This would include Israel. When you throw your weight around militarily to the extent that America does, you will inevitably have a lot of people hating on you. Also, I would have stopped this idiocy of disarming air travelers.
(2) As Dubya said of Bin Laden: “We know he’s guilty. Turn him over. There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt.” ____________________________________________________________ If you would like to post this on your page or forward it, please email me and include a link to this URL. Thanks!
[NOTE: This is a guest post by Doug Newman that I ran into a few days ago. He has given me permission to publish it in full here. He raises some very good points, I think. LE]
“Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” – Frederick Douglass
On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, when we were all scurrying about like so many headless chickens, an old friend in Arizona sent an absolutely prophetic email. The subject line read: “They want you to panic…”
The body of the email started: “… so don’t.”
I quote the email in part:
“I know this is going to sound horrifically insensitive, but the fact that what amounted to — militarily speaking — a strategic pinprick can bring a nation’s people to a state of disarray we’re seeing unfold (even as I type this initial response) gravely concerns me. As terrible as this may sound, ultimately, it is the financial blow — both real and perceived — that will concern you and yours. I have even greater concerns…
“Yes, pray for the dead, the dying, the injured and their loved ones, but NEVER lose sight of the fact that many more people gave their lives over the past 226 years to make sure you live and breathe in Freedom — relative Freedom though it may be these days. Do NOT go off the deep end and cry for ‘more security’ at the cost of your basic Liberty. Believe me — there are powerful men who will willingly accommodate you at ANY cost.”
This is not about what happened on 9/11 (1), but rather about the inability of what may well be a majority of Americans to grasp what Uncle Sam is doing as a response to these horrible crimes. Also, it is about the willingness of what may well be a majority of Americans, to surrender their most fundamental God-given liberties in the name of some sense of “security.”
To begin with, 9/11 was not an attack on our freedom. It could not have been. The 19 hijackers are DEAD! And you cannot take over a country, impose Shari’a law, force everyone to speak Arabic and force women to wear burqas, when you are – I will say this one more time – DEAD!
The proper, moral, and constitutional response to 9/11 would have been a letter of Marque and Reprisal. This is a sort of warrant to go after the specific perpetrators of things like piracy and terrorism. There were no doubt people still alive who had a hand in planning and financing the attacks who needed to be brought to justice and punished severely.
There was no reason to launch a war on anyone who could hypothetically, theoretically engage in a vaguely defined tactic. And there was no reason to curtail civil liberties domestically.
Even so, the American people have gladly accepted endless war abroad as well as numerous previously unthinkable predations on their liberty here at home.
First came the Patriot Act in October 2001. This 300-page bill, which legislators were given 15 minutes to read, authorized warrantless searches, spying and wiretaps as a means of fighting terrorism. Fourth Amendment concerns were recklessly disregarded. Both the sellers and the buyers of the Patriot Act sang the same song: “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.”
After all, it was to go after those people over there. You know, those scary looking guys with funny names, diapers on their heads and bad attitudes. Those guys, not us.
I just don’t think most people got it.
Then airport security was nationalized with the implementation of the TSA. For a time there, you could not carry nail clippers on board a plane. And the fondling of naughty bits is nothing new.
And I just don’t think most people got it.
Then some dweeb couldn’t even blow up his own shoe on a flight from Paris to Miami. So then we had to take off our shoes before going through airport security.
And I just don’t think most people got it.
Then a few goobers in Britain supposedly tried to put explosives in water and shampoo bottles and blow up planes over the Atlantic. (They were all acquitted by the way.) Then we couldn’t carry water bottles through security. Nor could anyone take any liquid container over three ounces through security.
And I just don’t think most people got it.
Then some nudnik couldn’t even blow up his whitey-tighties on a plane bound for Detroit. Enter the porno scanners and full-body pat downs replete with fondling of the naughty bits.
And I just don’t think most people got it.
If you will tolerate having yourself and your family photographed in all their glory with very possibly cancer-causing X-rays and/or having yourself and your family groped from head to toe – naughty bits included – in the name of “national security” what won’t you tolerate?
In any other context this would constitute child pornography, child molestation and sexual assault. (2) Someone somewhere has coined the term “gate rape”. Lew Rockwell has said that the United States just may be the very first country in the world whose government has claimed the right to feel up its subjects.
And if your response to this is “then just don’t fly”, YOU DON’T GET IT!
To begin with, if a terrorist really wanted to kill a lot of people and disrupt aviation, he wouldn’t need to go to the trouble of smuggling a bomb on board a plane. All he would have to do is walk into a terminal – e.g. O’Hare or Atlanta – on a Monday morning and let it rip right there.
Second, TSA has already announced plans to station its crotch-fondling flunkies in railroad and subway stations. They have just started doing random bag checks on the DC Metro subway system. They have already set up checkpoints at bus stations. And in late September, just west of Atlanta on I-20, TSA set up a roadblock to inspect trucks in the name of “counter-terrorism.” Remember: it is called the TRANSPORTATION Security Administration.
Third, the possibility exists that scary looking guys with funny names, diapers on their heads and bad attitudes could attack shopping malls, office buildings, stadiums, etc. Are you willing to submit to nudie cams and crotch-fondling there too?
And how about schools? I mean, you never know where a terrorist could strike next. Will you tolerate nudie cams and crotch-fondling there too? Again, what will you NOT accept?(2)
Will you put up with national security roadblocks too? Will you be okay when a routine trip to the grocery store turns into an all-day event replete with TSA blueshirts rummaging through every item in your car and performing cavity checks on you and your kids? If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about, right?
And if you so much as roll your eyes at the blueshirts about how ridiculous it all is, will you be okay with being hauled off and detained indefinitely without formal charges or the ability to obtain legal counsel? You did say, didn’t you, that you were willing to give up your freedom in the name of security?
How “secure” will you “feel” in a society where you cannot travel freely? How “secure” will you “feel” in a society where you are constantly presumed guilty until proven innocent?
People ridicule me for fussing about “my rights” in this age of terrorism. I just don’t think most people get it. It is exactly during times of crisis – real or imagined – that governments look to take away rights. Moreover, this is also when people panic and give away their rights.
And if you will give up some of your rights to have more security, why not give up all your rights in order to have total security?
Thomas Jefferson once remarked that, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” The likelihood that you or I will ever be the victim of terrorism is microscopic and in no way worth the price of the securitopia for which so many millions of Americans pine. (3)
Be careful what you ask for. North Korea has the world’s most comprehensive national security apparatus.
And, to be sure, they have no terrorism problem.
They also have no immigration problem.
What will it take before most people get it?
(1) No 9/11 truth posts please. I respect the truth movement and I have numerous doubts about the official story, but that is not what this is about.
(3) I am also not at all fearful of “global jihad” as it has been several centuries since a Muslim country conquered a non-Muslim country. Moreover, terrorism is not a philosophy of government, but rather a tactic. Terrorists do not even control the government of Yemen. Hence, I am not afraid of them taking over America. And, as Pat Buchanan points out, other countries have solved their terrorism problems.
Apparently the TSA believes that if you have your jeans on, the pat down isn’t as invasive? Who exactly are they protecting? The discomfort of the TSA agents doing the pat-down who are uncomfortable feeling up a guy in Speedo, or the passengers?