Thursday, February 04, 2010

"We are not afraid..."

This nation tried shoe-bomber Richard Reid in our federal courts. Add that to all of our prior history successfully prosecuting terrorists.

And yet, still we let fear control our decisions. We let fear control our policies. We have certain national "leaders" who go on television and tell us we have reason and justification to fear so deeply and irrationally that we should throw away the way we have risen to challenges for over 200 years.

I remain deeply disappointed by the fear that has been sown and displayed by my fellow countrymen regarding the prosecution of terrorists within our own system.

How far we have fallen from "liberty or death." How distant is the warning "don't tread on me." One can only hope that this too, shall pass.

We are afraid for security? We are afraid our own laws will fail to find justice and truth when faced with these scoundrels? We are afraid for the "platform" it will give the criminals?

Why do we not demand the platform it gives to us? Maybe our patriotism has truly been eroded so deeply that only the largest display of our flag is acceptable to demonstrate what makes us American.

I will find my demonstrations in less overt places, the same places where I find my hope.

I will find them in the words of the judge who handed Richard Reid his sentence, once our laws, dutifully applied, demonstrated their own refutation of fear.

Here, in this society, the very winds carry freedom. They carry it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely.

HT to The Daily Dish for that gem of a quote.

Update: Slate's Dahlia Lithwick has a brilliant piece about "Terrorsim Derangement Syndrome," and it takes on the exact kind of fear to which I referred. Some highlights:

We're terrified when a terror attack happens, and we're also terrified when it's thwarted. We're terrified when we give terrorists trials, and we're terrified when we warehouse them at Guantanamo without trials. If a terrorist cooperates without being tortured we complain about how much more he would have cooperated if he hadn't been read his rights. No matter how tough we've been on terror, we will never feel safe enough to ask for fewer safeguards.


It's not a terrorist's time bomb that's ticking. It's us. Since 9/11, we have become ever more willing to suspend basic protections and more contemptuous of American traditions and institutions. The failed Christmas bombing and its political aftermath have revealed that the terrorists have changed very little in the eight-plus years since the World Trade Center fell. What's changing—what's slowly ticking its way down to zero—is our own certainty that we can never be safe enough and our own confidence in the rule of law.

While it might seem that the very winds that "carried freedom" in our society are starting to carry fear, from what we hear in our popular culture, that sea-change has already happened. That changes my position from warning what will come to pushing back against that which has already arrived.



DADvocate said...

Funny how we make such a big fuss of trying a terrorist in a civilian court but drop a cruise bomb or drone missile killing innocents along with the maybe guilty and don't bat an eye.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I'd say just the opposite. There are a lot of folks in our country who get outraged the first time a civilian casualty is reported. Show enough children with blown apart limbs, and your society loses the will to be at war, just like the photographs of flag-draped caskets. That's why the government tries to keep images like that from the public.

And let us not forget that we are dropping those bombs and missiles at active wartime targets. Those targets can still do us damage from a tactical or strategic standpoint.

The captured terrorist is completely under our physical control; they pose no additional physical threat.

Make war with prejudice against our enemies in the field. But as soon as that enemy is captured or surrenders, different rules apply.

DADvocate said...

My point is that for Obama to say "There's been no bigger propaganda weapon for many of these extremists than pointing to Guantanamo and saying that we don't live up to our own ideals..." is ludicrous at best. To think that using civilian courts will discourage potential recruits while we're killing innocent people long distance is idiocy. Obama's show boating for the left by having civilian trial and it will do nothing to slow the recruiting of future terrorists.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Well, to call it the "biggest propaganda" tool for the terrorists is hyperbole. But never underestimate the power of calling your enemy's belief system hypocritical.

I want to try terrorists in our courts because that is how I believe our society should act. If doing so convinces terrorists not to attack us, that's just gravy, though it isn't my primary concern.

On the other hand, I'm not really worried about Obama's motivations or hyperbole in this instance, as long as the result is trying terrorists in court and getting them out of the legal limbo that we currently employ.