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War

Are we at war? Does this justify increasing reduction of civil liberties? The answer to both is "no". Here's why:

War for the US is declared or authorized by Congress, and has a specific goal. Since 2001 we have been in two actions that have (barely) qualified, although one is of dubious legality since the authorization was based on at best unprovable assertions, and probably outright lies.

The first war was the action in Afghanistan, where Congress authorized the use of force to remove the Taliban as an impediment to apprehending Bin Laden. This war has ended, the Taliban is no longer the government of Afghanistan, and we made some bad judgements on the ground that allowed Bin Laden to escape. We are currently occupying Afghanistan while the local government is re-formed.

The second war was the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, with a secondary interest in removing any WMDs. This has also been completed. The President himself declared "mission accomplished". We are currently engaging in the occupatiomn of Iraq while its government re-forms.

Now, inevitably the first response is "but we still have troops there, we're at war!!"

No, we're not. As in WWII, the war is over when the enemy surrenders or is destroyed. In both cases, the governments of the countries in question were forcibly removed from power. We won. We are now occupying two countries, just like we occupied Germany and Japan at the end of WWII, but with a difference: we are trying to rebuild them from scratch. While there was some resistance and insurgency in both nations, it fizzled, the people were already very weary of death and privation, and the governments in question surrendered intact, instead of being completely dissolved (http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/03.18/13-democratization.html, http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/mar03/middleEast3.asp).

When that war ended (in both theatres), and the occupations began, the nation moved from a wartime footing to a peacetime footing, even though our troops were still in occupation of those nations. Mind you, the "cold war" caused extensive ambiguity, and the "police actions" of Korea and Vietnam contributed further to it, it should be noted that in neither case was civil liberty curtailment in the US successfully justified by occupation, cold war, or police action. McCarthy tried, and eventually was shot down.

The second response is "And what about the 'War on Terror(tm)'?"

Sorry, that's not a war. It's an idiotic idiom, a campaign slogan. It's as much, and little, a war as the wars on crime, poverty, drugs or "culture". It's not declared, there is no clear target, and no standard or ability for victory. After all, if there was, we would have lost the wars on poverty, crime and drugs, and we would be ruled by poor criminal addicts (... oh wait...). So no, the "war on terror" isn't a real war, it's just a slogan being used to get people elected.

A slogan is not enough justification to restrict civil liberties and incarcerate people without trial. It's not enough reason to suspend the constitutional checks and balances for an indefinite period of time. It's not enough cause to make that criminal, probably unconstitutional piece of crap called the "patriot act", or its intended expansion, permanent. A slogan (and an amorphous, unwinnable "war" on a varying number of unknown targets) is no justification for treating the Constitution like toilet paper.

The third knee jerk response is "But Remember(tm) 9/11!! You can't let the terraists win!1!!"

More sloganeering. What we need to do is get off the slogan wagon, and do realistic things to reduce terrorist activity and incarcerate (or execute) terrorists.

The anti-terror activities that we need to engage in as a nation are two-fold:

One, at home, should be a reasonable, supportable and constitutional law enforcement activity.

Terror is a criminal issue, not a government vs goverment one. Terrorists, like McVeigh and BinLaden are criminals, not enemy soldiers. Most of our law enforcement tools for apprehending terrorist after the fact are adequate. McVeigh was caught, tried, and executed because of it.

Gitmo should be either a suspected criminal holding facility, and it should treat its inhabitants accordingly (including habeus et al), or it is governed by the geneva convention and it's inhabitants should be repatriated to their home countries. If they have both criminals and combatants there, they should be separated - according to the geneva convention combatants may not be housed with criminals or suspected criminals.

What we lack here at home is Constitutionally supportable terrorism prevention methods.

Sure, if you treat everyone as a probable terrorist, you have every angle covered. But I doubt people would be willing to submit to strip search, body cavity inspection, catheterization and restraint while traveling in order to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Sure, you could make sure you knew and recorded everything about everyone at all times, but it wouldn't pass muster with that pesky Constitution or our culture. Not only that, but the totalitarian regime that it would take to implement it would be worse than a "suicide" bomber going off every week.

Israel has some very sophisticated techniques for antiterrorism, and England does too. More effective than ours, and they still have the occasional problem. Wasting public resources on a scattershot and abusive policy is silly. Targeted enforcement is the key, here. Hauling random immigrants off to secret camps because they have a similar name to a terror suspect isn't.

Two, on the international front, our actions should be twofold: gather adequate and focused intelligence to apprehend terrorists within international law, and analyse the causes and incentives for terrorist recruiting and seek to eliminate them.

Both of these involve intelligent and judicious use of both State Department and CIA resources, and requires an honest and blunt handling of the data gathered by both bureaucrats and elected officeholders. It should also be non-partisan, and be overseen by the few honest patriots in congress on either side of the aisle.

We have some of the most sophisticated monitoring and data analysis tools on the planet, and we can't use them effectively because we lack the expertise in the languages and cultures currently spawning the most terrorists. Our intelligence apparatus is still mostly focussed on cold-war type threats: hostile governments and their puppets.

We need to focus more on NGO/EGO (nongovernmental organizations/extragovernmental organizations) groups, and and governments that we scrutinize should be looked at for providing tacit approval, resources, or safe harbors to terror cells. Our focus on goverments leaves us unable to see the trees for the forest. While a cell structure is probably the hardest to track, intercept or break up, it is what most sophisticated terrorists use.

Unfortunately...

Problem is, the chance of people abandoning the trite slogans and false war drums is slim. Reason and careful consideration seldom make good sound bites for Presidential speeches or Fox news. So we continue in our spiral into sloganeering fascism and perpetual "war", further dragging us into a 1984esque state that makes everthing our founding fathers stood for null and void.

EDIT

As one commenter pointed out, it doesn't have to be the downward spiral. We, the "little folk", need to start countering the media and political behemoths and slogans. Otherwise, we lose the American dream, and the lofty ideals of our founders.

Permission to repost with attribution is granted.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
treecat
Feb. 6th, 2006 10:26 pm (UTC)
very long! but good rant! bravo!

just a note though that part of what london is doing is there are an extreme number of surveillance cameras, though cameras in public is better than wiretaps in secret.
jilara
Feb. 6th, 2006 11:59 pm (UTC)
The model that seems to fit this whole thing taken to the extreme is that of the bafuku government under the Tokugawa shogunate. Alarmed by inroads made by foreigners and Christians in the reigns of the first few Tokugawa shoguns, the Japanese government reacted by restricting the rights of the populace as much possible. The laws were onerously totalitarian, the population was massively restricted in its ability to travel, and when they did, often had to submit to massive indignities at the checkpoints along the way, and the police had sweeping powers not just of arrest, search and siezure, etc., but could detain suspects indefinitely on rumor. Haul folks off because of a similar name? Hey, it worked for the bafuku. Execute someone on marginal evidence? Hey, it it keeps the peace and keeps out evil influences, why not? Common people were forbidden to own weapons, leaving them prey to corrupt government officials who could. "Summary justice" was often carried out by these same officials or their agents. After all, people were plotting against the government. These policies resulted in many rebellions and uprisings, which were then ruthlessly crushed, a self-fullfilling prophecy. The result was a completely disenfranchised population ruled by paranoid control freaks. By the time of the Meiji Rebellion (instigated by Western meddling, btw), the populace was ready to embrace just about anything that promised even a whiff of freedom, foreign influenced or not.

It scares me how many parallels to the bafuku I see in the "War on Terror."
raindrops
Feb. 7th, 2006 06:31 am (UTC)
Terror is a method, not a sovereign nation. You can't declare war on a method (OK, I stand corrected, since we did... but war is waged between nations, not ideologies and methods). You can declare war all you want, but you can't actually wage war on it, anymore than you can wage war on drugs or poverty.

I fought in the Cold War, in a hotspot. We used terror to win (sort of, maybe almost). WTF?
jemyl
Feb. 7th, 2006 06:48 am (UTC)
Believe it or not I can agree with most of what you posted. All was well with me until your last paragraph. I find the conclusions expressed there a prime example of the very sloganeering you decry. YOur last sentence, for me, seems to negate much of the excellent logic and suggestions expressed in the rest of the post. Instead of giving up and calling all a downward fascist spiral, why not call upon all patriots to work to get the ideas you put forth in front of local and nationsl decisionmakers? Why not short-circuit Fox news and the other media sloganmakers by bombarding Congress with your ideas. Perhaps if the 'broken record' technique were used to put forth constructive ideas instead of trite namecalling slogans, some good change could be brought about.

Don't forget what one little old widow in tennis shoes and a white Mercedes did for the 65,000 plus people of our county because she didn't like having to wait forty five minutes for an ambulance with a dead husband in her bed.

Hugs!
ravan
Feb. 7th, 2006 05:15 pm (UTC)
You have a valid point. See my edit...
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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