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Monday, October 23, 2006

The War on Terror

And the War on Habeus Corpus

Well, in my typical long-winded fashion, I was commenting on a fellow blogger, Tom of Who Hijacked Our Country, and decided it was too long-winded to dump on his blog, so I'm moving it to my own. First, some back story:

First, Tom posted a link to this video:

Keith Olbermann: Death of Habeus Corpus

Then, a commenter, Dustin, linked to this one:

Olbermann: Habeus Corpus

My original comment, went something to the effect of that while suspending, or eliminating, habeus corpus is a mistake that we will learn to regret, there's really no way to know if it is necessary -- short of comparing two alternate universes with/without side by side. But that I also believe America will eventually pull out of this. We have in the past, and I do believe we will again, because I do believe the structure of our government is sound, even when the people running it are not. (The last sentence is new.)

That being said, here's where I take it further:

Tom said, "Every recent terrorist plot that’s been foiled, has been prevented by good old fashioned police and detective work; not by spying on people or locking them away without a trial."

The trouble with the spying thing is that we don't know. The reason that spying is all top secret, and has been long before 9/11, is because there are lots of people who aren't trustworthy with such information, including some American citizens. We don't know how America would have fared without the extreme measures we've taken in the past. We don't know how America will fare with or without the extreme measures our government is taking now. I agree, completely, that it does NOT make it right -- Olbermann's line about (not an exact quote) "all vital, all important, and always wrong," is very true. It is wrong, the same way that all such acts were wrong before. However, "wrong" doesn't mean it's "unnecessary," and there's no way to know for sure whether it is "unnecessary," either in the past, or now. The war itself is wrong; war itself is wrong. But, that doesn't mean it's unnecessary.

I believe the terrorists are a threat to us, not because Bush & Co. says so, but because they've been at this for a long time, and the whole thing about "quitting means weakness" is very real to them. If the terrorists quick, they lose everything. They not only lose the war, but they lose the respect/fear of their own people, and they lose control of the countries and organizations they have under their thumb. The war, as much as people claim it is, is NOT about religion -- it's not Muslims against Christians -- it's about power. They want more power, we want to keep the power we have (and I'm not talking about energy sources, either) -- the religious aspect is just a cover-up to justify the power-grabbing. They want control, Bush has control, or thinks he does, and wants to keep it.

In a sense, it doesn't seem much different than our gang problems at home. Gangsters in the 'hood often feel as if they have nothing, but the gang. Nobody else cares, nobody else understands, and in the end reasonably good people get twisted by poverty and despair to the point that they are more than willing, they are eager, to do unconscionable things -- all justified by "we don't have enough." The Muslim terrorists do not seem that different, except when you look at their priviledged leadership, who often never did without in the same way their "foot soldiers" did; they are the true threat, because they are the orchestrators, they're the ones who convince the "little guy" that terrorism is how to get what they never had. Unless these leaders win completely, they lose everything; and that hurts, it scares them. OSB isn't out there playing suicide bomber; he doesn't want to die, he wants to rule the world. And it's that kind of desperation, that kind of desire, that puts us at risk.

Bush is facing that same kind of desperation, the same desire. Because he's so critized and so incompetent, he probably feels that he has to win completely, end this whole affair in a bang-up sort of way, to win at all. Whereas as you [Tom], Olbermann, and most of American can take "a little bit of terrorism," because a little bit can't destroy America -- even if it does destroy a few American lives, Bush wants to end it all, and have that be his legacy as President. Of course, it's never going to happen. It's not going to happen within his Presidency, and it won't happen afterwards. Terrorism, though not necessarily this particular brand of it, is a very human tendency to use the weapon at hand -- and when you're the little guy you have to make yourself seem scary to have any say, at least so these people believe.

What we're witnessing is what happens when powerful, power-hungry people get their backs pushed up against a wall of their own design -- on a global, epic scale. I admit that I would be just another "intrigued spectator" in this vast charade, if I didn't know quite so well that my children will have to live in whatever's left of the world after this has all played out. That terrifies me -- not the terrorists -- what will be left for the children terrifies me. And, I don't just mean mine, or America's children, I mean all the children's lives that have been or will be destroyed by this. Whether the child is American, or Iraqi, or Israeli, or French, or...whatever, they're all going to be suffering, or having the risk of suffering because of this, and that is what terrifies me. We're willing to degrade ourselves so far to give them something better, safer, whatever, and they're going to be left with crap.

I do believe America will pull out of this. I believe that it will probably come in my grandchildren's time, however, not in ours or our children's time. My grandfathers fought "the commies." My father and his generation (which includes some of you) were taught to hate the commies. My own husband was taught, by the army, to kill the commies. And yet, within my childhood, the Berlin Wall fell and so did the Soviet Union. I don't hate the commies and I never have. I've learned to hate the Islamic terrorists (though, I do not hate Muslims as a whole, I know better) and that scares me. It scares me to know that my children will undoubtably be taught to hate the Islamic terrorists, and it will probably take all mine and my husband's effort to keep them from hating all Muslims.

War is an awful, brutual thing. It destroys the lives, the bodies, and the happiness of those who fight it. It destroys the families they could have had if they hadn't. It destroys the countries who are ravaged by it. Most people know this. However, it seems many people don't realize that it destroys everyone else, too. We're all hurt by this. All our innocence and the innocence of our children that could have been, is gone because of this. It's too late to prevent that. Whether we pull out of Iraq, or stay in...it's too late. The damage is done. Nobody will ever be the same, because the war has happened. The fighting won't stop. Not anytime in the near future. We can pull out, and that's not going to stop the fighting. It's not going to stop the terrorists. We can stay in, and that's not going to stop the fighting. It's not going to stop the terrorists.

Habeus Corpus may keep us safer at home, depending on how you define saftey. I don't define saftey in that manner, however. Something clean and good about humanity is snuffed out with war and rumours of war. We've seen too much. Some of us have done too much. Do I fear the loss of habeus corpus -- of course I do. These very words could get me thrown in jail, though I do doubt that will happen. However, what I fear most has already happened. The essence of our humanity has already been tainted by this, and that is in unchangeable. It's happened. It could get worse, but it's already lost -- the damage is done. It's only a matter of degrees now.

And, despite that, I do believe this War on Terror is necessary. I believe Bush mangled it, but I also believe it is necessary. I do not think Clinton, Gore or Kerry would have done a better job of it; different is not better. Whether you over-react or under-react, you are still reacting wrongly. And having either as a reflex is not the way to win something like this. We have to get beyond reacting, to the point where we're acting. We have to reach the point where we're calling the shots again; and neither the war in Afghanistan or Iraq qualifies, because they were both reactionary, or over-reactionary, wars. We need to get ahead of them. Habeus Corpus might help us do that; but again, we've lost more than we gain just by signing into law. It was the wrong choice, and yet...that, unfortunately, doesn't mean it was unnecessary.

War is sometimes necessary. Secrets are sometimes necessary. Crimes are sometimes necessary. They are alway, always, dirty, nasty, destructive things -- but sometimes necessary. Eliminating or suspending habeus corpus is a crime, a crime against humanity, but it may be necessary. We'll never know for sure whether it was or wasn't, because secrets are also sometimes necessary. We'll never know for sure what was or was not gained for our country by this action. However, we will learn to regret it. We will learn to be ashamed of it. As we've been ashamed by many things of our past.

Yet, I still believe in America, because America tries to do what is right, America cares about what is right, even when our leaders don't.


At 10/23/2006 9:27 AM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Wow... that was a fantastic post, Steph. While I cannot say I agree with every single word of it (mostly in regards to the "necessity" parts - not all, but some), the body of work was award-winning. I'm glad to see you've come a bit more to the "South" as far as your authoritarianish liberal leanings go. Deep within you lurks a libertarian progressive/liberal, my friend... blog ON... ;-)

At 10/23/2006 9:47 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Thank you, GTL; disagreements aside, your opinion means a lot to me.

And, to clarify: If were talking Alias-style torture and imprisonment, that I understand. It depends on knowing, beyond a reasonable doubt that you're dealing with a terrorist, however. It also depends on the people involved in the torture of terrorists NOT being associated with politics.

Unfortunately, we live in the real world. In the real world all such power is abusable and is abused. If there were any sort of real guarantee that this power would be used appropriately, I would be all for it; and my conscience would be clean, i.e. the scariness of hate.

However, I'm not that naive, nor am I that much of an optimist. This will be abused. We will regret this. And that is a guarantee.

At 10/23/2006 10:02 AM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Sadly, you're correct, my friend... that IS a guarantee... :-/

At 10/23/2006 2:06 PM, Blogger Tom Harper said...

Interesting post; very well thought out. I can't really disagree with anything you wrote. This is a very complicated and tragic issue. I do think that it was totally wrong to suspend Habeus Corpus, but like you said, we've been in crises like this before and we've come back. And I think we'll come back from this.

I was reading something yesterday (I can't remember where) about life in the '50s during McCarthyism. The person was saying you couldn't get a fishing license without taking a loyalty oath, and in Texas you could get 20 years in prison for being a member of the Communist Party. So we've been there before; and hopefully we'll come back from this.

At 10/24/2006 3:41 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

As I said, I was not alive during the height of the Communist vervor, but I've studied it -- mostly to debunk someone who claimed, through their hate, that it was all justified. One of the things I remember is that, along with journalists whose bias was towards the "wrong" side, peace-activists were assumed-Commies until and unless they could be proven otherwise.

While I prefer peace, I do believe in the necessity of war. Silencing htose who do not believe in the necessity of war, simply because it could endanger American lives -- which I readily admit it could and has, both then and now -- does not justify silencing these voices. We need to hear them. We need to acknowledge what they have to say. It's these voices who will help us recover when the time for peace does finally come. It will be these voices that can help to heal the hate. And, in suspending Habeus Corpus, it is for these voices that I fear. Bush & Co. has already called them "the enemy" or "aiding and abetting the enemy" and now he has the power to act on that more fully than ever. That's a scary thing.

Admittedly, some of them are, undoubtably, the enemy, however most of them are not. If we cannot distinguish the difference, we will again be the cause of unjustified human suffering. And we, meaning those with power, cannot tell the difference.

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it -- that's a quote obviously, but I don't the exact wording or who said it -- and we've definitely not learned how to fight a war like this.


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