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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Is this even happening?
I can't believe an article such as this could ever be published with any sincerity in such a pinnacle of journalistic integrity and fairness as the Washington Post. Charles Krauthammer has clearly fallen into the thoughtless world of straight, shameless insult-making. Such a column, in which Krauthammer invectively rants about the downfalls of today's liberals and resorts to sophomoric name calling, should never be a part of an honest op-ed page that has a reputation for integrity.
His most absurd passages being, "Liberals tend to be nice, and they believe -- here is where they go stupid -- that most everybody else is nice too." (as if this is a bad thing), "Liberals suffer incurably from naivete, the stupidity of the good heart" (yes, your opposition must be dumb. Yeah, that's it... Yeah...) and the most tactless, and the best summary of this piece, "we all agree that liberals are stupid" (name calling at its best, and worst).
As Tapped mockingly criticized it, "What's the matter, Chuck, couldn't think of anything else to write? On vacation somewhere, phoning it in?" There is really no better explaination for such ridiculous prose.
With word coming out that this secret negotiation between Palestinian groups and the Israeli government concerning a crucial cease-fire was imminent and due to be released just hours from when Israel's bomb was dropped in a Gaza street, one must wonder if Israel also shuns peace attempts in favor of continuing its position as the envoy of reason and proprietor of security in the ongoing conflict. It has been almost a constant that there are several factions in the makeup of the Palestinian authority (note lower case "a") that have encouraged a continuation of violence in favor of making a true attempt at brokering peace. While it has seemed as if Palestinians, for the most part, were to blame for this type of "violence to foil peace" initiative, I must question if the Israeli government leadership has also fallen into this trap. There have always been factions within each side that have seen the solution to the conflict in an "everything or death" view. The killer of Yitzhak Rabin, after all, was a radical Zionist who saw the movement towards peace as the end of his view of Israel. Both sides have these groups. Has the Israeli government become a part of this as well?
Surely the Israeli leadership had knowledge that their negotiators were closing in on a deal that would provide at least temporary peace. A cease-fire was precisely what Israel had demanded before any concessions would be granted to Palestinians. This would have been that crucial step towards peace. Why then, was a deadly assassination operation which would no doubt have revenge implications approved just hours before this cease-fire was to be finalized? Ignore the collateral damage assocated with taking out Salah Shehadeh for a moment. The death of "Hamas' Osama bin Laden," as he has been called since his death, was bound to ignite calls for revenge from at least Hamas, if not the larger Palestinian community. this revenge surely would have led to a continuation in violence and the cycle would continue. Why would Israel launch such an operation with at least minimal peace within grasp? Is it at all possible that Israel didn't want to take that first, important step towards peace? Does Israel enjoy their position as controller of security and the ability to roam the West Bank with troops and tanks while their Palestinian counterparts have incredibly restricted curfews and the inability to carry out an everyday life?
I think there is at least some truth to the idea that Israel relishes its position of power and will take steps, however subtly, to maintain that level of control over the conflict. It is a shame that the Israeli government would fall into this trap of "violence to foil peace" just as fringe elements of the Zionist community have and as a larger segment of Palestinian groups have likewise demonstrated over the course of this conflict. When Israel makes demands for a cease-fire to beget lasting peace, it needs to honor those promises. Trust will be the key to eventual peace. Israel has treated trust with distain and has helped the conflict remain an unstable, emotionally-charged one based not on integrity but on deceit and fraudulence.
On top of creating a domestic spy ring, now Bush wants to allow federal troops to become everyday policemen. Isn't it clear that we are not in need of Martial law? Despite the erratic nature of the economy and the forgotten morals of the corporate elite, our society is not falling apart. Not even a little bit. Martial law should be reserved for true national emergencies. The presence of national guard troops at the nation's airports is comforting, but beyond that role, the thought of federal soldiers acting as every day police with an M-16 rifle in hand is one that I would rather not see in reality.
A soldier is trained to kill. He is not trained to deal with people and investigate crime. He is an agent of the government; a drone trained to kill. A police officer, on the other hand, is an agent of the state, but one who's standard for delivering deadly force is one of last resort. This is a key distinction that should prevent the military from ever having an active role in day to day domestic security.
Unfortunately the Bush administration is working on weakening, or even repealing, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which set the precedent for keeping the military out of our lives. While the Act was created to remove federal troops from the South during reconstruction, it is a law that should be the basis of our concept of liberty. For the administration to attack this law is to restrict the reaches of civil liberties.
Very few, if any, Supreme Court decisions over the course of the history of America have addressed the Third Amendment. With the proposed use of the military in everyday law enforcement, the Court could begin to see cases with Third Amendment implications. This would be a sad step in the history of Constitutional law, for the Third Amendment should have forever remained a tool of our nation's birth. Instead it has the possibilities for our nation's dismal dismantling.
"What must be understood is that the Israeli army didn't just kill any Palestinian, they killed the leader of the military operations of Hamas. This man was most likely the chief organizer, or at least was well informed of the countless suicide bombings in the recent months. Hamas has claimed responsibilty for these actions and he was the leader of the Hamas militancy. The Israeli army may not have had a better chance, or even any other chance at all, to end his deadly campaign. The civilian deaths, while regrettable, were unavoidable if this terrorist leader was to be stopped. This wasn't a man who was going to turn himself in any time soon. Most regrettable however is the fact that had Yassar Arafat removed this man from his position of power, and thereby demonstrated his commitment to ending the suicide bombings, no air strike would have been necessary."
Point well taken. However, while Salah Shehadeh was undoubtably an important catch, the "collateral damage" of this military action was completely unnecessary. Ignoring the point of view that such assassinations of Palestinian leaders should be viewed as unacceptable, the method of this killing was extreme and excessive. The usual method of Israeli assassination missions is a missile fired from an American made helicopter. This time though, the method was a one ton bomb dropped from an F-16 fighter jet, also American made. A missile has a much smaller damage scale and produces far less damage to surrounding areas while still being effective. The use of a bomb for this attack was uncalled for. Even Israeli leadership has acknowledged as much. The video of the site of the attack illustrates how reckless this attack was. It appears as if an entire block of Gaza was destroyed. Such destruction should not be required to eliminate one man.
I find it irresponsible to dismiss fourteen innocent deaths as simply, "regrettable." This incident is no different than a suicide attack on an Israeli bus such as those that have occured in the past months. In both cases, innocent civilians were killed. The deaths of fourteen people should be seen as unacceptable regardless of the gains made to the Israeli bandwagon "war on terror." In fact, this incident has accomplished the exact opposite goal that it ultimately set out for. Hamas has already vowed revenge. Frankly I don't blame them. Just as Israel responds to suicide bombings with campaigns to end the "infrastucture of terror," the minimal means available to the Palestinians will surely respond with their own attacks of revenge. The cycle will continue. What makes that all the more disappointing is that attempts at a cease-fire were reportedly in the works.
From the latest I have heard, it sounds as if there was a failure in Israeli intelligence. I find this difficult to believe considering that Israel has one of the strongest intelligence agencies in the world, however every agency makes mistakes (See the CIA). The latest reports say that when the intelligence was taken to the top, the report stated that Shehadeh was in his home with other Hamas officials. Apparently the official approved such an attack hearing that the chance of innocent civilian deaths would be minimal. The truth, however, was that Shehadeh was indeed at home, but instead of being surrounded by Hamas' finest, he was with his wife and three young children.
I do believe that Shehadeh was a valuable target to eliminate, but surely there could have been better means by which to assassinate him. The deaths of fourteen innocent civilians in the process of an assassination is not "regrettable." It is a crime that will only instigate further violence and bloodshed.
Many of the details of the corporate accounting scandals are beyond my full understanding, but I do know that before we take the advice of the former CEO’s that are running our country, we should take a look at their own records of executive responsibility. Much has been made of Bush’s history at Harken Energy and the seemingly trivial mistakes that were made by the company under his watch. I for one give him the benefit of the doubt, at least until more concrete evidence of wrongdoing is uncovered. Slightly less has been made of Cheney’s record at Halliburton Co., but there seems to be substantially more to worry about.
The executive branch’s only elected officials should be the first to be proven innocent. I have little doubt that Bush will be cleared of any knowledgeable wrongdoing. After all, one must have knowledge in general before one can be accused of knowledgeable transgressions in accounting practices and of ignoring federal audit timetables. However, the Vice President’s corporate history is something that the SEC should take a good look at. Even with my minimal grasp of the economic indiscretions that have taken place at Halliburton Co., it seems painfully obvious that something fishy went on during Cheney’s five year reign as chief executive. Ignoring the accounting irregularities, someone needs to take a close look at his dealings in general. It has been a constant since January 20, 2001, but has moved to a whole new level since September 11, 2001: Dick Cheney is just plain creepy. That alone should be reason enough for the SEC to grill his past record.
How is this any different than a Palestinian suicide bombing? When an Israeli F-16 fires a missile into a residential building, killing fifteen people, only one of which was the intended target, and its consequences are deemed acceptable because it is carried out by a legitimate military and because it is a part of Israel's bandwagon "war on terror," yet a suicide bombing that kills an equal number of innocent people is deemed murder and a horrible attrocity, something is terribly wrong with the allusion of justice. It is not acceptable to call one action collateral damage and the other an act of terrorism. If an observer views the repeated attacks as justifiable warfare between two peoples, or as senseless repeating murder from one set of citizens to another, these actions need to be seen in the same scale of justice.
Just because one side is a state entity with a legitimate military which uses the latest in warfare technology against its Palestinian opponents, while the other uses whatever means possible to counter the attacks on its people with a citizen militia and without the protection of a state to provide military and diplomatic equality, should not mean that two utterly equal acts of violence should be viewed in different lights of moral judgement. The murder of fifteen innocent people is murder no matter if it is carried out by a fighter pilot in the latest aerospace technology, or by a frustrated, yet devoted, radically Islamic suicide bomber. Such moral vision is the first step in ending the cycle of violence. Without equal moral vision, unequal justice will forever yield the continuation of aggression and murder.
Now that the grand plan for Homeland Security has been laid out, the fright can begin. Among the proposals laid out in Bush's plan is a new program called TIPS, or Terrorism Information and Prevention System. This plan calls for mail carriers, meter readers, truck drivers and other delivery type people to be the eyes and ears of the federal government; an actualized citizen spy organization without the luxury of such a title. This is the beginning of what Tocqueville warned about 200 years ago when he wrote,
“[The government] circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.”
This disposition to look at such attacks on our freedom with agreement and without suspicion is what makes the danger all the greater. Such a domestic spy initiative is a dangerous breach on individual liberties. It is frightening and worthy of paranoid apprehension.
TIPS is supposedly voluntary. Yet, wouldn’t these newfound agents of the government have phoned in suspicious activity anyway? Must we encourage citizens to snitch on each other? If we have to encourage such behavior, we have already taken things a step too far.
In her commentary in the Orlando Sentinel, Kathleen Parker proposes two situations. The first is surely the ideal that Bush, Ashcroft and Ridge had in mind when they proposed this idea. The other, the one I and anyone who cares about their rights should worry about, is the one that makes such a citizen spy ring dangerously close to becoming a police state.
Scenario 1) “Cable Guy only would call authorities when servicing a house that was home to nine Arab males between the ages of 22 and 45 with pipe bombs in the fridge, copies of the Quran and box cutters on every table, and a portrait of Osama bin Laden over the sofa.”
Scenario 2) “I have books scattered all around my house on Islam, Osama bin Laden, terrorism, Middle East politics and so on. Might such reading material suggest to a high-school dropout with a tech degree that perhaps I might be in cahoots with the bearded one? Maybe not, but maybe yes.”
These are the questions that should make something like TIPS be questioned by any freedom loving American. TIPS is just a step away from becoming the American equivalent of Cuba's Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, the neighborhood meetings which Castro instituted to keep Cubans under the watchful eyes of each other. It is only a congressional vote away from becoming the American version of East Germany’s stifling police state. It is only a stone’s throw away from becoming the end of American freedom.