EMAIL PAGE TEN
COLUMN SIXTY-SEVEN, JANUARY 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
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BY WORDSMITH MOLLY IVANS
Ivins: The Patriotism Police
Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2001 17:19:21 -0800 (PST)
From: portsideMod firstname.lastname@example.org
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grown-ups, you know Molly Ivins
- Say, here's an item: A group of right-wing journalists famed for their
impartiality has set themselves up as the Patriotism Police. No less
distinguished a crowd than Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and the folks at the New
York Post editorial page and the Fox News Channel---quite a bunch of Pulitzer
winners there---is now passing judgment on whether media outlets that do actual
reporting are sufficiently one-sided for their taste.
the insouciance toward fact for which he is so noted, Limbaugh erroneously
reported that Peter Jennings had been highly critical of President Bush for
disappearing on Sept. 11. The Dittoheads flooded ABC with complaints. (Limbaugh
later corrected the error.) The bone of contention since has been over the
reporting of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
there, done that. Yes, bombing causes the deaths of innocent civilians, a fact
not mitigated by referring to them as collateral damage, nor by repeated
references to "pinpoint bombing"---an absurd combination of words.
the Pentagon's own analysis, even our smart bombs often miss. Among our more
memorable recent errors were hitting the Red Cross complex in Kabul (twice), the
both the Persian Gulf and the Yugoslav campaigns, analyses by the Pentagon and
by independent agencies showed that bombing was significantly less accurate and
less effective than we had been told. Most of us are grown-ups and do not need
to be protected from this unpleasant truth by those who think it may weaken our
bombing campaign in Afghanistan brings special perils, beyond what the Pentagon
refers to as holding civilian casualties to "an acceptable minimum."
In the first place, there's not much there to hit, and in the second place, we
are up against the dismal fact that the bombing campaign could well cause the
starvation of literally millions of Afghans who never did anything to us.
if mass starvation does occur, we will lose this war against terrorism whether
or not we find bin Laden, since such a tragedy would instantly create more
terrorists as well as wreck the coalition. And that is why some of us think it
is even more important to figure out how to get food into Afghanistan before
winter hits than it is to find bin Laden. Our resolve to nail him will outlast
the winter---the Afghan people may not.
Patriotism Police are pleased that CNN is now balancing reports of civilian
casualties with reminders of Sept. 11, as though the one cancels out the other.
seems to me that one obligation of citizenship is to be as well-informed as one
has time to become. The more one reads about Afghanistan, the more apparent it
becomes that we cannot afford to underestimate the complexity of this task. For
example, the Northern Alliance folks are not the good guys; they're just a
different set of bad guys. And at least two of our allies, Pakistan and Saudi
Arabia, have done more to nourish the Taliban than has bin Laden.
crowning irony is that we helped arm the Afghans ourselves. Reducing all this to
cowboy-movie black hats and white hats is a serious public disservice. The New
York Times quotes Brit Hume, the Fox News anchor, as saying, "This is a
conflict between the United States and murdering barbarians." Would that it
were that simple.
is a war against terrorism, a phenomenon with complex roots, including
resentment over our foreign policy---some of it well-founded. There is nothing
unpatriotic about facing facts. I'm so patriotic that I think Americans are
smart enough and resolute enough to deal with all the complexities of a
situation that is rife with them. We don't need patriotic pap---we do need all
the solid information we can get. Honor to those who risk their lives getting it
it turns out that a military invasion of Afghanistan is inadvisable for either
political or strategic reasons, we need to figure out other ways to go after the
terrorists. "Whatever works" should be the deciding factor.
Mr Ashcroft: Less free doesn't mean safer
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 17:42:59 -0800 (PST)
From: portsideMod firstname.lastname@example.org
To: portside email@example.com
Ashcroft, Let's Not Repeat Past Mistakes
The problem is the premise. We are having one of those circular arguments about
how many civil liberties we can trade away in order to make ourselves safe from
terrorism, without even looking at the assumption---can we can make ourselves
safer by making ourselves less free? There is no inverse relationship between
freedom and security. Less of one does not lead to more of the other. People
with no rights are not safe from terrorist attack.
what do we want to strike out of the US Constitution that we think would prevent
terrorist attacks? Let's see, if civil liberties had been suspended before Sept.
11, would law enforcement have noticed Mohamed Atta? Would the FBI have opened
an investigation of Zacarias Massoui, as Minneapolis agents wanted to do?
CIA had several of the Sept. 11 actors on their lists of suspected terrorists.
Exactly what civil liberty prevented them from doing anything about it?
the case of a suspected terrorist, the government already had the right to
search, wiretap, intercept, detain, examine computer and financial records, and
do anything else it needed to do. There's a special court they go to for
subpoenas and warrants. As it happens, they didn't do it. Changing the law
retroactively is not going to change that. Certainly, we had a visa system that
had more holes than Swiss cheese. What does that have to do with civil
liberties? When we don't give an agency enough money to do its job, it doesn't
you may have heard, Immigration and Naturalization has been a bit overwhelmed in
recent years. In fairness to law enforcement, it's hard to imagine how anyone
could have seen this one coming. It's always easy to
the infamous 1886 Haymarket Square affair in Chicago, after a bomb killed seven
policemen, eight labor leaders were rounded up and "tried," even
though there was no evidence against them---four hanged, one suicide, three
sentenced. Historians agree they were all innocent. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo
Vanzetti, executed in 1927, were finally exonerated by the state of
Massachusetts in 1977. That outbreak of hysteria over "foreign
anarchists" led to, among other abuses, a wave of arrests for DWI:
"Driving While Italian." And no one was ever made safer from an
anarchist bomb by the execution of innocent people. We all know other groups,
from the Irish to the blacks to the Chinese, have been targeted for legal abuse
over the years---all betrayals of our laws, values, and the sacrifices of
generations. Let's not do it again. The counter-case was neatly put by David
Blunkett, the British home secretary: "We can live in a world with
airy-fairy civil liberties and believe the best in everybody---and
is not a word I throw around lightly, but what do you think happened in Germany
in the 1930s? The US Constitution was written by men who had just been through a
long, incredibly nasty war. They did not consider the Bill of Rights a frivolous
luxury, to be in force only in times of peace and prosperity, put aside when the
going gets tough. The Founders knew from tough going. They weren't airy-fairy
guys. We put away Tim McVeigh and the terrorists who did the 1993 World Trade
Center bombing without damaging the Constitution. If the laws break into some
apartment full of Al Qaeda literature and plans of airports, absolutely nothing
prevents them from hauling in the suspects and having a nice, cozy, cop-like
chat with them. Because there's evidence. That's what they call "due
there is no evidence, no grounds for suspicion, we do not hold citizens
indefinitely and without legal representation. Foreign citizens have only
limited rights in this country, depending on their means of entry---different
for refugees, permanent residents, etc. So what's the problem?
General John Ashcroft has been so busy busting dying marijuana smokers in
California and doctors in Oregon who carry out their terminal patients' wishes
to die in peace, he obviously has no time to consider the Constitution. But he
did swear to uphold it. ##
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