all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the
most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops
the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies;
from these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, and
debts, and taxes are the known instruments for
bringing the many under the domination of the few"
- James Madison April 20, 1795
The Crime Of The Century:
Never-Ending "War Against Terrorism"
Posted May 5, 2003
by Thom Hartmann
During this lull in the fighting between the
2002 election cycle Iraq conflict and the soon-to-come 2004 election cycle
conflict, it's a good time to (anonymously) sit in a library or bookstore
and browse "The Turner Diaries" and Gore Vidal's "Perpetual
War For Perpetual Peace."
The former was the inspiration for Timothy
McVeigh; the latter includes his self-written eulogy. Together, they show
how terrorist McVeigh choose the wrong administration - and terrorist Osama
bin Laden, by luck of the draw, chose the right one - to harm American
The Turner Diaries is an apocalyptic novel
that opens with a convenience store robbery and ends with an
Armageddon-style worldwide holocaust leaving only white Anglo-Saxon
Protestants standing. The government of the United States responds to a
terrorist attack (the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma) by cracking
down on dissent, expanding the power of the Executive Branch, and shredding
constitutional civil rights protections. White "patriots" respond
by declaring war against the government that had once tried to take away
their guns. Thus begins the cycle of violence that ends with the ultimate
worldwide war, a vision straight out of the Book of Revelation.
But Tim McVeigh's expectation of a repressive
federal reaction to his right-wing terrorism ran into a snag: Bill Clinton
knew the difference between a rogue nation and a rogue criminal.
Like every President since George Washington,
Bill Clinton knew that nations only declare war against nations. While
armies deal with rogue states, police deal with criminals, be they domestic
Like Germany's response to the Red Army
Faction, Italy's response to The Red Brigades, and Greece's response to the
17 November terrorist group (among others), Clinton brought the full force
of the criminal justice system against McVeigh, and even had Interpol and
overseas police agencies looking for possible McVeigh affiliates. The result
was that the trauma of the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing was limited,
closure was achieved for its victims, the civil rights of all Americans were
largely left intact, and the United States government was able to get back
to it's constitutionally-defined job of ensuring life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness for its citizens. (Although the Anti-Terrorism
Act of 1996 did begin the process of eroding civil liberties, it was nowhere
near as draconian as the Patriot Act, and was only passed after a full
year of careful Congressional deliberation.)
Every President from Washington to Clinton
understood the logic expressed by our founders when James Madison, on April
20, 1795, wrote: "Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps,
the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every
other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And
armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many
under the domination of the few.
"In war, too," Madison continued,
"the discretionary power of the Executive [Branch of Government] is
extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is
multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of
subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism
may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud,
growing out of a state of war...and in the degeneracy of manners and morals,
engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of
Although numerous recent presidents have
declared "wars" on abstractions like poverty, illiteracy, drugs,
and a variety of other social ills, all were well aware that these so-called
"wars" were, in truth, just politically useful rhetoric. Real war
can only be declared by one nation against another: it's not possible to
declare a war against an abstraction.
The crime of 911 has been often cited to
rationalize the loss of civil liberties and the ongoing traumatizing of the
American people with daily "Terror Alerts" and a never-ending
"war on terror."
But 911 wasn't an act of war, because it
wasn't done against us by a nation. It was, instead, a crime, perpetrated by
a criminal and his followers.
It was a horrific crime, certainly. A crime
that required strong, swift, and sure response. A crime that other nations,
corporations, and individuals may have abetted and must be held accountable
for both domestically and in the international venues of the United Nations
and the International Criminal Court. A crime deserving a thorough
investigation (which has yet to begin).
But Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are not
nations. Bin Laden was a criminal, and his group was a Middle Eastern sort
of mafia with terrorist ambitions, initially funded by Poppy bin Laden, who
was coincidentally a business partner with Poppy Bush. And, according to
most of the world's police and intelligence agencies, Osama is dead (or
dying) and his organization is in tatters.
To continue using our military against a
criminal organization will only compound the horrific crime of 911, because
armies aren't particularly good at police work.
It's time to restore civil liberties to
Americans; rein in an Executive Branch intoxicated by warfare; and hand over
to American and international police agencies the very real and very big job
of dealing with the remnants of al Qaeda around the world, and prevent a
recurrence of 911 by investigating who was involved and how they pulled it
off in the first place.
Anything less will simply perpetuate this
crime of the century.
Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com)
is the author of "Unequal Protection: The Rise Of Corporate Dominance
And The Theft Of Human Rights" and hosts a nationally syndicated daily
radio talk show on the i.e. America Radio Network. www.thomhartmann.com
This article is copyright by Thom Hartmann, but permission is granted for
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