Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Balko on the War on Terrorism

Radley Balko has a very interesting post about the war on terrorism and why we should not allow it to close up our free society and violate our constitutional protections. He bases this in part on an article by James Fallows in The Atlantic, which I have not read. But I find Balko’s logic quite compelling:

The gist of Fallows’ thesis is that the terrorists will never conquer the west, and they know that. Public consciousness of the threat, and the absence of a sanctuary in Afghanistan have neutered al-Qaeda. They’re now a loose-knit group of desperados acting on their own accord. Fallows argues — convincingly, I think — that while these vagabond cells can certainly still do some minor damage, their real aim at this point is to provoke our overreaction. The best they can hope for is to disrupt our way of life, and instill fear and panic — like making us think that we’re one liberal Supreme Court justice away from every warblogger’s favorite new vocabulary word, dhimmitude.

America is never going to be run by Islamic fundamentalists. We’re never going to be involuntarily speaking Arabic. The worst-case scenario is that we let a few acts of terrorism fundamentally alter our way of life, we cower in fear, and we hand over the very freedom and give up the very open society people like Simberg say the terrorists hate us for.

In that way, statements’ like Simberg’s do far more to advance the mission of Isamic terrorists than anything some doofus like Ward Churchill could utter.

Hear, hear. The irony is that, in the aftermath of 9/11 we kept hearing about the “cowardly act” of running planes into buildings. But I maintain that the real cowards are those who would so easily give up constitutional protections out of fear of terrorists. We can and must do a great deal more to investigate, prosecute and disrupt those who engage in terrorism against us. But if we do so by eliminating the basic safeguards against the abuse of authority, like the need to show probable cause and secure warrants before spying on American citizens, we do so out of cowardice and lack of confidence in the ability of a free society to sustain itself against threats.


  1. #1 Prup aka Jim Benton
    August 29, 2006

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo’s quote was relevant during the McCarthy era and is just as relevant today.

    And one thing to notice and remember. We have a lot of Muslims here, both native-born and immigrants, but they aren’t where the terrorists are coming from. (This despite the fact that many of the immigrants are Pakistani, and Pakistan tends to favor a very conservative, Wahhabist form of Islam.) Unlike other societies, even Canada’s, we have managed to integrate the Muslim immigrants into ours, giving them the freedom and equality that makes them much less isolated. (I’m a Brooklynite who lives near the Pakistani section — and in a largely Jewish section that borders on it — and there is no tension coming from either group against the other. In fact many of the Jewish stores have Pakistani workers, thre are Pakistani groceries in the Jewish section, and there is at least one store on the ‘border’ that sells both kosher foods and a complete line of Shan spices.)
    It is ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘uncool’ to say it, but despie the Bushites, American society works, and it works because of the immigrants it welcomes and includes.

  2. #2 Keanus
    August 29, 2006

    I agree this country will never be run by Islamic fundamentalists but we’re currently as close as I ever want to be to the country being run by Christian fundamentalists. If given enough rope, they could be just as intolerant, hostile, and mean-spirited as the Islamic fundamentalists.

  3. #3 Treban
    August 29, 2006

    What gets me is that it’s taken this long for folks to understand that the terrorists are not out to kill us all. I’m sure some of themn might like to, but the goal has been to drasticly alter the way we live. It has been my attitude that the terrorists won when we passed the “patriot” act, when our government started end running the constitution, when Americans started screaming in fear that we need to adopt such measures. To call such people cowards is a gross understatement. Demands to take away our civil liberties so we can pretend we’re a little safer is no less than pissing on the millions who specificaly gave their lives so that we could have them.

  4. #4 Sam Paris
    August 29, 2006

    The thing that those who would give up our protection from our government, in order to gain a little temporary safety, never seem to understand, is that no terrorist group, not even one armed with an atom bomb, could cause the kind of havoc and destruction and death that an out-of-control government could.

    The obvious example is the Third Reich, but to hell with them, they’re overused. Look at Pol Pot’s reign, look at Stalin’s purges, look at the Cultural Revolution in China…
    Hell, look at the times our own government has felt unhindered: the Trail of Tears comes to mind.

    Giving up the Bill of Rights because you’re worried about terrorists is like taking off your bulletproof vest because you feel a little chafed.

    Sam Paris

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