Anything It Takes, Just Protect Us From THE TERRORISTS

May 23, 2009

First off, I need to address this oft-repeated (yet completely inaccurate) claim that the president has taken an oath to protect the citizenry of the United States, and therefore has to push the limits of law and constitutionality in order to protect us all from The Terrorists. Here’s the presidential oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The only thing in there that the president swears to protect is the Constitution. Our principles and rule of law is given privilege in the oath, not the safety and security of the population. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in there that lends credibility to the argument that national security is the most important duty of the president and everything else, including legality and constitutionality, comes after that. In fact, at least one of the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, said (just weeks before the beginning of the Revolution):

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Neither the oath of office nor the words of Benjamin Franklin is the word of God, but these two citation certainly belie the claim that Bush administration and now Obama administration policies such as indefinite detention without trial fit with long-accepted American practice. And they disprove the claim that the president has taken an oath to keep us all safe and warm and happy.

Second, I need to voice my amazement at the fear in this country of The Terrorists. The idea that we cannot move terrorists or anyone else held at Guantanamo to facilities in the United States because they would put us in danger is absolutely absurd. Put aside the fact that we already imprison some of the worst terrorists here in the United States. Put aside that we imprison serial killers and child rapists in the United States by the hundreds. Put aside that nobody has ever even come close to escaping from a US supermax prison. Put aside that if a terrorist from Guantanamo were moved to Leavenworth, Kansas and escaped, the first thing they’d do is try to get the fuck out of Kansas. Put aside that some Central Asian terrorist who doesn’t speak English isn’t going to get very far in Kansas or Oklahoma. The truth is that even if the inmates at Guantanamo were released into the streets of Islamabad tomorrow, we’d still be in almost no danger. How many people die each year in the United States from terrorism? Almost zero? Let’s say there were to be a 9/11-sized attack every year. That would still be 10% the number of people dying on our highways and less than 5% the number who die from smoking. Yet we pay almost no attention to highway safety and not much more attention to cigarettes. We certainly don’t freak out over them.

I’m not arguing that we should do nothing about terrorism, but some perspective is necessary here. We focus on the terrorism issue in a way that is profoundly out of proportion from the actual risk. If you live in Kansas, you are simply NOT going to die from a terrorist attack. EVER. If you are worried about where they’re going to move the Guantanamo detainees, then really, you should be paralyzed by fear of lightning strikes, animal attacks, and multiple drug-resistant bacteria. PERIOD.

When did we become a nation of cowards? Time and again we’ve heard from Dick Cheney and his ilk that we are ceding ground to the terrorists by having a discussion about our policies (or by holding on to any of our democratic principles). You know what REALLY cedes ground to the terrorists? Freaking out every time some idiot in a cave yells “boo.”

But of course I’m only saying this because I am a naive apologist for Islamofascism who thinks that we can convert all the Terrorists by offering them hugs and therapy and herbal tea. I don’t appreciate how a bunch of idiot thugs in caves are putting us in mortal danger and represent the gravest threat to our Republic since the Nazis and Communists (and The Gays, and Socialized Medicine, and Nancy Pelosi).

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