Fair warning: this node contains not much other than (gasp) opinion! Seriously, this isn't a news-related or factual node, so if you're looking for those, head out now.

As the scale of the disasters in New York, Washington D.C. and in our collective psyche settles around us in a miasma of anger, shock and fear, there is a component of the attack that we must, as of right now, begin to guard against which hasn't been addressed in the popular media. We must be vigilant starting now; we must be sensitive starting now. The risk if we do not? That we'll end up just like those that carried out this horror, or worse.

The natural reaction of a polity to this type of event is (as mentioned above) shock, horror, and anger. The people of the United States will demand justice for this catastrophe, no doubt, and cooler heads than I have already warned about the dangers of making assumptions and perpetuating the cycle of violence. I, myself, am wrestling with my revulsion at further death, my fears of escalation, and my desire to see some motherfucker killed, preferably slowly, for what he (they) did to my country, my city, and my people. This is where a great deal of the danger in this attack lies.

In the near future, we will see the inevitable reactions begin to set in. Airport security will become even more intrusive. Weapons will be more visible to Americans than they have been. The military will become a more common day-to-day sight. Laws and regulations will appear intended to protect us from further attacks.

That's the problem.

As I see it, we need to keep a very, very careful eye not only on the rest of the world, but (perhaps more importantly) on our own reactions. Our system of government and social order is (ostensibly) based on a set of beliefs and assertions laid out in a series of much revered documents, some old, some less so. In our rush to achieve greater safety, we run the risk of damaging the very foundations of the system which we are trying to protect, perhaps (in extremis) irreparably. How? A moment's thought in a calm time will give you the answers.

How plausible is it to imagine a suspension of the basic rights of Americans in response to this? Yup, not very plausible at all. However, it is quite plausible to imagine a series of encroachments on those rights, which individually can be easily passed as security-enhancing, and only when taken together show the damage they are doing. For example, an increase in police powers regarding habeas corpus. A slight shift towards liberal interpretations of the phrase "unwarranted search and seizure." A few actions that were once innocuous appearing on the books as crimes. Extension of governmental authority into areas from which it was once barred.

These are the things that, if we allow them to happen, will mean that the bastards who did this to us and the world have won. If we lose that which makes us a reasonably united, compassionate people (and make no mistake, we are, in sum) then the loss might even outshine the losses we've already suffered. If it becomes easier to acquire a search warrant against a person of Arab descent, as opposed to the general populace, we lose. If it becomes permissible for the military or intelligence organizations or even police units to keep us isolated, away from friends, counsel, and even charges, then we all suffer. Our country shivers and shudders a little.

So please, as a personal entreaty, I beg of you - as intellectual human beings, those of you that care about what America means (and not all of you are American, I know) please vow to watch carefully when such changes are proposed and/or implemented. Every time a legal change occurs, think about your freedoms. Don't think about the terrorist's; they threw theirs away in an attempt to poison yours. Think, carefully, if what you are evaluating affects your ability to say with confidence that you will be proud to turn this country over to your children.

Don't let the bastards grind you down.

Harry Browne always says it better than I can, so I yield the floor to him.

When Will We Learn?

by Harry Browne, with permission

The terrorist attacks against America comprise a horrible tragedy. But they shouldn't be a surprise.

It is well known that in war, the first casualty is truth -- that during any war truth is forsaken for propaganda. But sanity was a prior casualty: it was the loss of sanity that led to war in the first place.

Our foreign policy has been insane for decades. It was only a matter of time until Americans would have to suffer personally for it. It is a terrible tragedy of life that the innocent so often have to suffer for the sins of the guilty.

When will we learn that we can't allow our politicians to bully the world without someone bullying back eventually?

President Bush has authorized continued bombing of innocent people in Iraq. President Clinton bombed innocent people in the Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia. President Bush Senior invaded Iraq and Panama. President Reagan bombed innocent people in Libya and invaded Grenada. And on and on it goes.

Did we think the people who lost their families and friends and property in all that destruction would love America for what happened?

When will we learn that violence always begets violence?

Teaching Lessons

Supposedly, Reagan bombed Libya to teach Muammar al-Qaddafi a lesson about terrorism. But shortly thereafter a PanAm (sic) plane was destroyed over Scotland, and our government is convinced it was Libyans who did it.

When will we learn that "teaching someone a lesson" never teaches anything but resentment -- that it only inspires the recipient to greater acts of defiance.

How many times on Tuesday did we hear someone describe the terrorist attacks as "cowardly acts"? But as misguided and despicable as they were, they were anything but cowardly. The people who committed them knowingly gave their lives for whatever stupid beliefs they held.

But what about the American Presidents who order bombings of innocent people -- while the Presidents remain completely insulated from any danger? What would you call their acts?

When will we learn that forsaking truth and reason in the heat of battle almost always assures that we will lose the battle?

Losing Our Last Freedoms

And now, as sure as night follows day, we will be told we must give up more of our freedoms to avenge what never should have happened in the first place.

When will we learn that it makes no sense to give up our freedoms in the name of freedom?

What to do?

What should be done?

First of all, stop the hysteria. Stand back and ask how this could have happened. Ask how a prosperous country isolated by two oceans could have so embroiled itself in other people's business that someone would want to do us harm. Even sitting in the middle of Europe, Switzerland isn't beset by terrorist attacks, because the Swiss mind their own business.

Second, resolve that we won't let our leaders use this occasion to commit their own terrorist acts upon more innocent people, foreign and domestic, that will inspire more terrorist attacks in the future.

Third, find a way, with enforceable constitutional limits, to prevent our leaders from ever again provoking this kind of anger against America.

Patriotism?

There are those who will say this article is unpatriotic and un-American -- that this is not a time to question our country or our leaders.

When will we learn that without freedom and sanity, there is no reason to be patriotic?


Harry Browne was the 2000 Libertarian presidential candidate (also 1996 -- ed.). You can read more of his articles at http://www.HarryBrowne.org, and his books are available at http://www.HBBooks.com.

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At Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 -- the day that will live in infamy -- 2403 American lives were lost. A military attack on a military target, during a period when the world was at war. The death toll on September 11th, 2001 seems surely to surpass that. When the last battered body is dragged from the rubble of the World Trade Center the toll may be treble or quadruple Pearl Harbor.

President Bush has said that he, nay we, will not discriminate between those who committed the acts and those who harbor them. In the 20 hours since the attack more and more signs point to an arabic group with ties to Osama Bin Laden. He is being "contained" by the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan. They will not extradite him to the US for past crimes. The President's words were calculated.

Isolationism. Follow that path. Stay out of world affairs. I've heard this so many times I know their arguments better than they do. It's an ivory tower idealist's argument. What is the response to krystalnacht? What is the response to the Final Solution? What is the response to Tianamen Square? What is the response to Pearl Harbor? Nothing. Words. It's not our business.

If you are unwilling to fight for anything, you're either a pacifist or a coward. A pacifist I can live with. I can admire them. I often thought I was one. But in the end I know, that I will fight for my family. I will fight for my children. And I will fight for those less fortunate than myself. If you're only willing to fight for your own, you're selfish - and short-sighted.

It is said that violence begets violence. This is to some extent true. But it is also true that violence can simply exist on its own. Just because you are peaceful doesn't mean your brother, much less your neighbor, is going to leave you alone. Ask Abel. Ask the jews or gypsies of Europe circa 1941. Violence may beget violence - but peace does not beget peace.

I am not a christian. I admire the teachings of Jesus Christ. I wish that I could be that strong. But if someone kills my child, I will not turn the other cheek. The lord will have to share his vengeance.

Deterrence. If the US were to essentially ignore this act, we would not see a lessening of terrorist acts. We would see more. We have as a country tried to rely on the courts. Yes, we've had some ineffective bombings of usually vacant terrorist training camps - we've even mistakenly killed civilians. We do it mistakenly. Terrorists do it on purpose. If you cannot see the difference - then you are blind.

If, and please take note of the "if", Osama Bin Laden is responsible for these crimes, then Afghanistan has committed an act of war against the United States. They have taken the responsibility for "containing" him. They harbored him against our protests.

You do not win wars by playing an eye for an eye. You win wars with overwhelming force and at the least cost to your side. Every military target in Afghanistan should be hit. Their leaders should be targeted as well. That's how you win wars. That's how you show countries that if they knowingly harbor terrorists - they will pay, not just the terrorist.

The United States has often been on the "wrong" side in my liberal opinion. I can list you all the dictators we've supported, countries we've invaded, and governments we've subverted. Not this time. We are legitimately the good guys here.

Oh, but you're war-mongering, the peanut gallery whines. Well, I'm an anarcho, pacifist-until-pushed-to-the brink, liberal. Yesterday was the brink. I'm not war-mongering, Afghanistan is war-mongering. I'm responding in kind.

I've also served four years in the army -- though I probably have as little respect for it as anyone you know. But you have the right to be a libertarian, pacifist, socialist, conservative, etc., etc., in this country ONLY because someone else -- many millions of someone elses -- fought, killed, and died to preserve for you that right. Else we'd be kneeling before the Queen or giving each other seig heils.

this too shall pass...

i tell myself that every morning. for six horrific days, i heard little from my family, who live in new york, from two friends visiting new york, and from one dear friend who lived only two blocks from the tower. we've found almost everyone now, and that makes it a little better, but the first words i spoke that morning still echo through my head, unbidden, at totally random intervals: "oh my god, my homeland is on fire. my home is burning to the ground."

i'm a new yorker before i'm an american. i owe my taint of civility and my bitter humour to the soil i was born upon. for those who forget, america is one of the largest countries in the world; our states are the size of european nations, and the differences between them are sometimes just as vast. i appreciate the support of other americans, from other states, just as i appreciate the kind wishes of the english and the iranians. but that is my home which is on fire this time, and i hope my well-wishers never experience this sort of terror, even if it means they'll never quite understand how it feels to walk in to a sandwich shop and catch an offhand comment that sends the whole world reeling off in a direction that wasn't there before.

when i was young, my father was a commodities broker, and we would go to the trading floor together. it's hard to believe that i'll never take my niece or my sister to see it. my dad's office with the carpet and the private bathroom is nothing more than a smoking heap of rubble. i look at pictures of my brother in central park, with the towers behind him, and i fret that we'll never see that skyline together.

but, as nick cave says, "death is not the end."

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