I’m not concerned about PRISM, the massive illegal, unconstitutional secret spying program carried out by the NSA, because I have nothing to hide. I know the national security establishment sees environmentalists as threats and often places agents provocateurs amongst their midst, but I don’t care, I never attend environmental protests or demonstrations or sign petitions or do Facebook likes for those kinds of groups. Besides I trust that the government and corporations working together will always do their best to protect the environment.
Ditto with anti-war protesting. Since America’s $700b annual war budget is almost exclusively oriented towards the War on Terror (there are no state enemies of the US) it stands to reason that anti-warriors are also anti-America and unpatriotic. So why bother offering a target to the anti-terrorism police.
I don’t picket in solidarity with union strikers since there are always plainclothes cops taking pictures of everybody who attends. I don’t sign petitions proposing marijuana be legalized because even in states whose people have voted in favor of legal pot, the feds are out trying to bust people. Obama, America’s first president who has openly admitted to smoking pot and who stated clearly that he’s not going after potheads because he has ‘bigger fish to fry’, doesn’t seem to be able or willing to control the DEA. Hmmm, maybe I do have something to hide, but I’m a white, normal-looking geezer and cops never go after people like myself and maybe the whole War on Drugs paradigm will change before I get busted. I’ll just have to watch what I say and who I talk to and always be cryptic in my messages. Anyway that’s a small thing.
Of course, mistakes do happen, as in the case of Mahar Arar, a telecoms engineer who was returning home to Canada from a vacation in Tunis. He was detained en route in New York on false intelligence that he was connected to terrorism, held in isolation in NY for two weeks without access to a lawyer and then rendered to Syria where he was beaten and tortured for ten months until Syria realized he really didn’t have anything to hide. Our US government insists he was deported, not rendered but wouldn’t ship him forward to Canada whose passport he was traveling on and where he’d lived for the previous 15 years, but to Syria where he hadn’t set foot since he’d left 15 years earlier (He has a dual Canadian/Syrian citizenship only because Syria doesn’t allow people to renounce citizenship). After all, Canada wasn’t going to try to torture a confession out of him, so what good would that have been?
Mistakes do happen but that’s a small price to pay to keep America safe and not a good enough reason to honor basic human rights first declared in the 13th century Magna Carta and further enunciated in the US Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. Habeas Corpus, the requirement that government actually charge a person they wish to detain, prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment; right to counsel, unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause, due process: all, paraphrasing the Bush administration: quaint relics of the past in an age where the specter of terrorism haunts every government action.
Maher Arar was told he didn’t have a right to a lawyer because he wasn’t an American citizen. That’s because other people don’t deserve the same rights as American citizens; that is, when we can even honor rights for Americans. You see, the War on Terrorism is so important that nobody can be afforded rights that might hold back our heroic efforts. That’s why our president must have the right to use drones to kill anybody, anywhere - US citizens included – who we suspect may be bad guys. We don’t have to be sure because that might let bad guys escape to do their nefarious deeds. Needless to say, Obama loses a lot of sleep over who goes on his kill list every time he makes that choice and he feels especially bad when large numbers of innocents are obliterated, as when whole wedding parties are bombed to smithereens, but they should know by now that gathering in large groups is suspicious activity and our government can’t take a chance in that situation. He also agonizes over incidents when first responders rushing to a bomb site with the idea of helping the injured are bombed in turn. But who, after all, is going to be there to help the bad guys except other bad guys? Due process? Once again a quaint relic of a simpler past when our country is in such immediate danger.
The cost of the War on Terror may be great, but think of the 4000 or so Americans who’ve died at the hands of those bad guys over the last 20 years. Besides, if we don’t get every last one, something really bad might happen. So what if it costs $80 billion? – or some big amount anyway, it’s hard to know exactly with all the necessary secrecy which surrounds our efforts.
I know some people will question the wisdom of spending so much on anti-terror when only $565 million is spent on preventing industrial accidents which each year in the U.S. take the lives of 55,000 people and make sick or injure an additional 4 million or so, but that’s the breaks, you can’t really have a dynamic, healthy economy when there are too many regulations and there is too much surveillance. Moreover, workers don’t have to take those dangerous jobs, they can just work elsewhere. Anyway terror is a lot more frightening and galvanizing so it’s just natural it would garner hundreds of times the funding.
I know a lot of you will vehemently oppose what I’ve had to say and you’ve every right to express your opinions, but just between you and me, I’d hesitate to express those views anywhere on the internet or on telephone or anywhere in a public building or in proximity to a spy cam or whatever… you never know, you just never know.
Meanwhile, I have nothing to hide, or not much, and besides I trust the government will always be fair and reasonable and only use the information it’s gathering for good ends. Even if they make a mistake now and then and target and harass and torture or even kill a poor hapless innocent, I won’t hold it against them because it’s all for an important patriotic cause.