Tuesday, August 29, 2006

America is Obsolete and Useless

While reading Glenn Greenwald's post about the conservative judge who abandoned all conservatism to nullify the Constitution because of his fear of physical threats, a question occurred to me.

What threat does terrorism actually pose to the United States?

Bush likes to tell us that the terrorists would destroy our freedoms and way of life. But those things are intangible qualities of being American that are written down into law on a "goddamned piece of paper" called the Constitution, which, incidentally, also gives us the system of government that protects those qualities. How do you blow up a freedom or cut off the head of a way of life? Not with bombs or knives, that's for sure. You couldn't even destroy our system of government by shredding the actual original Constitution. Physical threats are meaningless.

Physical threats, beyond just terrorism, are also manageable by the systems of detection and investigation which were already in place before 9/11. As long as the correct people are paying attention, the job gets done. But there is no such thing as 100% safety from anything.

But what if we do get attacked again?

Consider even the worst-case scenarios.

Terrorists detonate a sufficiently destructive weapon that kills hundreds of thousands. What then? We deal with the aftermath, just as with a natural disaster. No invasion. No occupation. We'd have another 9/11 moment, get world support and have a second chance to use that support to hunt down terrorists the right way like we started to do in Afghanistan, with international cooperation, intelligence and police work.

How about if they're backed by a larger power, like China? They'd have to launch such a significant and overwhelming attack on the U.S. that it wouldn't even be terrorism anymore. It would be invasion and all out traditional war.

Terrorists - even in possession of a couple of WMDs with the necessary ability to use them on U.S. soil - on their own have no effect on our freedoms, our way of life or our system of government, a fact of which terrorists themselves are aware. Terrorism is like building demolition, as unfortunate as that analogy is. Detonate several small, well-placed charges to weaken the structure, stand back and watch while the building's own weight collapses it. In the case of terrorism, the attacks are meant to frighten the populace into undermining their own government. The difference is, people can choose to not be weakened by the attacks, thus actually undermining the terrorists.

So I ask: what kind of threat does terrorism pose to the United States? And I answer: not much. There are all kinds of physical threats we deal with all the time, and we have ways of anticipating and preparing for them, even mitigating their effects. The same with terrorism.

But we are never going to be 100% terrorism-proof. If we live in a police state, with no checks and balances to ensure the powers of the state are not being used lightly or for political reasons; being spied on; imprisoned indefinitely; exiled; rendered for torture, we may get very close to being 100% terrorism-proof for external threats. But I guarantee the threat of internal terrorism will increase.

And that's where the actual threat to our freedoms, our way of life and our system of government lies. Internally. And I'm not just talking about domestic terrorism. I'm talking about the systematic dismantling of everything that makes us American. The system of government created by our Constitution.

Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner, who Greenwald writes about, is falling right into the terrorists' trap. He's so scared of terrorists flying a plane into his bedroom that he considers the Constitution to be"obsolete and useless in light of this grave new threat" and "nothing but 'an 18th Century document.'"

The three branches of government, their duties and limitations, checks and balances; warrants, equality under law; the rights to peaceably assemble, seek redress for grievances, worship freely, vote, be notified of accusations, face one's accuser and defend oneself in open court, not be enslaved; even the ability to amend the Constitution when any of the above structures and rights are considered obsolete and useless, are obsolete and useless?

So, basically, everything that makes this America, that makes us free, that gives us our way of life; in short, America is obsolete and useless.

Well, goddamn. The terrorists have won.

See also:
Don't Panic

Progressive Women's Blog Ring
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