Learning to Trust Again


The Constitution is Not a Suicide Pact

Alan Caruba
November 20, 2001

Over the passed decades, Americans have learned not to trust the White House thanks to men like Richard Nixon and his Watergate excesses, and Bill Clinton who lied about everything from inhaling to interns. That was then. This is now. A lot of conservatives and libertarians are very worried about the new security measures enacted in the wake of the September 11th attack on the US. I am not.

I would be fearful if Clinton were still President because he is a sociopath, unfettered by legal strictures. I would be worried if Gore was in the Oval Office because he is a potential dictator whose lust for power was exceeded only by Clinton's.

Fortunately, though, George W. Bush is in power and he is surrounded by people whose public statements on the new laws all reference the fact that this nation is operating under wartime conditions, even if most people haven't quite figured that out yet. I haven't heard a single Bush advisor even remotely suggest we should toss out the Constitution's Bill of rights for Americans; their concern are the foreign terrorists who lurk among us.

This is not to say I don't respect the fears conservatives and others express. I do. We part company in their lack of faith in our leaders. We part company in a failure to grasp that the US is not engaged in a war with a nation that has attacked us. Instead, we are at war with a shadowy network of terrorists, fanatical Islamists, who believe the US must be overthrown by any means possible. They have taken advantage of our open borders, our issuance of visas to anyone who wants to come here, and our indifference to the millions of illegal aliens living among us. They have killed over 5,000 of our countrymen.

The terrorists have lived among the large US community of Muslims, most of whom came here after 1965 when the immigration laws changed, and who, unless we choose to remain blind to their first loyalty, Islam, must be regarded as suspect in their loyalty to the United States. Do I distrust all American Muslims? No. Will some be inconvenienced? Yes. Will some, if here illegally, be deported? Yes. Will some be subject to military tribunals? Possibly. We are at war.

Our domestic enemies are not massing troops somewhere. They are living among us as our neighbors. They pray in places where the most radical, anti-American literature is available and where their religious leaders call for our downfall. How many are loyal Americans? We simply do not know!

I remain utterly opposed to a National Identity Card. This is the symbol of authoritarian governments. That said, we all carry identity cards with us. We call them driver's licenses. They have been routinely used for this purpose for years. Our credit cards, whose records can be subpoenaed, reveal our every purchase. Our phone records likewise reveal who we called and when.

In a digital age, there is little about us our government cannot determine within the existing limitations of the Constitution. We need to keep clearly in mind that there are those who would replace our Constitution with a council of imams or ayatollahs.

There are areas of privacy that require our vigilant protection. I am opposed to the government's effort to have even greater oversight regarding our financial records, requiring banks to reveal information, despite the traditional confidentiality extended to our transactions. I am opposed to a government takeover of our health care system through the issuance of similar cards and giving power to bureaucrats to examine our personal health records. Those Constitutional battles have been fought in Congress and, no doubt, will continue to be fought.

Our law enforcement agencies need to determine who among us are our enemies. Our intelligence agencies need to exchange information with our law enforcement agencies. I have no doubt that the anti-terrorism laws extend the government's reach. I know they do injury to lawyer-client privacy. And I repeat. We are at war.

One thing is obvious. We did not know who the terrorists were who flew those planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, nor did we know where they were, nor did we have any idea what they intended to do. Now, we have to know these things about suspected terrorists in our midst and we have to empower the government to do this. We are at war.

I don't know who the jurist was who said "The Constitution is not a suicide pact", but he was right. If we expect to be able to return to the full rights it extends (the new laws have sunset provisions that will disable them in a few years), than we have to free our law-enforcement authorities to do their job. We need, in short, to trust them. I do. They are Americans. Our enemies are not.

Alan Caruba is the author of "A Pocket Guide to Militant Islam",available from the website of The National Anxiety Center. He writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", also posted on the site. The Center is a clearinghouse for information about scare campaigns designed to influence public opinion and policy.
Copyright Alan Caruba, 2001
First North American Serial Rights only.
Permission to publish is granted.

The National Anxiety Center
9 Brookside Road, Maplewood, NJ 07040
(973) 763-6392 ~ www.anxietycenter.com

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26 nov  2001