The Garrison State

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Last
week, I took my daughters to Baltimore-Washington International
Airport for their trip back home. Their flight left at 6:20 a.m.,
which meant rising at 3:45 a.m. to get to the airport at least 90
minutes ahead.

Even
in those wee hours, a platoon of white-shirted, blue-trousered officers
from the federal Transportation Security Administration scanned,
wanded, opened bags, and otherwise invaded the privacy of law-abiding
Americans. Getting by them took about 15 minutes, and as we left
for the gate, another squad of TSA gumshoes emerged from a back
room.

It
was about 5 a.m., but I delivered one last, paternal epistle: This
is the result of American foreign policy. The twin towers went down
because of our meddling in the Middle East. And that led to this
security nonsense.

My
point: Citizens in countries that meddle abroad and make war eventually
wind up living in the garrison state.

"Security
Measures"

It
was all so avoidable, simply by following the sage counsel of Washington,
Jefferson, and Quincy Adams. But since FDR and Truman, the United
States has refereed the Middle Eastern shooting and bombing inspired
by who knows what, other than ancient hatreds and injustices, real
and imagined.

Like
a boxing referee who steps between swinging fighters once too often,
we got punched, but on purpose. We suffered the mighty blow of Sept.
11 because we have always taken the other fighter's side. Three
thousand dead, however, hasn't been the only price.

Old
ladies remove shoes at the airport. Passengers are strip-searched
minutes before departure. A federal gopher seized, as "contraband,"
a Medal of Honor from American Marine Corps hero Joe Foss.

And
this only what we see. The American Civil Liberties Union, commie
outfit though it is, outlined what you won't see, courtesy of the
"Patriot Act”:

Agents clandestinely
searching your home using secret warrants; probing your credit
history without your consent; snooping into your library books,
and filing charges against the librarian if she tells you.

Early
this year, Internal Security Minister John Ashcroft proposed warrantless
wire-tapping, secret arrests and legal immunity for rogue federal
agents, as well as a new database for DNA, which the government
could collect without a court order. This is Patriot Act II.

Some
congressmen are trying to repeal provisions of the first Patriot
Act, and you can read more details elsewhere. But know now, citizen,
federal storm troopers might target your home, bank accounts and
credit cards for uttering the wrong words or reading the wrong books.
Hassles at the airport will seem a trivial indignity.

All
this, observes ACLU about Patriot Act II, is a "severe reduction
of basic checks and balances on the power of the executive branch."

Warned
James Madison, "war is in fact the true nurse of executive
aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it
is the executive will, which is to direct it."

First
Lincoln. Then Wilson. FDR. Add Bush to the list.

Us,
Not Them

But
not to the list of those to be poked, prodded, and probed with impunity.

The
Bush Gendarme – Rumsfeld, Ridge, and Cheney, et al. –
will never tear off socks, shoes, and belts at 6 a.m., only to hear
a stewardess rudely holler to hurry because the flight is about
to leave, as if disrobing two minutes before departure was the passenger's
idea.

These
airport high jinks seem trivial. But they aren't, as the Patriot
Acts show. American liberty is in jeopardy.

August
16, 2003

Syndicated
columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send
him mail
] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record
in Harrisonburg, Va.

R.
Cort Kirkwood Archives


        
        

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