Now I Understand

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge has been sworn in as Director of Homeland (fatherland) Security. I feel much better. It’s not that I think that Ridge will put an end to domestic terrorism. After all, he couldn’t even carry his home state for his friend George Bush last year. And his partner, John Ashcroft, failed to carry his own state when he was the only breathing candidate. No, I have little faith in these men to stop terrorism. I do have great confidence that both men will do much to disrupt the lives of law-abiding Americans, disrupt the economy and reduce freedom. What I feel better about is that I now suddenly realize why we have a Department of Defense. Syllogistic logic tells me that it is not to protect Homeland Security, else Mr. Ridge has no job to do. No, the answer to the question: "What is their function?", lies elsewhere, literally.

Since America faces no realistic threat of invasion from a foreign army bent on taking over the country, or bent on anything else, I previously failed to see the need for this gigantic military bureaucracy. Now, I know. We needed the Department of Defense to create the need for the Department of Homeland Security! Government creates its own demand. Here’s how it works. The Department of Defense stations its troops all over the world, props up authoritarian regimes, intervenes in other countries’ internal affairs, and bombs people who have not attacked the United States.

This makes people over the world hate us and want to kill American citizens, since they can’t defeat our army on the battlefield. So they come into our country, massively murder us, and, suddenly, we need a Director of Homeland Security. In turn, if history is any guide, the new atmosphere of "internal security" will likely stifle dissent against our global military empire, making the future of the Department of Defense (of countries other than the United States) ever more secure. We can’t very well have people asking, "Why do we have 50,000 troops in Japan when we can’t even protect our own airlines or the World Trade Center?"

You may say, gee, Jim, can’t you put aside reason, logic, and morality, for a moment, and be a mindless patriot? Well, I suppose I can. Let me pitch in on this Homeland Security thing. I have studied a little history and there once was a country that was truly superb at internal security, even though they had lots of enemies, foreign and domestic. Yes, the Soviet Union really got good at Homeland Security. Here’s a checklist of some of the ideas that worked for Stalin. You may pick and choose among them as you see fit:

  • "Papers, please!"
  • Internal passports
  • Temporary suspension of freedom of speech (only until terrorism is eliminated)
  • Temporary suspension of all other civil liberties (only until terrorism is eliminated)
  • Judicious use of torture (only when really necessary)
  • Summary execution of anyone found with an illegal firearm
  • Secret summary trials, no appeal, summary execution, summary burial

I know some of these things sound extreme, but many Americans have said recently that they are willing to sacrifice their freedom for security. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. So be a good egg, will you?

With Mr. Inside (Ridge) and Mr. Outside (Rumsfeld) pounding away at the front line of terrorism, I am supremely confident that we will remain free — free to knock our heads against the cushioned walls of our rubber rooms, wondering whatever happened to our Jeffersonian republic with its individual freedom, distrust of centralized power, and "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” — and wondering why we Americans can’t muster one-tenth the courage to preserve that republic that our forebearers displayed in creating it.

Wait. I think I hear a knock on my door. The Office of Homeland Security called earlier. They wanted to ask me some questions about some of my recent articles. Reprint rights? I’ll be right back with a closing thought. . .

October 9, 2001

James Ostrowski is an attorney practicing at 984 Ellicott Square, Buffalo, New York 14203; (716) 854-1440; FAX 853-1303. See his website at