One of the most difficult aspects of debating with conservatives is their tendency to draw such stark philosophical lines that those that disagree with any part of their argument come off looking like a leftist moonbat. This is especially true when it comes to the “War of Terror” and the war in Iraq. Any disagreement with Bush’s tactics will come with a label of appeasing terrorists or traitor. Lost in the furor is the legitimate philosophical difference in how one should go about fighting terrorism and not eroding a political and civil structure that has endured far worse than a terrorist attack.
I have no qualms with riding the world or terrorist whether they are Islamic extremist or political separatist. My belief is that most of the tools required to fight terrorist were already in place and simply needed some tweaking to accommodate new technology and changes due to globalization. For example, the Bush administration wants to the copyright law so they can bring a case of copyright infringement case can be brought against someone before the copyrighted work is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Their claim is that piracy is a large industry that funds terrorist activities. (source)
Though this may be true, the problem is now there are several Copyright cases pending that were brought under the Patriot Act that would not have met the criteria under normal circumstances.
This past week the Bush administration finally admitted to the existence of secret CIA prisons. But those prisons are in direct violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was signed by the United States in 1984. (Source )
The NSA wiretapping program is something that should have been handled following the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, the Bush administration again claimed its executive powers superseded the necessity to follow FISA.
The truth is that law enforcement should have every tool available to them to fight terrorism. Considering the nature of terrorist activity, certain provisions should be made for counter-terrorist activities. Bush has sought an aggressive response to terrorist. That is a good thing.
Where this debates break down is on the question, what would I do differently? It is a fair question but it is one that gets bogged down in tactics and ignores the ideologies that guide those tactics. Should the government have the power to listen to the conversations of suspected terrorist? Yes. Under what law are they given the power and how expansive of those powers? Do we have the right to capture and hold suspected terrorist? We most certainly do. Under what standards do we charge and try them is a matter of debate.
Unitary Executive Theory
This is where I part with Bush and most conservatives. There are smarter people than I that can devise plans to capture terrorist. What I am most concerned with is the guiding principles that govern their actions. President Bush operates under the Unitary Executive Theory. The theory relies on the Vesting Clause of Article II which states "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." Proponents of the unitary executive use this language along with the Take Care Clause ("[The President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed...") to argue that the Constitution creates a "hierarchical, unified executive department under the direct control of the President… (Source)
My understanding of this definition is that as long as the President of the United States says it is legal, then it is legal and not subject to oversight by the courts or Congress. This is why we have secret prisons. This is why an American citizen was held for more than two years without being charged and denied access to a lawyer. This is why we have a debate about wiretapping and tracking banking activities. There should be no debate of any of these because there are laws on the book to deal with these issues. Again, the President has the right to challenge Congress to revise those laws if he deems them ineffective.
What To Do
The mistake that many Conservatives make is that they to have expanded this war. It has gone from a war against terrorist and Islamic extremist to a war against Islam – or Islamofacist as many call it. Which is a ridiculous terminology when looked at in historical context. (source)
1. My approach would be to define the enemy as narrowly as possible. Islamic extremist fueled by Wahhabism, poverty and repressive regimes is the central problem. There is a reason why most terrorists come from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and Syria. Put some real pressure on these countries to reform.
2. Engage moderate Muslims. Conservatives ask where are the moderates while at the same time associating the entire Islamic faith with extremist. There is nowhere to go when one side thinks of you as evil and the other side as traitors.
3. End support for Pakistan President Perez Musharaff. He is in a no-win situation but our support for him is why remnants of the Taliban still operate in Afghanistan.
4. Have open debate in Congress on the Patriot Act, FISA.
5. Accept a level of risk. One of the argument made is that terrorist hate our freedoms. If that is the case, then we should fight for those freedoms and accept the risk of terrorist attacks as a permanent condition when living in a free society.
6. Make it a national priority to develop alternave fuel resources.
That final one is the most important one. A War on Terror, like a War on Drugs and the War on Poverty, and like on any war on an idea, is open-ended and will inevitably fail. Thus far, the administration has relied mostly on symbolic victories, rhetoric and fear to keep the American people under its fold.
A writer noted:
the administration labeled the Guantanamo detainees "the worst of the worst." Yet we now know that more than 250 have been released, that they included boys as young as 13 and that of those who remain, only 8 percent are even accused of being fighters for al-Qaeda.
the administration launched a nationwide ethnic profiling campaign, calling in 8,000 young men for FBI interviews and 80,000 more for registration, fingerprinting and photographing by immigration authorities… Not one of those 88,000 has been convicted of terrorism.
Jose Padilla, the American arrested at Chicago's O'Hare Airport and whisked into military custody amid the attorney general's claims that he was planning to detonate a radiological "dirty bomb," has been released from military custody and is now charged only with being a marginal player in a hazy conspiracy to support terrorism. (Source)
There is no perfect way to prevent a terrorist attack. Conservatives seem unwilling to question this administration on the tactics and they seem unconcerned about the attempt to consolidate power in the executive branch. I question this approach and I’m convinced that oversight is our best defense against losing our way of life. Does this mean that I disagree with everything Bush does? No. It means that I question some things.
We are in a place where we are balancing two opposing philosophies. One states that “Peace by any mean equals war” and the other is “Peace through Tyranny”. It seems to me that Bush and most conservatives have already rejected the first statement. Now we just have to get them to reject the latter.