Tuesday, February 1, 2005

1/27/05 Letter to Nightlife

The following letter was published in the January 27, 2005 edition of the Carbondale Nightlife 1__%252524%252521%252540%252521__PastedGraphic14-2005-02-1-22-06.png.

        Communism has gone—not quite a distant memory, but even now there are high school graduates and college students who have no clear memory of the time when the Earth lived under the constant threat of global thermonuclear war.
        Communism is finished—oh, it still lives on in places like China and Korea, but China is opening up to free markets more and more each year, and North Korea is starving.
        The Soviet Union is history—and yet we are less free than we were 15 years ago.
        The Cold War is over—but Americans are being held in military brig indefinitely without trial.
        Twenty years ago a push of a button could have started a nuclear war that would have destroyed our civilization—but today, you cannot check out a library book without fear that the FBI won’t secretly demand your library records.
        Today our biggest threat is terrorists who might blow up a building or two—whereas twenty years ago we faced a nation with the will and firepower to raze our entire country to the ground. And yet now we have “airport security” and “no-fly” lists; now we have warrantless searches and secret courts; now we have “Total Information Awareness” and mass arrest and deportation of foreigners.

        The Cold War was won. Democracy and capitalism were definitively shown to be superior to absolutism and communism. Victory over the Soviets was supposed to bring us a new era of peace, prosperity and freedom. So why do I miss the “good old days” when I could fly in an airplane without being treated like a criminal? Because of a few barbarians with boxcutters?
        If, as our President says, the terrorists attacked us because they “hate freedom,” then they are winning. Let me say that again: The terrorists are winning. Not through any military superiority, but by our own hands, through the actions we have allowed our government to take to make us more “secure.” We are less free today than we were on September 10, 2001. To the extent that that is true, to that exact degree, we are losing this war, and will continue to lose it.

        Right now, at this very moment, there is an American citizen sitting in prison who has been there for more than two years. He has not been brought to trial. He has not been given access to counsel. He has not even been formally charged with any crime.
Think about this for a moment. Forget about airport security checks, no-fly lists, TIA, TIPS, PATRIOT Acts and all the rest, and consider the fact that an American citizen is being imprisoned indefinitely without trial on the sole basis of the signature of the President. The right of habeas corpus—to have the charges against you read in open court, in order to protect against false or malicious imprisonment—is one of the oldest and most sacred of our rights. It is the only individual right written into the original, unamended Constitution. And our President has wiped it away with the stroke of a pen.
        What does this mean? It means that any President, now or in the future, can declare any American an enemy combatant and have that person locked up indefinitely without any jury having to hear that person’s case. Yes, this means you. And you. And you. And me. There is no legal barrier any longer to the President doing this whenever he chooses. Except, of course, that useless, unenforced, old-fashioned document called the Constitution of the United States. But that document doesn’t seem to have much effect nowadays.
This sort of power is completely inappropriate to the President of a free, democratic Republic. It is far more appropriate to a dictator.
        Does that frighten you? Do you fear the consequences of calling our President a dictator in public? Your very fear is a measure of how far we have fallen in this supposedly free country. This is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. If we don’t become brave—and soon—we will not remain free for much longer.

Jim Syler
Vice President
Students for a Libertarian Society


Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear!

Anonymous said...

Freedom's just another word for "nothing left to lose"

If Janis is right then we will soon be completely free. The problem is the media machine telling the ignorant masses that a police state is actually *good* for us in this time of _terror_. You'd have to be a moron to believe this propaganda, but we are speaking about the country that re-elected (or elected for the first time, according to who you talk to) George W. despite the fact that the world has proven him to be a crazed dictator.
Oh, did I say that out loud? What's that black car pulling into my driveway.....
Gotta go!