The rabbit people are a strange breed. In one breath they will shout paeans to Liberty, repeat platitudes about how “freedom isn’t free,” and shed crocodile tears in remembrance of the great wisdom of our Founding Fathers, whose bitter enemies they surely would have been had they lived at the same time. In the next, shaking with fear at the thought of how the CIA, by its own account, just barely saved us from devastating attacks that were invariably “in the final planning stages,” they will demand more torture (er, “enhanced interrogation techniques”), more arbitrary imprisonment without trial for unlimited periods of time, and carte blanche for domestic spying. In fact, they are more than willing to jettison anything that could reasonably be associated with the word Liberty if only their government will promise them “security.” “Security” is the sine qua non of the rabbit people. “Liberty” and “human rights” are reduced to things one shouts about on suitable public occasions accompanied with much waving of flags. However, genuine liberty and human rights, which are meaningless unless they apply to others as well as oneself, are jettisoned for anyone the rabbit people deem a “terrorist.” For them, “security” trumps any other value you could name.
It happens that today is the official publication date of “Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America
Safe and How Barack Obama is inviting the Next Attack,” by Marc Thiessen, who, we are informed, is eminently qualified for penning such shocking revelations by virtue having been a Presidential speech writer. Based on a foretaste Thiessen has been kind enough to provide for us, it will send many a shiver up and down the spines of the rabbit people as they cower in their beds. Here are some examples that will surely make their blood run cold:
On Christmas Day, a new terrorist network–a mysterious branch of al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula – almost succeeded in bringing down a commercial airliner over one of America’s largest cities. If the plane had exploded and crashed into downtown Detroit, thousands could have perished. Only luck saved us from catastrophe.
Never mind that it took four planes, three of which were deliberately crashed into buildings full of people, to actually kill “thousands” of people. Never mind that airliners have occasionally crashed in large cities before, including Manhattan, and the death toll on the ground came nowhere near “thousands.” Never mind that, if you stand near Detroit’s Metro Airport you can easily see for yourself that approaching planes don’t fly over downtown Detroit. After all, we live in the 21st century, and any hyperbole is justified, as long as it sells books. After reeling off any number of spine tingling tales about all the attacks the CIA “saved” us from, just by the hair on our chinny chin chins, Thiessen repeats a self-congratulatory claim by a former CIA director about how torture (er, “these techniques”) were a huge success:
Former CIA Director Mike Hayden has said: “The facts of the case are that the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work.
Never mind that intelligence agencies have long had a penchant for claiming “victory” whenever they could get away with it by virtue of the impossibility of fact checking those claims. Never mind how often those claims haven’t passed the “ho ho” test when subjected to even mild scrutiny after the fact. In their trembling little hearts, the rabbit people breathe a sigh of relief, deeply grateful to a government that has been wise enough to torture and imprison anyone they see fit to call a “terrorist,” in order to “make them safe.”
It never seems to dawn on the rabbit people why our forefathers condemned torture and established basic human rights to begin with. It never seems to occur to them that they may actually have done so for reasons other than waving flags on public occasions and striking heroic poses from the moral high ground. In fine, it never seems to occur to them that they might have established those rights for the very reason that they are absolutely essential before any society can truly consider itself safe or secure. In spite of the fact that the 20th century seemed tailor made to rub their faces in the truth of that conclusion, they’ve learned nothing.
Consider the Spanish Civil War, which I just mentioned in an earlier post. It was a perfect demonstration of what happens when governments are unconstrained by respect for human rights, and when the need for “security” is allowed to take precedence over any other value. Franco’s fascist regime shot tens of thousands of people in cold blood, often without even the formality of a kangaroo court, in the name of “security” for the church, the middle classes, and anyone else on the right of the political spectrum. His anarchist and Communist opponents on the other side shot tens of thousands of people in cold blood, and subjected them to torture and arbitrary imprisonment, in order to defend the “security” of the workers and the people.
The rabbit people never seem to realize that this “security” that the Spanish people enjoyed during their civil war, or the “security” of the German people under Hitler, or the “security” of the people of the Soviet Union under Stalin, or the “security” of the Cambodians under Pol Pot isn’t just something that could only happen to “others.” Liberty and human rights are worth defending, not because they are noble causes, but because they are the antidote to that kind of “security.” Osama bin Laden and his ilk can certainly harm us, but what they can do is child’s play compared to the harm that our own governments can do to us once we have allowed them to jettison fundamental human rights in order to “make us safe.” Governments have always been, by far, the deadliest killers, the most fiendish torturers, and the most merciless jailers. No historical analog of bin Laden has ever held a candle to them when it comes to slaughter and mayhem. The rabbit people fondly assume that they will never be among the murdered, the tortured, or the imprisoned. They are wrong. In a world in which the need for “security” justifies any crime and any abuse, nothing is more certain than that they will eventually be among the “others.”