Monday, May 15, 2006

 

Definitions

I was in a diner eating breakfast and caught a glimpse of a morning show where they were talking about this one polygamist possibly holed up in a compound in Texas, playing up the "this sounds kinda like another Waco waitin' to happen" angle. One thing they said, struck me as interesting though: since they don't know specifically whether the guy is really in there or whether any crimes are actually taking place in the compound, they cannot do anything about it. This strikes me as odd for two reasons:

(1) while the implication is "that darned Constitution -- it keeps us from nabbin' evildoers", it's simply untrue. If they have reasonable suspicion that the compound is hiding a fugitive (and hiding a fugitive is a crime, last I checked), they can easily get a warrant. Whether getting at this guy (who, for a polygamist, looks awfully unlike George Lucas: he doesn't even sport a beard or wear flannels) is worth the Waco-style conflagration that could ensue is another story ... but the government certainly does have the power to go after someone like this even in the current situation and for the media to imply otherwise is irresponsible as it is whipping up fear that could lead to a destruction of the very Constitutional rights a free press depends on (if we had a free press as opposed to a costly one wherein the money for comes from big business expecting something in return -- not that there's anything wrong with that expectation ... it's called capitalism, folks ... and when reactionaries claim people like me are paranoid fruitcakes for mentioning this sort of thing, it sorta makes you wonder: if something so keen to capitalism is so dismissed by reactionaries, they are not really the capitalists they claim to be, are they? well, let me let you in on a secret: business hates capitalism! 'cause real capitalism, Soto-style, means a lot of competition for them from a lot of small operators ... and so big-business likes capitalism about as much as Gulliver liked his stay in Lilliput).

(2) in particular, if this guy were abusing drugs, rather than women, it would be very easy, under our current war on drugs to get a warrant to go after him. if the guy was a terrorist, under our new and very un-Constitutional regime, the government could manage to get him without even bothering to get a warrant (he could be detained as an "enemy combatant" ... indeed, that is the subtext of the reporting, is it not? "we must burn the Constitution to save it" -- where have we heard that one before? it really helped in Vietnam, though, didn't it? which I'll get back to in this post -- "see why we need to weaken our rights to get bad-guys? if we cannot get some polygamist thanks to our Constitution, how can we get terrorists?").

Which brings me to the title of this post: what makes someone a "terrorist"? When theocratic whackos fly planes into buildings, they certainly are terrorists. But what about a theocratic whacko who marries off minors against their wills? Certainly the minors are terrorized by this guy. Isn't he a terrorist? Why can't the government declare him an "enemy combatant" in the war on terror?

Of course, we 'murkins like our own theocratic whackos who, when taking 9/11 into account (when not the next statement is un-true) are less dangerous to us at this moment, even if their ultimate goal is something even more frightening than the goal of Al Qaeda (the Islamic Caliphate was at least often tolerant of religious diversity and provided its citizens and resident non-citizens, dhimmis, with the rule of law -- which is why in tribal areas you actually see many women, who benefit most from the rule of law, pushing for Sha'aria, a dynamic we never understood even though it helped bring the Taliban to power once and may help again -- and a set of laws intended to actually be followed ... whereas our theocrats believe that it is impossible to follow the law which they want to impliment: wtf? ), so we probably won't treat them uniformly as terrorists, but why are they not terrorists?

OTOH, if we now say every criminal is a terrorist (and many do mean to terrorize, that makes 'em terrorists, eh?), then every time anyone is so much accused of speeding (you were trying to terrorize those other drivers weren't you?), you could be declared an "enemy combatant", nu? This is why all these anti-terrorism powers the executive branch is claiming really are part of a very slippery slope: what is a terrorist but a kind of lawbreaker? So when is a suspected terrorist different than someone suspected of breaking the law? Is this not a complete end-run around our Consitution? And those who say "well, we'd never elect a President who would abuse such powers"? I'll ask them to imagine living under President Hillary whom the media has annointed the Democratic front runner. Are they saying we won't elect a Democrat in 2008? And if so, what do they know?

There is a fundamental issue here, though, besides the Consitutional one. If indeed we are at war against terrorism, shouldn't we have a better definition of what or who is a terrorist? How can we win a war if we don't know against what we are fighting? Isn't that part of the reason we lost in Vietnam? We didn't really consider the popularity of the cause against which we were fighting?

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On a side note regarding my occassional glimpses of TV: ya know, until a few days ago, I had never seen Nancy Grace? I saw her on a somewhat extended promo for her show: is it just me or is she a real life version of MadTV's Darlene McBride?

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