As Avedon Carol
would say, "You in the back, try to keep up, please!"
The New York Times gets it, a lot too late
It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration's response to the terror attacks is becoming clear. Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power.
Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints.
To a disturbing degree, the horror of 9/11 became an excuse to take up this cause behind the shield of Americans' deep insecurity. The results have been devastating. Americans' civil liberties have been trampled. The nation's image as a champion of human rights has been gravely harmed. Prisoners have been abused, tortured and even killed at the prisons we know about, while other prisons operate in secret. American agents "disappear" people, some entirely innocent, and send them off to torture chambers in distant lands. Hundreds of innocent men have been jailed at Guantánamo Bay without charges or rudimentary rights. And Congress has shirked its duty to correct this out of fear of being painted as pro-terrorist at election time.
Five years less two months ago, I wrote
Anger and fear in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are being used to herd the nation into hasty, unwise decisions. This is not to say that retribution must be abandoned: far from it. It is to say that the American people are being cynically manipulated. Were they aware of the full facts surrounding the attacks, they would demand major changes in government.
There is a great push to have us surrender our freedoms as the price of stopping terrorism. We are told that we must become like the Taliban in order to defend ourselves from them.
To reprise Raymond Close's penetrating words: "[T]he most effective defenses we will have against the terrorist threat [are] a commitment to the rule of law, dedication to fairness and evenhandedness in settling international disputes and a reputation as the most humanitarian nation in the world....
no time since Nixon- and probably not since McCarthy-- have the foundations of Constitutional law been at greater risk....the power of their president has been greatly enhanced by the terror attack. Circumspection and skepticism are in order, particularly as they relate to the erosion of Constitutional liberties.
Maybe I could offer to write The New York Times's editorials five years ahead of time.
Considering how they've managed to alienate their readers, though, I'd like an advance.