After 9/11, decisions had to be made
On September 11, 2001 a bunch of mad zealots flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and tried to take out the Congress. More than 3,000 people died. The country mobilized as if it were at war and, as in the case of the Civil War and the First and Second World Wars, the rules were suspended. Lincoln froze Habeas Corpus and George Bush and the Congress passed something called the Patriot Act. All of a sudden we had secret courts and we were interrogating suspects with what could only be called torture.
We moved people to a place called Guantanamo.
There were a few innocents who were hauled in but when you give citizens a chance to protect their families and themselves, for the most part, they will take the protection and take risk the possibility of wrongful detentions. As Casey Stengel once said, “You could look it up.” Nearly every dictatorship that has ever been established, often with popular support, was done so in the name of protecting the people.
By the time some of these dictatorships crumbled, people understood that they were far better protected by the rule of law which gave them a right to a lawyer and to courts and to free and open trials.
Make no mistake about it: when citizens are threatened they will demand protection and in times of crisis, good people with names like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt will do what they must in order to give the people the protection they deserve. They will put innocent Japanese-American people in camps. They will drop bombs so that a Pearl Harbor could never happen again and when a bunch of thugs fly planes into buildings and murder innocent civilians, they will suffer swift and deadly retribution.
Here at home, it meant the end of innocence and some new rules.
According to recent polls, we Americans have no problem with television surveillance cameras being posted on every block. Where freedom is concerned, decisions must be made. So what if a camera picks up a guy walking with someone who is not his wife? That’s his problem. If the same camera helps the police track down a mugger, that’s good. However, when the pollsters asked whether the authorities should be allowed to examine our internet transmissions as they attempt to thwart terrorism, the American people made it clear that they don’t like Big Brother looking in. We are a pretty smart group of people. We applauded “America’s Mayor,” Rudy Giuliani, for calling an end to the crime game in New York City, but when he ran for president the New Yorkers in Miami who applauded his tough ways in New York didn’t vote for him in large enough numbers. His “Florida strategy” didn’t work out. The expatriot New Yorkers didn’t like some of the people he hung around with, like the infamous Bernie Kerik who he wanted to be the head of U. S. Homeland Security. Kerik almost got there and if Giuliani is going to run for vice president on the Republican ticket, you had better believe that Kerik will hang heavily around the former mayor’s neck.
There are a handful of people who regularly call in to the radio station and tell me that 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the people who deprive us of our civil liberties.
That’s crazy, of course, but don’t let anyone think that, Plunkitt’s “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em,” isn’t at play here. If we don’t watch ourselves when terrible situations like 9/11 take place, you had better believe that we might see our basic rights stripped away. Osama got shot in the head. He deserved it but he sure didn’t get a trial. 9/11 was a terrible thing and we lost a lot of wonderful people who should still be with us, but let’s all keep our eyes on the ball.
Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 9/10/11