Subject: From the Miami Herald
Fear Destroys What bin Laden Could Not
ROBERT STEINBACK rsteinback@MiamiHerald.com
One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all.
He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had
If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years
after bin Laden's attack our president would admit
that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and
ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the
American people to congratulate him for it -- I would
have presumed the girders of our very Republic had
Had anyone said our president would invade a country
and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that
never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have
invaded even if he had known there was no threat --
and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would
have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had
If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would
embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold
prisoners for years without charges and operate secret
prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary
for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at
the folly of protecting human rights by destroying
If someone had predicted the president's staff would
out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a
law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling
supposedly independent journalists and commentators,
and ridicule a 37-year Marine Corps veteran for
questioning U.S. military policy -- and that the
populace would be more interested in whether Angelina
is about to make Brad a daddy -- I would have called
the prediction an absurd fantasy.
That's no America I know, I would have argued. We're
too strong, and we've been through too much, to be led
down such a twisted path.
What is there to say now?
All of these things have happened. And yet a large
portion of this country appears more concerned that
saying ''Happy Holidays'' could be a disguised attack
I evidently have a lot poorer insight regarding
America's character than I once believed, because I
would have expected such actions to provoke --
speaking metaphorically now -- mobs with pitchforks
and torches at the White House gate. I would have
expected proud defiance of anyone who would suggest
that a mere terrorist threat could send this country
into spasms of despair and fright so profound that
we'd follow a leader who considers the law a nuisance
and perfidy a privilege.
Never would I have expected this nation -- which
emerged stronger from a civil war and a civil rights
movement, won two world wars, endured the Depression,
recovered from a disastrous campaign in Southeast Asia
and still managed to lead the world in the principles
of liberty -- would cower behind anyone just for
promising to ``protect us.''
President Bush recently confirmed that he has
authorized wiretaps against U.S. citizens on at least
30 occasions and said he'll continue doing it. His
justification? He, as president -- or is that king? --
has a right to disregard any law, constitutional tenet
or congressional mandate to protect the American
Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another
terrorist attack? Are there no principles of law and
liberty more important than this? Who would have
remembered Patrick Henry had he written, ``What's
wrong with giving up a little liberty if it protects
me from death?''
Bush would have us excuse his administration's
excesses in deference to the ''war on terror'' -- a
war, it should be pointed out, that can never end.
Terrorism is a tactic, an eventuality, not an
opposition army or rogue nation. If we caught every
person guilty of a terrorist act, we still wouldn't
know where tomorrow's first-time terrorist will
strike. Fighting terrorism is a bit like fighting
infection -- even when it's beaten, you must continue
the fight or it will strike again.
Are we agreeing, then, to give the king unfettered
privilege to defy the law forever? It's time for every
member of Congress to weigh in: Do they believe the
president is above the law, or bound by it?
Bush stokes our fears, implying that the only
alternative to doing things his extralegal way is to
sit by fitfully waiting for terrorists to harm us. We
are neither weak nor helpless. A proud, confident
republic can hunt down its enemies without trampling
legitimate human and constitutional rights.
Ultimately, our best defense against attack -- any
attack, of any sort -- is holding fast and fearlessly
to the ideals upon which this nation was built. Bush
clearly doesn't understand or respect that. Do we?