I just read the news that Alberto Gonzalez resigned from his position as Attorney General. On the one hand, I'm cheering. It's about time. Some of the policies Gonzales spearheaded like warrantless wiretapping, his positions on torture, Guantanamo detainees, enemy combatants, and his stonewalling of congressional oversight with claims that national security precludes even congressmen seeing various documents or hearing testimony from various officials are nothing less than a betrayal of American values and the Constitution.
On the other, Congress rubber-stamped the wiretapping bill recently, and the person tagged as his likely successor, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, is hardly likely to be any better.
Sometimes it seems like we are digging ourselves into a morass from which we will never be able to get out. Benjamin Franklin's oft quoted statement, "
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety" is a principle that needs to be revived.
Perhaps more important, we need to have a long, hard look at tactics. Our response to terror has been to hit back hard. To suspect all and to threaten the human rights of innocent people who have done no wrong, nor who we have any reason to suspect that they have done wrong except for the fact that they are Arab, Pakistani, or Muslim. We've caused far more death and destruction than was wreaked upon us. We've cause far more death and destruction than any terrorist.
The death toll, the havoc wreaked on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the discrimination Muslims, Arabs or those who happen to resemble them (such as the sikhs, who wear turbans and are facing extra airport scrutiny as a result) face in America, is like free propaganda materials given to the extremists. You can just hear them saying, "what justice do they stand for -- they killed 600,000 Iraqis who had nothing to do with 9-11. 600,000 for 3000? Where is the justice in that? Where is the balance in that? They are evil. They deserve what they get." You can hear them say, "They hate Muslims, look what they are doing to them in Guantanamo, look how they treat Muslims in the airport, look how they treat American Muslim citizens, like Jose Padilla, stripping them of all their rights. Muslims in America have no rights."
It's a distortion and an exaggeration, but there is a core of truth to it. Until the civil and human rights of every American are equally sacrosanct, our enemies will have a tool against us. Until we wage war only for just causes, then we will be seen as tyrants and bullies. And no matter Bush's rhetoric about bringing freedom to Iraq (which if you remember, wasn't the initial reason we went into Iraq, back then it was the weapons of mass destruction) the Iraq was has not been a just war.
Even more important, there are better ways to wage a "war" against terror. Yes, we need to pursue police action against would-be terrorists, and at times military action may be the only resort, but these are really only bandaids. Until the world is more balanced, until all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we will continue to have conflict.