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What side are you on?

by Archie Kennedy Saturday, May. 28, 2005 at 4:44 PM

We seem to be on the edge of a precipice. Maybe we have already been pushed into the abyss. It really depends on who is in control.

The strike on the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2002 may have been all that was needed to defeat America militarily. America, as we have known it, may have already disappeared into the mists of history.

America has, in the past few years, arrested people and placed them in concentration camps without charges or trial. America has taken it upon itself to use a standard of pre-emptive strikes on nations and on individuals. Once that happens, once a person is arrested for what he or she is likely to do, or will do, a line has been crossed. And once one nation takes it upon itself to strike other nations for what they may do in the future, the same dark line is crossed.

But we cannot be careless about equating war itself with specific war crimes like torture or human rights abuses. To paraphrase the Nuremberg tribunals, war contains within it all the war crimes. Once an invasion starts, once a war begins, the ultimate crime has been committed. And the people responsible for starting that war have committed the ultimate war crime.

On this side of that line we have messy societies. We have crime and problems like drug abuse and street gangs. We have known offenders lurking among us and we are waiting for them to harm somebody before we arrest them. We have political dissent and scores of oddballs performing all kinds of hocus-pocus rituals. We have kids with pins in their faces and trash on the streets.

We also have the freedom to write whatever the hell we want on Indymedia or advocate for the legalization of marijuana or same sex marriage. We can expect to not be spied on by the state and we can expect to remain generally unmolested by the state. We can also speak openly in favor smashing the infidels into the ground and replace their demonic society with a religious theocracy. We can associate with and hold meetings with people that are intent on replacing free society with a dictatorship. We can advocate for and strive for any political or religious society we want.

On the other side of the line there is little or no crime. There are no drug problems and criminals are arrested, killed, or controlled before they pull off the quantity of evil they manage to on this side of the line. The streets are clean and women, foriegners and homosexuals know their place. The trains run on time.

If we react to the enemies of freedom with tyranny, we have unwittingly conceded defeat. If those that want to destroy the principles of freedom can do so with terror, then the collective will of society is not on the side of freedom. It is on the side of security, cowardice, and despots. It is not on the side of rational authority because to do so, we must uphold the right of freedom for our enemies as much as our friends. This principle cannot be diluted or tampered with on the side of freedom.

Western law and western sensibilities have been forged long before the writing of the American Constitution. And through time, the progression of rational based laws and rational based institutions have developed to a point where the traditional authority of kings and superstition has been lost. The personal charisma of some leader cannot usurp the principles of rational authority. Laws and institutions have their bases on rationality and that is what legitimizes our laws.

When laws are forged through emotions or through the arbitrary dictums of one person or one group, we are in deep trouble. It is then that we enact the death penalty because some visceral reaction in our collective guts tells us ‘he deserves it’. It is then that we seek to jail the pedophile before he hurts somebody. It is then that we throw potential terrorists in jail with no trial and it is then that we agree that waging war on other countries will alleviate our timid and cowering souls.

Amnesty International has lambasted the United States for it’s human rights violations and war crimes in their recently published report for 2005. Amnesty says in the report, “The US administration’s treatment of detainees in the “war on terror” continued to display a marked ambivalence to the opinion of expert bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and even of its own highest judicial body. Six months after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts had jurisdiction over the Guantánamo detainees, none had appeared in court. Detainees reportedly considered of high intelligence value remained in secret detention in undisclosed locations. In some cases their situation amounted to “disappearance”.”

It remains to be seen whether this trajectory away from progress, legitimate rational authority, freedom and human rights on the part of the United States is the sinister work of a small cabal that have taken the reigns of power or if it is the collective and cowardly will of the people. And it is more than the United States in question. Canada has instituted repressive ‘security certificates’ at the behest of W. Bush. Britain has implemented its own security laws in accordance with the American Patriot Act and other nations have followed suit. Undoubtedly, those that planned and carried out the attacks on 9-11 imagined that the impact of their terror would be enormous. They probably did not dream that the towers would actually fall to the ground. And in their wildest delusions of grandeur, they could not have dreamed that their act of terror would actually change the fundamental basis of what America (and other western nations) is and will be.

It is not too late and it is vital to all free societies that we have the courage to take on those that attack civilains with international and lawful tribunals and not war. And with the courage to uphold freedom; not through tyranny.

We must also bring their accomplices inside the American state to justice. When those that are responsible for the sudden appearance of torture in Guantanomo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and the practice of rendition are brought to justice with the full support of the American government and the American people, America will have stepped back from the twilight zone.

But for the ongoing carnage in Iraq, America may never be absolved. Some crimes can never be undone.

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