THE FALSE ALTERNATIVES BEHIND "HOMELAND SECURITY"
Edwin Vieira, Jr., Ph.D., J.D.
In the debate on continuation of the so-called Patriot Act and other legislation of its ilk, Americans have been saturated with the contention of politicians and their echoes among "conservative" talk-show hosts that this country needs such laws in order to prevent another terrorist attack of 9-11 proportions. The real issue, though, is very different from what they represent it to be.
Those supporting the Patriot Act and kindred legislation are actually telling Americans that, in order to prevent a conjectural loss of (say) 5,000 people to a new terrorist attack, America needs to lay the groundwork for destroying constitutional government and individual freedom, by erecting the institutional framework and molding the public attitudes necessary and sufficient for construction of a thoroughgoing, perpetual national police state. On its face, this argument is absurd.
First, the price is too high. Any loss of innocent life to a terrorist attack would be tragic. More tragic still would be adoption of a supposed preventive that resulted in the loss of our country. No one's life is more important than the life of his country as a whole. Yet that is the unacceptable choice politicians and their propagandists are offering: propositioning America possibly to save the lives of some of her citizens by surely committing national suicide! No American should be asked, or should be willing, let alone should be forced, to pay such a price, because the result does not constitute "homeland security" by any rational definition.
Second, the promise is illusory. Why should anyone imagine that, even with a national police state in place, no terrorist attack of 9-11 proportions will ever occur again?
If one believes that a handful of terrorists, all by themselves, carried out the 9-11 strike, one must also conclude that they outwitted every agency providing America with protection at that time. This includes the FBI, the CIA, the NSC, NORAD, the Department of Defense, and dozens of State investigatory and police agencies. If all these agencies failed because they were riven with shortsightedness and incompetence, why, simply by reorganizing them from the top down with mostly the same personnel, creating a new super-bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security, and giving the whole shebang the jack-booted powers of the NKVD or Gestapo, will all become well?
Can any thinking person believe that, no matter how invasive, repressive, and legally uncontrollable a national police state becomes--no matter how many wire-taps it maintains, no matter how many financial records it searches, no matter how many torture-chambers it operates--highly motivated terrorists will not find chinks in its armor? Can anyone doubt that some terrorists are just as intelligent as the "security professionals," or perhaps even more so? That some terrorists will gain access to the same manuals, procedures, and theories of "security" that the police-state operatives are employing, study those materials, and ferret out their blind spots and weak points? That some terrorists will devise strategies no "security professional" has ever imagined, and which the whole police-state apparatus is unprepared to counter?
Is it not obvious that, in the long run, the only people a police state will effectively control will be law-abiding common Americans, who will find themselves always under suspicion, under surveillance, under the gun, and in "lock down," while the most dangerous terrorists stay one step ahead of the "security professionals" at all times?
Third, the existence of such powers holds America hostage to Fate. Even if one assumes that the Bush Administration would never employ these powers to harass common Americans--which requires a gargantuan leap of faith, inasmuch as History teaches that no one who aggressively seeks such powers can ever be trusted not to abuse them--the undeniable fact remains that the Bush Administration will, by a date certain, be replaced with who knows what. Americans have no idea into whose hands these powers will fall, and to what purposes they may be put. Indeed, to conjure up a justifiable fear, one need not presume even that the next Administration will be composed of such sociopaths as have occupied the White House in the past. That it will likely include men and women of weak characters, but strong vices, is enough. In that event, the nature of the powers provided by the Patriot Act and like legislation will suggest how and to whose profit those powers can be misused, the suggestion will lead to the temptation, the temptation to the act. Only by prohibiting all such powers in the first place can this progression be prevented.
Fourth, the consequences to be anticipated will be worse than the dangers America now faces. The proponents of legislation such as the Patriot Act are quick to conjecture how many lives might be saved from terrorist attacks by the surveillance and regimentation now being put into operation throughout the United States. Left unconsidered is how many innocent lives will be lost to the oppression, brutality, and lawlessness of a police state: including the lives of political opponents of the regime, idealistic dissenters, mentally ill individuals whom trigger-happy "marshals" find it easier to gun down than to tackle, individuals mistakenly or maliciously fingered as "terrorists", or people who simply wander into some official free-fire zone at the wrong moment. In such situations, as the killers wipe the blood from their hands the answer will always be, "Oh, we're so sorry, but that's the price you have to pay for 'homeland security.'" The price that the victims have to pay, because none of the reckless gunmen or their superiors will pay any price at all. If Ruby Ridge and Waco could shoot and burn their way into American history before a complete police state had been set up, what must be expected afterwards? Will the innocent lives to be lost hereafter not greatly exceed in number those already snuffed out in 9-11? Has not that calculus been true of every major police state known throughout the last century?
And what of those individuals wrongly humiliated, intimidated, arrested, interrogated, prosecuted, convicted, imprisoned, and generally terrorized by aggressive, sadistic, or just plain bovine police-state operatives? Should the disruption or ruin of their lives count for nothing?
Fifth, at stake is more than a few quaint "civil liberties." Too many Americans acquiesce in the intrusions of the Patriot Act and like legislation into other people's lives on the theory that "I have nothing to hide, so why should I worry?" As long as these "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots" make money--gambling in the stock market, flipping real estate, importing junk from China to peddle at exorbitant profits to fellow Americans their entrepreneurship has thrown out of work--they assume they are as safe as they are happy. And the Devil take the hindmost. Unfortunately for them--and even more so for all those other Americans their shortsightedness has betrayed--they, too, will find themselves amongst the hindmost. For the loss of civil liberties inevitably evolves into a deprivation of economic rights. Indeed, the latter is the real reason for the former.
The first rule of political analysis is "follow the money." The ultimate purpose of centralizing governmental powers in a bureaucratic state is to siphon wealth away from the common man and into the hands of a self-selected elite. An elite which maintains its position by political manipulation and, when necessary, by the ruthless application of homicidal violence.
The degeneration of America's monetary system is the prime case in point. Originally (and even today, were the Constitution enforced), the common man was protected against politically driven monetary manipulations, because silver and gold coin were the only official, governmental money. All too soon, however, a symbiosis blossomed between two elites: politicians and bankers. In short order they concerted their efforts in a political-cum-economic conspiracy against the public interest that institutionalized dishonesty in the form of politically protected fractional-reserve banking. Fractional-reserve banking being inherently unstable, though, further measures were necessary to perpetuate the scheme.
The forced circulation of national paper currency was introduced with the first "legal-tender" law in 1862. Immediately followed cartelization of the banks, with a fascistic interface between the private paper-money pyramid-scheme and the General Government's Treasury, in the National Currency Acts of 1863 and 1864. The edifice was expanded with the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. But not perfected--because Federal Reserve Notes remained redeemable in gold, which limited the bankers' and politicians' ability to redistribute wealth through expansion of the supply of paper currency. With the banking collapse of the 1930s as an excuse, this vestigial protection for common Americans was destroyed by the General Government's abrogation of the domestic "gold standard," repudiation of public and prohibition of private "gold-clause contracts," and seizure of most privately held gold. Silver was removed from the system in 1967-1968, and the international "gold standard" terminated in 1971. Since then, the General Government has imposed pervasive surveillance on everyone who conducts his financial affairs through the banking system.
If such a mini-police state in the realm of money and banking developed with no suggestion that it was necessary to "protect" Americans from terrorists, how much more economic power will an across-the-board police state wield under color of that elastic excuse? A national police state will be a looting mechanism of the most extensive and efficacious sort. Not only will it eat out common Americans' economic substance, but also it will force them into positions where they will be limitlessly exploited, and prevent them from protecting themselves. No escape, no evasion, no extrication, no amelioration will be possible. Just obey, work, and pay...and pay...and pay.
Sixth, a better alternative exists. If patriots reactivated "the Militia of the several States," tens of millions of men and women would become available for "homeland security" duties--orders of magnitude more than any centralized national police state could muster. Of greater consequence, this mobilization would forefend a police state, because ultimate authority, control, and deterrence against domestic usurpers and tyrants would remain in We the People's hands, where it belongs. Authority from the bottom up, not the top down.
True enough, even with the Militia restored, people--perhaps many of them--might still have to give their lives for the preservation and in the defense of this country's traditional way of life. At the end of the day, though, America would be hurt, but not destroyed. She would still enjoy "the Blessings of Liberty," not suffer the curse of a police state.
So, instead of denigrating the Constitution as “anachronistic,” Americans should be putting it into operation just as the Founding Fathers intended. Particularly, with "the Militia of the several States" assigned their proper role in "homeland security" to "execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." Article I, Section 8, Clause 15.
no one can foretell the future in the realm of "homeland security."
But the past enables Americans to make reasonable predictions. We
know who wrote the Constitution, and what they stood for. We also
know who enacted the Patriot Act and other legislation following in
its footsteps, who is touting such measures--and what they stand for.
That suffices for each of us to make the correct decision.
© 2006 Edwin Vieira, Jr.
- All Rights Reserved
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Edwin Vieira, Jr., holds four degrees from Harvard: A.B. (Harvard College), A.M. and Ph.D. (Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences), and J.D. (Harvard Law School).
For more than thirty years he has practiced law, with emphasis on constitutional issues. In the Supreme Court of the United States he successfully argued or briefed the cases leading to the landmark decisions Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, and Communications Workers of America v. Beck, which established constitutional and statutory limitations on the uses to which labor unions, in both the private and the public sectors, may apply fees extracted from nonunion workers as a condition of their employment.
He has written numerous monographs and articles in scholarly journals, and lectured throughout the county. His most recent work on money and banking is the two-volume Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution (2002), the most comprehensive study in existence of American monetary law and history viewed from a constitutional perspective. www.piecesofeight.us
He is also the co-author (under a nom de plume) of the political novel CRA$HMAKER: A Federal Affaire (2000), a not-so-fictional story of an engineered crash of the Federal Reserve System, and the political upheaval it causes. www.crashmaker.com
His latest book is: "How To Dethrone the Imperial Judiciary"
He can be reached at:
More tragic still would be adoption of a supposed preventive that resulted in the loss of our country. No one's life is more important than the life of his country as a whole.