A reader writes in to Altercation and has this to say:
Rove wants to frame Bush's warrantless wire-tapping as though the issue were whether or not the U.S. government can spy on terrorists. This is ridiculous. Of course we can and should spy on terrorists. Who in their right mind would oppose that? The real issue is a much bigger one: Do we want a president or do we want a king? If we want a president, then he must be subject to constraints as the Founders envisioned. He must come under oversight. He must be checked and balanced. Once we lift these constraints, he can do whatever he wants and becomes a king.Of course, he’s right. And the counter-argument might go something like this–there will always be people, i.e. “terrorists” that want to harm Americans, so the President should have whatever authority is necessary to stop such people.
OK, not a terrible counter-argument, but here’s the counter-argument to that–America needs to ask itself why people would want to harm it and once it knows the answer (which, if it isn’t already painfully obvious, can be found be simply asking or listening to those who want to harm us), take steps to stop doing the things that aggrieve these people, i.e., stop overthrowing governments, invading countries without provocation, etc.
Because you get what you deserve. Oh horror–am I suggesting that America “asks for” terrorism? In a word, yes. It’s very clear why “terrorists” want to harm us–we keep our boot on the neck of large parts of the world to feed our military-industrial complex. And we’ve got to stop doing that.
Yes, all the defense contractors and oil companies will lose money if we stop doing that. But if we don’t stop meddling around the world, we soon won’t even have what sets our country apart (in theory, anyway) from all the others–our civil liberties.
In other words, we have a choice–keep our military-industrial complex or our civil liberties. Which do we want to keep more?
The Crux of The Biscuit
Here's the crux of the biscuit: We wouldn't need warrantless wiretapping if we weren't provoking the world into wanting to do us harm. Y'see what I'm saying? So rather than allow Bush to break the law and have so much power that he's more king than president, we need to go about getting people to like us more. Then there would be no "war on terror" and hence no "need" for domestic spying.
And a good way to do that is to stop starting wars of aggression. And torturing prisoners. And destabilizing democratic governments. It's really very simple. To have a friend (or at least avoid having enemies), you gotta be one. No one likes a bully and the U.S. is being and has been a bully for quite a while.
See, the people we call "terrorists" are fighting their own war on terror--against us. "Terrorism" is nothing more than a point of view difference: to us, "they" are terrorists and to them, we are. So our "war on terror" fuels their "war on terror" and it goes on and on with no end.
Why can't we be the bigger country and say, you know what? We ain't gonna study war no more. We're gonna do what Bill Hicks said: Love all the people. In his cool book that bears that title, he imagined a better scenario for America:
"The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns,
close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one.
Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride.
Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defense each year, and instead spend it feeding, clothing, and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace. [p. 135]"