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The terrorists are winning

The terrorists are winning

By Oliver Del Signore

September 11, 2002

According to popular sentiment, terrorists attacked the United States last year because they are jealous of our prosperity. We’re told they hate our freedom, they hate our rights, and they hate our our lifestyle. They hate all the things that made this country the one to which all the world’s poor and all the world’s oppressed long to emigrate.

If we accept that explanation for their actions of last September 11, then it follows that those things, especially the rights and freedoms, are the things they most want to destroy.

But rights and freedoms are not things one can destroy with bombs and bullets. They are ideas, and ideas live in the minds and the souls of a people even when they are supressed.

If Osama bin Laden had come to America, bought himself a nice condo, then proceeded to buy a lot of TV time to preach his world view, what do you suppose would have happened? At best, he would have been ignored by government and the vast majority of the people because his message would not have fit within the framework of a society founded and built upon the concept of natural rights and limited government. If he can’t convince us with words, what is a zealot to do?

A smart athlete will tell you the best way to win a game against a superior opponent is to get the other guy to beat himself; to somehow psyche him out so that he accomplishes your goal for you.

Judging from what he has accomplished this past year, Osama must be the father of all athletes. In one fell swoop, he’s made us do to ourselves what he could never hope to have achieved with words alone– he has made us give up our liberty, give up our rights, alter our lives, and live in the shadow of oppression — and like it.

Think back to September 10, 2001. Imagine the President issuing an order requiring all airline passengers to submit to random body searches; a second order instituting secret trials; a third order authorizing secret arrests and indefinite detention without any formal charges; a fourth order creating a network of citizens to spy on other citizens. What do you suppose would have happened? Would the majority of Americans have calmly accepted these suspensions of their rights and freedoms?

I hardly think so. I think there would have been riots in the streets.

But today, most Americans accept the idea their neighbor could just disappear one day into the clutches of a government that is accountable to no one; that police can stop and search them for no reason; that their grandmothers must submit to humiliating searches in order to board a plane to visit them. Americans are being trained to queue up and submit. Today it is for planes, tomorrow it will be for trains and busses. How long will it be before they expand the drunk driving roadblocks, authorizing stops and searches of your car and family in the name of finding terrorists? How long before they’ll start random searches of pedestrians?

Liberals, at least, should be happy at the prospect. They are finally getting what they have always wanted — a government in complete control of the people. Of course, it is not the kind of control they envisioned when they put into place the bureaucracy and machinery of the American nanny government. They imagined they’d be using government’s guns — it’s only real source of power — to make us all ride bikes, save trees and bugs, eat our veggies, and live in cramped, energy efficient hives. But, as always, the Law of Unintended Consequences reared its ugly head and bit them in the behind. With all their intellectual prowess, it never occurred to them the power structure they put in place could, and would someday be used to “make them safe” or kill them trying. For make no mistake, that is the road on which we now travel.

A government unaccountable to the people is a dictatorship, no matter the pretty face it shows to the public. For a while, it will be with the best of intentions that one freedom after another is curtailed in the name of national security and the public good. Then it will occur to someone that since they no longer need to justify what they do, they can do as they please. So they will. And by then, it will be to late for the rest of us to do anything about it.

Yes, the terrorists are winning. They have caused us to do to ourselves what they could never have otherwise achieved — they have hurried us along on the road to oppression, to the type of government they, and liberals covet, where the few command the many, absolutely.

But, hey, don’t worry. We will still be sort of free. Like the citizens of Nazi Germany, of the old Soviet Union, of today’s China and Korea, we will be free to do as we are told, free to follow the leader like sheep, free to bow and scrape before our masters, and free to try and remember what real freedom felt like.