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Posted: 6/17/2003 4:07:39 PM EDT
why is this:
Every once in a while, someone will circulate a petition asking Americans to endorse a set of principles that have been paraphrased to disguise the fact that they are the same principles contained in the Bill of Rights. And whenever it happens, large numbers of Americans say no.
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not surprising? ------------------ http://www.tallahassee.com/mld/democrat/news/opinion/6083625.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp As the government seeks more power, the people go along By William Raspberry WASHINGTON POST Every once in a while, someone will circulate a petition asking Americans to endorse a set of principles that have been paraphrased to disguise the fact that they are the same principles contained in the Bill of Rights. And whenever it happens, large numbers of Americans say no. Many do so, no doubt, because they are leery of signing anything. But many others, I suspect, really don't like the idea that public school teachers shouldn't be allowed to lead their students in prayer, or that people should be allowed to say awful things about our government in public, or that the press should be free of any government control, or that the courts should let guilty people go free because of "technicalities." The occasional petitions ought to remind us how easily we can be persuaded to give up rights we imagine we will never need - and how cavalierly we regard the rights of people who strike us as "strange" or "dangerous." To take a current example: The French-Moroccan Zacarias Moussaoui, accused by the Justice Department of being a conspirator in the Sept. 11 attacks - indeed the only suspect we've charged in those attacks - is insisting on the right to face his accusers and to question a witness who could help his legal defense. But the government says that allowing Moussaoui to question that witness, an al-Qaida member now in U.S. custody, would be a threat to our national security, presumably compromising our intelligence sources. How many Americans would reach what seems to me the only legally defensible conclusion: that the government must choose between its competing interests in prosecuting Moussaoui and protecting its intelligence? My guess is that an awful lot of us would scrape our ethical barrels for a pro-government conclusion. This is war. The Constitution is not a suicide pact. The defendant, who has repeatedly denounced America, is a foreigner not entitled to the protection of the Constitution. But the people whose rights we are quickest to jettison are nearly always those least able to resist, whether Japanese Americans during World War II or the hapless souls (at least some of them likely to be innocent) imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, unable to find witnesses or lawyers or even to have their families know where they are. And the abridgment of rights is almost always led by people who are sincere in their belief that the people they go after are dangerous. Make the danger vivid enough, and those who ought to be protecting our liberties - the legislatures, the governmental bureaucracies and, too often, the media - will look the other way. So will too many Americans. But not all. Just last week, the American Civil Liberties Union hosted its first-ever membership conference, put together, according to Laura W. Murphy, director of the group's Washington office, "in response to a groundswell of opposition" to the Patriot Act, which suspends or weakens a number of long-established civil liberties. ACLU units in 123 jurisdictions have passed resolutions denouncing both the post-Sept.11 legislation and the freer rein on FBI surveillance of political and religious activities, she said. "People have come to Washington because they want to know what they can do about these incursions on our liberties." It's no surprise that the ACLU membership "gets it" - or that rank-and-file Americans don't. It isn't that most Americans are ignorant of the facts. We know about Guantanamo and Moussaoui and the difficulty of locating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But most of us don't know what to think of all these things until those we trust - our political leaders, public intellectuals and the press - help us sort them out. The government (and not just the current president and attorney general) always wants more power and more freedom from the impediments to its use. And the people, most often, will go along. Someone needs to remind us that what is special about America is not just its power, unprecedented in the world, but also its principles. The one is secure enough, the other in more peril than we're willing to admit. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Contact William Raspberry at willrasp@washpost.com.
Link Posted: 6/17/2003 4:24:33 PM EDT
Yet somehow no one at the Washington Post had any problem with the government seeking more power when we WEREN'T at war and Clinton was president. Odd, that.
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