I’ve hammered the guy enough over the years, I ought to at least acknowledge when he’s gotten something right. And his recent column about the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has some good stuff in it.
One of the many troubling aspects of the hijackings is the brutal demonstration that we, as a people, have received very little of the security we were promised in return for the many violations of personal freedom and civil liberties that have been enacted over the past decade. We would go so far as to raise the question if this had not been a fool’s bargain, wherein we have given up something of precious value in return for … arguably, nothing. It is bad enough that we allow the FBI to filter our e-mails and record our keystrokes, that we permit the National Security Agency to intercept every electronic communication floating through the aether, but it is even worse that we have done so without realizing that which we hoped to gain.
Just as the drug war has not reduced the amount of illegal drugs used in this country, the sacrifice of our civil liberties on the altar of national security has not brought us security. Keep this in mind, as the inevitable drumbeat begins for more sacrifices, as the calls begin for Americans to give up even more of their hard-won freedoms.
It is said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, but that vigilance must be applied within as well as without. A thousand suicide bombers could not destroy America, but America is quite capable of destroying itself in the pursuit of any number of false idols, among them wrongheaded and illusory notions of security at any price. Individual privacy, like private property, is one of the foundations of our freedom, and it must not be thrown away out of fear. Anonymous cell phones or encrypted e-mail missives could be used by a terrorist, true, but the same is also true of a razor blade or a flight simulator…
The lesson of 9/11 is not that America must live in terror or go to war with it. It is that no violent event, however horrific, should ever be accepted as justification for the further erosion of American freedom or further expansion of American empire. The decade since 9/11 has amply illustrated the fact that those who trade liberty for security will end up with neither. Amidst the pomp and emotional porn of the 9/11 tributes, Americans would do well to keep in mind how the bloodshed of that day has been cynically exploited by their government in the 10 years since.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.