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    Tuesday, October 19, 2004

    War and civil liberties 

    Carol chooses not to address what I think is a central point: The threats to civil liberties from the Patriot Act are written into the act, not a result of Bush and Co. misinterpreting the act, and Kerry voted for the act. Blaming everything on an evil right-wing cabal is to ignore a fundamental fact of history. Rights are always at risk in a time of war. Always have been, always will be.

    My intent in comparing the present situation to "past denials of rights in time of war" and urging that it be considered "in light of the absolute necessity of prevailing over the monsters we now confront" was to provide a little perspective. What is going on today is fairly tame compared to the restrictions the government has tried to impose in the past -- the Alien and Sedition acts, suspension of habeus corpus, establishment of a censorship office, etc., etc., etc. And the war we're involved in today is surely the most serious the world has ever faced; civilization itself hangs in the balance. If there is some correlation between the threat we face and the rights we risk, yes, there is a reason to be concerned, but not to become hysterical.

    Certainly we should never excuse the abuse of rights or tolerate the erosion of liberties. We just have to acknowledge that war is among the ugliest of human endeavors and demand that we always try to do better. I'd suggest that we have. Just consider the excesses many have accused the administration of engaging in, and how they were stopped by the courts. Seems to me the system has been working exactly as it is supposed to.

    Let's never forget all that system involves: checks and balances, diffusion of power, majority whims check by minority rights, toleration of dissent, the rule of law, and on and on and on. Those who are inclined to always blame America should remember that we've been trying to spread a few of the rights we take for granted to the enslaved corners of the world that have never had them.

    We haven't always gotten it right, but our heart has usually been in the right place. All our disagreements must start and end with the premise that we have, far more often than not, been on the side of the angels. We had detention camps for Japanese Americans, then apologized to them and made reparations; the other side had gas chambers in death camps. We have Abu Ghraib; the other side flies planes into buildings. If you call Abu Ghraib "torture," what word do you possibly have left to describe beheadings?

    posted by Leo Morris at # 11:05 PM


    On the left: Carol Towarnicky, chief editorial writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, from a liberal point of view.

    On the right: Leo Morris, editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel, from a conservative point of view.

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