Other Voices: Column endorsing domestic spying misses the mark
On Feb. 14, Mr. Ackerman wrote a column chastising the critics of the unwarranted spying on innocent American citizens by the NSA. In that column, the conclusions he suggested are not only radical, but the evidence he proffered is highly flawed and in no way supports them.
First, let us examine his argument that “truth is mostly a matter of opinion.” Among the many problematic aspects of his argument are the following. First, he conveniently blurs fact and opinion. Is it just his opinion that al Qaeda operatives are planning attacks against the U.S.?
It doesn’t seem so, since he tells us to “take that to the bank.” Thus, he rejects the idea that there are “hard facts” and then completely contradicts himself by asserting that terrorists planning attacks are “hard facts.” Second, since when is a fact or opinion defined by its future possibility, as Mr. Ackerman asserts with his support of his facts as a “wait and see” issue?
But it is the second major conclusion in his column that is most disturbing. He states that “for those plotting our deaths,” “the No. 1 rule is that there are no rules.” The only support he presents for this is that al Qaeda is planning attacks on the U.S.
However, there is a significant logical gap between possible attacks on the U.S. and the conclusion that we do not have to follow any rules in response to such plans.
First of all, let us ask the obvious question that Mr. Ackerman ignores: what principle legitimizes the radical conclusion that we can suspend the rule of law that makes social cooperation and international order possible, solely for the purpose of not being attacked by an enemy? If such a possibility exists it would have to be strictly for the very survival of the entity attacked. Here the problems of Mr. Ackerman’s argument become quite apparent: If we are permitted to override our own Constitution and the rule of law for the short-term gain of not being attacked, then we have done al Qaeda’s work for them. Further, Mr. Ackerman admits that the al Qaeda attacks are only “high profile” ones. That means they are not a serious threat to the very existence of our democracy. Thus, no suspension of the rule of law is called for, as Mr. Ackerman does.
His argument that “they are doing it, so we can” is more an adolescent playground rule, not one deserving rational discussion on an issue as crucial as the conduct of an extended war.
Finally, if we allow ourselves to suspend the rule of law for our own convenience, that justifies everyone else in the world acting in precisely the same way. The consequences of that would be catastrophic not only for humanity but for the survival of life on our planet.
The final conclusion Mr. Ackerman presents, that those who criticize the illegal spying program of the Bush administration will be the first to criticize him when the next terrorist attack comes, is predicated on a sarcastic rendering of his opponent’s arguments and an insufficient attention to the detail of the real arguments the critics are making. It is entirely inaccurate to accuse those of us who criticize the Bush actions of unwarranted spying as “just (not liking) Bush and (doing) anything and everything to make him look bad.” Since when is pointing out the illegal actions of our President “just making him look bad?”
Does Mr. Ackerman honestly believe that image takes precedence to law? Second, his conclusion ignores that the focus of the critics on Bush’s not protecting us has not and will not be on his lack of illegal spying on American citizens. Rather, our criticism has and will focus on his lying, his abuse of power, his misuse of intelligence for his own ends, his not protecting our harbors, rails, subways and chemical plants, and numerous other issues.
We are a nation founded on a Constitution and governed by laws. The President is first and foremost responsible for upholding those laws. His oath of office is “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” When he violates our Constitution, then it is not “screeching” to insist that our President is violating his oath of office and to demand of him an accounting and a change of course, no matter what the empty and fear-based rhetoric of the Ackermans of the corporate media might opine as “their truth.”
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