Is There A Choice Between Rights and Security?by James E. Miller
Oct. 30, 2012
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In an impromptu interview with Luke Rudkowski of the media organization WeAreChange, MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell was asked why he has failed to report or comment on President Obama's use of the Espionage Act and the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. O'Donnell claims, quite unbelievably, that he knows very little about the acts and the unprecedented use of the former by the current administration. What makes it inconceivable that he has little knowledge on either law is the fact that both acts have been reported on in major news outlets.
In reciting an all-too-common justification for the massacring of civil liberties which followed the terrorist attacks of September 11t, O'Donnell asks
How much do you give up after 9/11 in an attempt to deal with what you think is this new world? I grant that we are in a different law enforcement environment after 9/11 and I don't know what if anything should be done about it.The MSNBC star is correct that Americans are living in a different law enforcement environment following 9/11. Upon entering airports, they are subject to thorough examination either through an x-ray machine or physical pat-down. Thousands of phone calls and emails are monitored and documented everyday. If the President so determines, he can detain a citizen, refuse to give due process, or order their assassination anywhere on the globe.
While O'Donnell seems uncomfortable with this large expansion in state power, he concludes that nothing would have stopped it in light of the 9/11 attacks. Night after night on his television show he blissfully ignores the casualties that are a result of the policies carried forward by a president who he grants unwavering support to. In that sense, he isn't much different from other members of the mainstream commentariat who pretend as if the drone war and surveillance state are here to stay and then resort to asserting false choices to exonerate their silence on the issue.
Joe Klein of Time magazine recently committed the same pitiful act by alleging that if drones weren't blowing children to pieces in the Middle East, then American children would be the ones to suffer. During an exchange with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Klein offers up this sentiment
If it is misused, and there is a really major possibility of abuse if you have the wrong people running the government. But: the bottom line in the end is – whose 4-year-old get killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”Klein contends it is necessary that some children be killed so that Americans can be kept safe; that if the innocent children of foreigners weren't being indiscriminately slaughtered, then children in the U.S. would somehow meet the same fate. Of course his reasoning is so wildly inaccurate that it borders on "sociopathic" as Glenn Greenwald describes it:
...Klein’s claims are completely false on pragmatic grounds. Slaughtering Muslim children does not protect American children from terrorism. The opposite is true. That is precisely what causes the anti-American hatred that fuels and sustains terrorism aimed at Americans in the first place, as even a study commissioned by the Rumsfeld-era Pentagon recognized almost a decade ago.Both Klein and O'Donnell speak in terms of the War on Terror being inescapable. In their view, the terrible deaths that are the outcome of the drone war are necessary for national security; that there is no other choice. Their attitude suggests that respect for civil liberties and proving guilt before carrying out sentencing are anachronistic ideas that have no use today. Like Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan who recently attempted to make the moral case for Obama by writing on the virtue of waging an unchecked war on civilians and passing a law that puts a gun to every American head and forces them to buy health insurance, they all contribute to these transgressions by actively defending the President for would be deemed heartless and cruel if carried out by any private individual.
The moral relativism which many prominent media figures use in praising the United States government's post-9/11 actions in making the nation "safe" is reflective of the lack of human decency that is now a requirement of the press. By not questioning the Obama administration's total disregard for life and property, the punditry class has become a band of court jesters ready to rationalize whatever death, violence, or destruction is a result of Washington's overly militarized policy.
One day, God willing, people will look back upon this era of unchecked executive privilege in disgust. The apathy displaced by the public majority and the glorification of bloody imperium by those who report on it will only result in the further loss of innocent life. It is a vicious circle that can only be combated through the realization that law transcends the state.
The law which governs how human beings should treat each other is dictated through rational querying into the nature of man; not political whim. It is found that the right of self ownership is absolute above all else. That is nobody has an intrinsic right to harm others just because they happen to be an officer of the state. Likewise, that property which has been rightfully obtained by an individual is just as protected against aggression and unwarranted tampering.
A terrorist attack does not mean these laws have run their course. The United States, along with the rest of the world, did not enter a new dawning where government should see to it that all danger is squashed at the expense of man's rights. Giving moral sanction to such actions is an admission of never giving thought to the egregious manner in which natural law is stomped upon. At its core, excusing the taking of innocent life by the state is a denial of all property rights.
There is a choice and it's crystal clear: respect humanity and the law which governs it or simply throw out any respect for the right of self-ownership. Klein, O'Donnell, and most of their colleagues have chosen the latter. In doing so, they put state necessity above objective truth which discerns what is right and wrong. The love of state authority and privilege has outstripped the most basic of human rights. Their audiences have unwittingly done the same as their allegiance to government is paid for with blood, stolen property, and an overarching indifference to the plight of those falling victim to weapons paid for with their tax money and consent.
As the 19th century radical statesman Richard Cobden spoke,
It is through your national pride that cunning people manage to extract taxes from you. They persuade you that nothing can be done abroad unless you do it; and that you are so superior to all other countries, that your next neighbour, France, for instance, is nothing but a band of brigands, and unless you are constantly on the watch, they will be ready to pounce upon you and carry off your property._
James E. Miller holds a BS in public administration with a minor in business from Shippensburg University, PA. He is the Editor in Chief at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and a current contributor to his hometown newspaper, the Middletown Press and Journal. He currently works in Washington D.C. as a copywriter.