Warning: it's a long one.
Questus Furore - Dangerous Minds in Dangerous Times
What a weird and wild week.
Over the weekend, the New York Times revealed the existance of a top secret program to monitor financial transfers, with the intention of intercepting funds heading for terror groups and tracing their moneymasters. This was a program that worked, that the Congress (its leadership, at least) knew about, was legal, and so far had proven effective. The Times printed the story anyway, despite requests and pleas from the Administration to not publish, and rendered one of our key intelligence operations in the War on Terror inert. Such callous carelessness in times such as these is inexcusable; but it likely will also go unpunished.
On September 24, 2001, the Times was demanding that the Administration do something about terroist financing. How quickly memory fades.
And the real crimnials are the leakers - those who decided to talk, even though they had sworn an oath to keep quiet. But the penalty for oath-breaking is pretty mild today, at least in the civil service. Soldiers take a rather dimmer view of betrayal.
Then yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled against the United States government in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld, stating that the President did not have the authority to try the prisoners captured by the United States on the battlefield to trial by military tribunal.
The usual critics came out and said this decision was a victory for truth, justice and democracy. (Since, according to them, Bush is against those things, and also puupies, kittens, rainbows, and sunlight.) I'm not convinced that the decision means as much as they think, given the sharp divide of the decision. (The decision was 5-3, with Scalia, Thomas, and Alito in the minority. Chief Justice Roberts abstained, as he had ruled on this case as an appeals court judge before - and upheld the government's position.)
While much remains to be written and said about the ultimate results of the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision, and I'm not the legal scholar they are, I'll admit to being somewhat confused by this decision. In World War II, FDR ordered military tribunals to prosecute some German agents who were captured in a bungled attempt to start a sabotage campaign against American defense industries. This decision removes that precedent, and sends the government back to the drawing board and to Congress.
Why do I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach all of a sudden?
One point of concern is that the majority cites American law and the Geneva Convention in making concerns known over the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. There's one major problem with this approach.
Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups are not signatories to the Geneva Convention, and they are not part of any state's military. There are some, who claim that they are legitimate resistance fighters. If they were, they may be right, but there's a problem with that line of arguement. Al Qaeda is a stateless organization, whose stated goal is the creation of a caliphate, a totalitarian government flavored with extreme Islam. They're not resisting anything - they're seeking to overturn.
In my mind, they are analagous to pirates - stateless actors making war against all comers.
These two events, in and of themselves, are not catastrophic. They are pebbles in a much greater landslide. The latter is simply government, working as it was meant to; however I do believe the Supreme Court did not make the right decision.
The New York Times' blabbing is a greater concern, because it is illustrative of an all too common attitude.
Only those enlightened few, such as the New York Times, know the Truth. Only they. So there is no rule they do not feel justified in violating, no confidence they feel uncomfortable in divulging, no oath that is not worth breaking in service of that Truth. And they will not rest until every knee bows down to that Truth.
The problem is, their Truth is not what the rest of share. And it constantly shifts, never constant.
Peace, defined only as the absence of conflict, has become a virtue superior to all others - even at the expense of other virtues. Justice, tolerance and liberty have become buzzwords. We now not only hold all men equal, despite their works, but we hold all ideologies equal, even those diseased as the Islamist vision Bin Laden so gleefully advocates.
We fear to judge, for we have been told that judging is wrong. We refuse to differentiate, compare, and hold one thing better than another. In this modern view, the only differences between gold and dross are superficial.
We continue to become a nation incapable of rousing to its own defense.
[The rest of the Friday Furo Questus can be found here. It is a weekly feature of The Wasatch Front.]