05 December 2005

But at what price?

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice addressed European leaders today, and told them that they should keep in mind the fact that interrogations of terrorist suspects have produced information that has "saved European lives" before complaining about little things like the possibility that the US was running secret prisons in former Soviet Bloc nations.

I think that most people do understand that it is much, much easier to get information out of people who have been removed from the criminal justice system, cut off from access to lawyers, and given no contact at all with anyone other than their captors. Given enough time and effort, you can convince pretty much anyone that they, too, love Big Brother.

The question at hand is whether or not the price of safety is worth the cost. There is a cost involved here, and it is steep. I'm not talking about the financial, although the Administration is doing its damndest to bankrupt the government. I'm not talking about the cost in respect either, although Bush and his people have taken us as a nation to our lowest international approval ratings ever. What I'm talking about is the cost to our values.

"Freedom Is Not Free" is a slogan that I see on lots of bumper stickers. That's not much of a surprise, of course, since I live on an Army base. The risk and the sacrifice should not be restricted to those in uniform, however. There are radicals out there who do want to see Americans die, and they have proven that they are willing to strike at innocent civilians within the United States. These people do act without support from any one nation, and they are much harder to fight than a conventional enemy would be. If we do everything that we can as a nation to protect ourselves - if we seek to protect ourselves by using secret prisons and coercive interrogation techniques - we sacrifice our commitment to human rights. If we do not, innocent civilians may die.

The American people have been denied the opportunity to have any substantial national discussion about the way that Bush has chosen to fight. The Administration, aided by an inert congress, has managed to dodge any domestic debate on the issue. The European community apparently has not decided to let Bush, Chaney, Rumsfield, and Rice make those decisions on their behalf without putting up a fight.

More power to them.
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