Loyal Opposition

In the two years since Muslim terrorists murdered over 3,000 of our citizens on September 11, Americans have been taking one side or the other in the debate between the partisans of security and public order, led by Attorney General John Ash-croft, and the partisans of free speech, championed by the ACLU and other groups promoting civil liberties and “human rights.”  This debate was intensified by the U.S. decision to invade Iraq and by the admittedly small-scale demonstrations mounted by the far left.  It is not doing too much of an injustice to characterize the Ashcroft position as the declaration of an unprecedented state of emergency in which some traditional and constitutional liberties must be suspended for the common good and to characterize the ACLU position as the insistence that the rights of free speech, free press, and public assembly take precedence over any threat to national security, especially when that threat has been exaggerated for political purposes.  Although I have no sympathy for the ACLU or its argument, we need to preserve our moral balance.  Bruce Ackerman, in a recent article in the American Prospect, makes the obvious comparison with the homicidal mania we tolerate on a daily basis: 

Last year there were 16,000 murders in the United States.  Yet the FBI doesn’t issue orange alerts in response to chatter on gangland cell phones threatening...

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