America: a sissified nation

Walter E. Williams

8/14/2002 12:00:00 AM - Walter E. Williams
Benjamin Franklin warned, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." But that's what the Bush administration and Congress have asked of Americans -- to give up essential liberty for safety that's not even guaranteed. By not being fully appreciative of the fact that it's Washington, not Osama bin Laden, that represents the greatest threat to both liberty and security, we've gone along with the agenda. Let's look at it. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the communist government of East Germany had an extensive network of informers and spies who reported to the Stasi, the secret police. The Stasi was a carryover from Heinrich Himmler's feared secret police, the Gestapo. You say, "Williams, are you suggesting that there are Americans who want our government to create a network of informants and spies?" That's precisely what President Bush called for -- hundreds of millions of dollars to devise innovative ways to spy on Americans. He called his agenda the Terrorism Information Program (TIP), where electric utility, telephone repairmen and others having access to our homes and offices would report "suspicious" activities. Had former President Clinton made the same proposal, conservatives would have greeted it with open outrage -- but since it's Bush, shoulder-shrugging indifference carried the day. Americans have bought into the most massive government growth since the LBJ days and the attack on our liberties out of the mistaken belief that there's a tradeoff between liberty and security. We're willing to permit government to take away our ability to move about freely, take away our personal privacy, and number and process us -- all in the name of security against terrorist attacks. No matter how much of our liberty Washington takes away in the name of security, there are no guarantees that there won't be another terrorist attack. Instead of attacking American liberties, the government ought to go after terrorists in their countries of origin. It should be like what our military attempted during WWII. Don't wait to defend ships against the kamikaze -- bomb the fields where they take off. We know the countries who sponsor, support and harbor terrorists. They are Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea and a few others. The president should put these countries on credible notice that should United States suffer a terrorist attack and our intelligence discovers that, say, Saudi Arabia financed, assisted or harbored the terrorists, there would be a massive military retaliation that would not exclude nuclear weapons. You say, "Would our European allies or the United Nations support such an action?" I say ignore our European allies and the United Nations. Their vision of foreign policy is talk and appeasement of tyrants, a vision that allowed Adolf Hitler to nearly conquer Europe. If Ronald Reagan had listened to our European allies and the U.N., instead of the evil empire collapsing, Europe might be a U.S.S.R. satellite by now. You say, "Williams, you sound like a warmonger!" No, I'm not. But neither am I willing to wait until a chemical or bacteriological attack kills millions of Americans or a "dirty bomb" makes one of our cities uninhabitable for 100 years before there's an effective response to nations who harbor terrorists. I detest the initiation of force, but if I see someone building a cannon aimed at my house, I'm not going to wait for him to fire it. I would eliminate him and anyone else in his house before he gets a chance to fire it. But then again, I'm not a member of America's sissified generation.