No more fantasyland

Posted: Oct 16, 2001 12:00 AM
In our war against terrorism, it's a good thing that the grown-ups are in charge. My 11-year-old and I last week made a long-scheduled stop at Disneyland during a California speaking trip. We enjoyed Tomorrowland and the yesterdays represented by Frontierland and Adventureland. We saw that the park has nothing resembling a Todayland. That is intentional. Walt Disney built his vision in the 1950s and early 1960s when the Cold War was at its height and the likelihood of nuclear disaster seemed high. He wanted Disneyland to be not just a theme park but a portal to a better time and a different world. Meanwhile, in Washington last week, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., was one of the congressmen fretting about tough anti-terrorist legislation. "This could be the Gulf of Tonkin resolution for civil liberties instead of a measure meant to fight terrorism," he complained, referring to congressional action in 1964 that led to the expansion of the Vietnam War. What kind of Fantasyland is Mr. DeFazio visiting? The news in 1964 was of two U.S. destroyers harassed off the coast of Vietnam. In 2001, we're talking about 6,000 civilians dying in televised destruction, and 60,000 or 600,000 more murders to come, if the terrorists succeed. Do the defenders of ideal civil liberty understand what a war against potential plague-distributors and well-poisoners requires? Civil libertarians at both extremes, right and left, should come out of their fantasies and focus on two questions: How low will the terrorists go, and how can we stop them? Radical Muslims have step-by-step violated the Islamic tradition of not attacking civilians or innocent bystanders. First, some Palestinian groups declared war on every Israeli, conveniently claiming that most receive some military training so they are not really civilians. Then, terrorists claimed that civilians at the World Trade Center are enemies because capitalists purportedly control the world. Osama bin Laden has taken a third step, claiming that all Americans who pay taxes are enemies. Judging by reports of terrorists scouting out Disneyland and other kid-friendly sites, a fourth step -- targeting children -- is likely. It would be great if we could rely on the basic human decency of our opponents -- but they are showing a chilling willingness to go where no man has gone before. Given the severity of the threat, enormously tightened homeland security is clearly essential. Of course federal officials should be able to get an anti-terrorism wiretapping order that would follow a suspect to any phone the person uses. Of course federal officials should be able to get nationwide search warrants for terrorism investigations. One reason some Americans have difficulty with such proposals is that a generation of schoolkids has grown up not knowing much about history, except for how Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps during World War II and how spy-hunters were supposedly hysterical during the following decade. We need to re-evaluate that history. Internment of citizens clearly was wrong, but some ethnic profiling is needed in wartime when terrorists are coming from a particular ethnic group. In our current crisis, aliens from bin Laden's recruitment countries should at the least be required to notify the FBI of all their travels. Such individuals should require FBI approval to receive pilot's licenses or commercial driver's licenses. Bin Laden has declared war on the United States, and those who support him should have no more rights than Nazi cells had in the United States during World War II. The battle against Communist spies that followed was generally necessary, even though it was given a bad name by Joe McCarthy during the 1950s. We can learn from the past if we do not consider ourselves superior to it. My son and I enjoyed Disneyland rides like "Pirates of the Caribbean," but "Pirates of Afghanistan" is another matter.