Thursday, March 18, 2004

The Selective Application of Facts...or Memory.
I've got a pal, who considers himself a staunch Libertarian, and who, truth be told, is probably the smartest man I know. I very much respect anything he wants to discuss with me, even if I disagree with it, because even in the disagreement I can always find at at least one morsel to feed my short supply of brain cells. I'd like to think he believes the same of me, but honestly, if everyone debated the way this man did, we'd be a lot better off as human beings and as a nation.

That having been said, I have to take him to the woodshed for a second or two because of an e-mail I recently received from him regarding his thoughts on the recent change in government in Spain, it's relation to the international war against terrorism, and issues of civil liberties here at home.

Sam (I'll call him Sam for the moment) is big on civil liberties and free markets. He's also a big fan of Ayn Rand and Objectivist philosophy, which is probably why he usually makes sense. This time, however, I wonder what he's been smoking.

According to Sam, the recent terrorist events in Madrid were a direct result of American agression towards Islam and he also asks the question: "...if the Islamic "world" really does attack us ONLY out of hatred for our liberties, the actions of the neoconservatives a/k/a "Straussian neoJacobins" in rendering a few more pieces of...legislation like the "USA ZEALOT" act and a few more bureaucracies like the Department of Fatherland (In)Security should render us immune from any further assault, by having then removed any vestiges of the condition that originally fomented such "hatred". After all, how can THEY "hate us for our freedoms" if we no longer have any? (Gee, I feel safer already.)"

I've been seeing an awful lot of this from libertarians lately.

Okay, let's review some history for a second. Spain was conquered by Islamic armies from North Africa (mostly Berbers) in more-or-less 714 AD. The reasons for the invasion were simply plunder, slavery, religious fanaticism, and because Spain was an easy target, as were the Balkans, Sicily, Southern Italy, Greece and the remnants of the Byzantine Empire in Eastern Europe (although Byzantium would stand until 1258). Internecine Christian warfare and political disorganization enabled a desert raider folk to invade and conquer vast areas of Europe without serious resistance being offered. Thirty-odd years later, at the Battle of Poitiers, Islam met it's first serious challenge in the form of Charles Martel and his army, which sent the Andalusians reeling back into Spain, keeping France safe for surrender to the Germans for another 1,300 years. The Spanish Reconquista, in which Christian Spaniards and Portugese began to recover their ancestral lands from invaders,started around 1300 and did not end until 1492, by which time Christians had found more exciting things to do than go on Crusades, like cross oceans and find continents previously undiscovered by other peoples of similar technical achievement. I also submit that the First Crusade was launched in 1096, more or less 300 years after Spain had been under Islamic rule, and that was led by the French. Most of the other crusades that followed failed spectacularly, unless they were directed against other Christians (Byzantium) or Jews. The need to invade other Christian lands or engage in pogroms being a predisposition in the Germans, apparently. However, I digress.

According to the Koran, once a land has felt the yoke of Sharia law, it must not be allowed to fall to the Infidel, and should that ever happen, then it is the duty of every Muslim to retake that land by any means possible. In the 20th Century, since most Muslim nations cannot muster enough military power to burn calories, let alone take on a 4th rate power like Spain, this has taken the form of unchecked immigration, political agitation and appeal to collective guilt. Last week someone, and it may have been Basque seperatists (at this point it does indeed look that way, the Islamic references and evidence being found is just too pat), decided that political rhetoric, historical grievance and (possibly) religious dogma had to be backed up with 200 dead folks on trains.

So, Islamonazis had a reason to do what they did (if they did it) for reasons OTHER than Spain's alliance with the United States in the War on Terror. Of course, the idea that Spain was invaded first and then reclaimed THEIR OWN ancestral lands never enters the argument. Thirty years of Islamic rhetoric about the evils of Western Civilization and the Kruschev-like taunts of "we will bury you" from the mullahs never enter the picture. The point is to grasp at straws for reasons to oppose this particular war, or more precisely, THIS particular President.

Second item on the agenda, and I have discussed this at length many a time. For anyone who still lives under the impression that John Ashcroft is Heinrich Himmler reborn, armed with a Night and Fog Decree, and the technilogical and military power of the world's remaining superpower behind him, think again. The USA Patriot Act mostly restores powers and processes that had been taken away from Federal law enforcement over the last 30 years. It relaxes some (but not all) of the requirements for reasonable cause in the application of and obtaining of search warrants, it removes some restrictions on the use of electronic eavesdropping, true, but there is still the requirement that the government show just cause none the less.

Habeas Corpus has not been revoked. The rights guarenteed under the Constitution have not been revoked. The judicial system has not been rendered useless. Americans are not being rounded up and sent to gulags on "suspicions" and denied due process of law. Firing squads are not roaming the streets.

In fact, the US Government was already legally eavesdropping on folks, monitoring their communications, et. al, long before anyone KNEW they were. Anyone remember Predator, the NSA system that could read your e-mail, listen to you telephone calls and read a fax while it was still in transit, among other things? Did anyone know it existed prior to the French making an international cause celebre out of it in the early 90's? The point is, the government was doing all this stuff already and people, even child pornographers and drug dealers, were not being rounded up en masse.

So, if the government is listening to your phone calls, decides nothing is wrong with it and that you do not pose a security risk, are not involved in a criminal enterprise or plotting the overthrow of the government, and then leaves you alone, were your civil liberties violated? No harm, no foul, right? If there were a criminal proceeding or an arrest, perhaps yes. But I'm not a lawyer, so I don't think so.

So Sam, one more time. The bombs in Spain were not the result of American involvement in Iraq. They were the result of someone with an axe to grind against the Spanish in particular or the West in general, and they managed to get a government overthrown in the process. Having been to Spain many times and having respect for the Spanish people, I can tell you from experience that the resulting losses to the conseratives were from fear. That's what terrorists do --- breed fear and doubt. It will only be a matter of time before another European government is targeted for overthrow (over and above the voluntary surrender to the EU) because the lessons learned are: you can get your way if you kill enough folks and there is no fear of retaliation.

The Spanish were not brave in this instance; they caved. But that's Spain's problem and it was always Spain's issue, not America's, and it certainly was not because of the Patriot Act.

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