"Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society." ~ John Adams
Ashcroft and the Crusader Mentality
If using troops as cops was dipping our toes in the Rubicon, then surely the use of internment camps for dissidents qualifies as frolicking in the middle of it. Let us hope for all our sakes that we aren't swept under.
Unfortunately, there is a precedent. During World War II, Japanese Americans were sent to one of several camps because of suspicions that they might be enemy spies. This move was thought necessary at the time, and the citizens went along with it, even though they didn't like it. Today, though, the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans in camps is thought to be a terrible infraction on their rights. Ironically, the government paid financial reparations to those it incarcerated during the war. For the time being, Ashcroft does not say he wants to imprison all Arab Americans, but that does not make his plan any less reproachable. He can only, as Jonathan Turley wrote in his enlightened article, be credited with thinking smaller.
So why on earth would Ashcroft put forth this terrible idea as a "viable" option to protect us? Well, it might have something to do with the crusader mentality--a mindset that has gotten us into trouble before; just look at the "War on Drugs."
The crusader mentality starts with an enemy. He has to be a considerable menace (or at least be thought a considerable menace) to society before you can win most intelligent people over to your banner. This may or may not be a good thing. The enemy today is terrorists (or terrorism in general, if you listen to Shrub), whereas in the time of the Crusades, it was the Muslims (Turks, to be exact, and the Moors in Spain and Africa) who had to be eradicated.
A leader of a crusade must then supply himself with a small, usually needful cause. In Ashcroft's case, the idea was to protect the American people from terrorism, which is not in itself a bad thing. In the time of the Crusades, it was to drive the Muslims out of Jerusalem.
The next step is to gain adherents. This can be done through speeches, ads, word-of-mouth; anything to reach the people. Both Ashcroft and Shrub Bush have stood up in front of millions of Americans and outlined most of their plans (the seemingly innocuous ones, so that those who listen one time and go on about their lives hear only the good of the proposal) and have gotten good response. The same with Pope Urban II, who called for the Crusade in all of the civilized countries of the world.
Once you have a cause and people assembled under your banner, it is time to descend upon anything that stands in your way. The lamentable target of Ashcroft's forced march towards the Rubicon is freedom. We have the citizen spies, the troops used as soldiers, and now the imprisonment of "enemy combatants," who seem to comprise for Ashcroft anyone who is heard speaking out against his plans, not just those who plan to fly two planes into two buildings on a September morning in New York. In the historical Crusade, the "enemy" turned out to be the Christian city of Constantinople, but I need not belabor the point.
In short, any crusade is a bad move. We can pardon Urban II for his sins. He was, after all, infused with religious fervor. Ashcroft, however, is infused with something else: the desire to rule. Ashcroft, who is no Urban (though perhaps he might himself think so), wants to so infuse the American public with hatred for "the enemy" that he ends up creating the very thing he is fighting against: Jihad. Perhaps that's the best he can do. Ego te absolvo, John Ashcroft.
If you haven't seen where the almost unchecked power of the Office of "Homeland Security" is leading us, now is the time to wake up. The straight facts are as follows:
* Ashcroft wishes to lock up those people he deems "enemy combatants" without benefit of a trial, lawyer, or even charges pressed against them.
* Being declared an "enemy combatant" would strip a person of his rights. He would lose every protection that you and I enjoy from the menacing government goons. Such a person could be lost forever to the system, with no right to speak a word on his own behalf.
Here's another fact for you: The imprisonment won't stop at terrorists. We have seen how Ashcroft plays. When he gets a little power, he wants a little more. He's a naughty little boy. The quintessential playground bully.
But, you say, "Won't this plan help keep the American public safe?" No. It absolutely will not. Why? Because terrorists don't care if they are imprisoned or beaten or killed. They care about their cause. They believe in it so blindly that nothing, not John Ashcroft or one hundred thousand John Ashcrofts armed with prison camps can stand in their way. For every one you imprison, you create 100 more. After all, if your loved one was imprisoned unjustly, wouldn't you move heaven and earth to get him out?
America, like Caesar crossing the mighty Rubicon, has gone down into Empire. Yes, there is still time to stop it. Yes, we might cross back from the realm of madness into which Bush and Ashcroft have led us. The only way, however, is to do it without them.