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Scalia’s Siren Song

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In his dissent in Boumediene, Justice Scalia pulls an old trick from the interventionist hat — that Americans will be safer if they surrender their fundamental rights and liberties to the government. What he’s saying is that Court’s holding recognizing habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo prisoners is going to result in terrorists being set free, who will then return to “the battlefield” to kill Americans. Never mind that such a conclusion entails placing full and complete trust in the military, rather than the courts, to determine who is guilty of terrorism and who isn’t.

Scalia’s argument is the siren song of statists, one that has been used by tyrants throughout history to seduce people into surrendering their rights and freedoms for the pretense of safety. As the German people discovered after the German parliament “temporarily” suspended civil liberties after the terrorist attack on the German Reichstag, people who fall for that trick inevitably lose both their freedom and their safety.

Prior to the 9/11 attacks, The Future of Freedom Foundation was pointing out that unless the U.S. government ceased and desisted from the bad things it was doing to people as part of its foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, Americans would be facing the threat of terrorist blowback on American soil.

We weren’t the only ones issuing that warning. Chalmers Johnson predicted the same thing in his pre-9/11 book Blowback.

Of course, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to make such a prediction. In 1993 — eight years before 9/11 — Ramzi Yousef bombed the World Trade Center and later cited U.S. foreign policy for the anger and rage that motivated his act of terrorism.

Nonetheless, the U.S. government continued its interventionist ways, especially when many Americans, in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Empire, were asking why a huge military and military-industrial complex were still necessary. U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East included the cruel and brutal sanctions against the Iraqi people, which contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, the illegal and deadly “no-fly zones” over Iraq, the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, and the unconditional military and foreign aid to the Israeli government.

Such measures were, year after year, adding to the boiling cauldron of hate and anger against the United States in the Middle East. But that was of secondary importance to U.S. officials. What mattered first and foremost was empire and interventionism. The possibility of terrorist blowback was a price that U.S. officials were willing to pay in order to maintain the empire and their policy of interventionism.

Today, with U.S. officials continuing such policies, especially with their invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the American people are faced with the same choice as before 9/11. Are the maintenance of an overseas empire and the continuation of an interventionist foreign policy worth the risk of terrorist blowback (not to mention a constantly debasing dollar and the continuous loss of U.S. troops)?

My own opinion is that such policies are not worth the cost. But if most Americans decide that empire and intervention are important to them, then the worst thing they can do is to succumb to fears of terrorist blowback by surrendering their rights and freedoms to government officials, even “temporarily.” As our American ancestors warned us, and as history has repeatedly shown, not only will Americans not gain the security they seek, the chance that U.S. officials will restore their rights and liberties anytime soon is nil.

If Americans choose empire and intervention, then they should simply accept the potential consequence: that some Americans are going to die in the process. What is shameful and disgraceful is when some Americans, who “bravely” support the troops who are maintaining the empire thousands of miles away from American shores, then cowardly cry, “The terrorists! The terrorists! They’re coming to get me! Please do whatever you have to — take away my rights and freedoms — to protect me from the terrorists.”

Thus, the ideal is to dismantle the empire and end the U.S. government’s role as international policeman and intervener, which will then restore a normalcy to the lives of the American people. But if Americans instead decide that they don’t want the federal government to give up its overseas empire and its role as international policeman, then they should simply and courageously accept the possibility that some Americans, including soldiers, are going to die as part of that process.

After all, isn’t it better to die a free man than as a serf cowering in the corner of one’s living room in fear of the terrorists or, even worse, the gendarmes of one’s own government?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.