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A Modern McCarthy

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2001 by RDFollendoreIII

December 6, 2001

There was testimony given by Attorney General John Ashcroft today on Capital Hill.  Unfortunately for our President's administration it seemed like the same kind of rhetoric that harkens back to the Communist scare of the McCarthy's 1950's era.

In the month of September 1949 when the Soviets detonated their first atomic-bomb, they also setoff a kind of political hysteria across the United States that is similar to the one that we have seen since the September 11th bombing.  America instantly began looking for scapegoats, and of course FBI Director Edgar Hoover found them. 

Until the Rosenberg trials and communist spy witch hunt, Senator Joseph McCarthy was a rather unspectacular politician.   It was less than five months from that Soviet Atomic blast, when in Feb., 1950 the Senator gained national attention in Wheeling, W.Va..  There he charged that the State Department had been infiltrated by Communists.  Soon every corporation was seeking out spies.  

This time it did not take anywhere near that long for America in 2001 to come to the opinion that there are Arab terrorist spies conspiring across the Nation. Through widely publicized hearings involving  the use of unidentified informers, and accusations, McCarthy also pursued those whom he classified as Communist sympathizers and subversives.  Apparently, we still have the same system of unidentified informers accusing honest meaning citizens who happen to have different opinions or cultures.

"We are at war with an enemy that abuses individual rights as it abuses jetliners."  John Ashcroft said today.  Part of this statement is true. The enemies of the United States do abuse individual rights.  But this statement is not completely true.  This is a half truth, a spin of words that is not dissimilar to the way that  President Clinton liked to twist the ideas with twisted words about sex.

America can't actually be at war because Congress has not declared war, and the President of the United States does not have the right to declare war.  Lots of otherwise illegal and unconstitutional actions to protect the country can legally take place if war is legitimately declared.  If this is war then it deserves to be declared.  If this is a declared war by Presidential executive order  then it is illegal because it violates the Constitution which expressly gives Congress the absolute right to declare war. Our founding fathers did not consider the obligation of waging war lightly.  Under the current  circumstance there are great questions unanswered.  

Should law enforcement be involved in undeclared war?  If not then why are we turning our police force into a paramilitary force?  If so then what is the perspective that should be put on this policy?  Is this to be temporary or a permanent change to the way that America shall be? Is this the way that we want America to be? What are our priorities and how should they fit together?  To any rational person these are very public questions, not internal administrative policy questions.  

"Defending our nation and its citizens against terrorist attacks is now our first law enforcement priority." John Ashcroft said.  Evidently McCarthy thought that the first law enforcement priority should be defending our nation and its citizens against Communists.

Isn't the mission and priority of law enforcement essentially peace keeping and everything that involves?  Shouldn't that have been what it was doing prior to September 11th?  Who botched the mission of peace keeping in the first place?

"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists," John Ashcroft said. "They erode our national unity and diminish our resolve."

"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of rampant terrorism within America, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists," others with different views are now now saying.  "They erode our national liberties and diminish our freedom."

By the way, in the 1950's that guy named McCarthy also didn't like the idea of public discussion of the flaws of his crusade.  

"I don't think you have any conception of the danger of the Communist Party.  I don't think you, yourself would ever knowingly aid the Communist cause.  I think you're unknowingly aiding with it when you try to burlesque this hearing in which we're attempting to bring out the facts." McCarthy said June 8, 1954 at a hearing.

My question to this is simple.  Isn't it more criminal to ignore legitimate public discourse on such an important subject that is central to the concepts of the Constitution?  

 "Charges of kangaroo courts and shredding the Constitution give new meaning to the term 'the fog of war,'" Ashcroft said.

Others of a different mind are now saying, "The Specter of Kangaroo courts through the shredding of the Constitution gives new meaning to the term 'the fog of leadership."

Even that right wing Republican Richard Nixon spoke the following words which are just as relative today as when they were said in the 1950's about Joseph McCarthy, "Men who have in the past done effective work exposing Communists in this country have, by reckless talk and questionable methods, made themselves the issue rather than the cause they believe in so deeply."  Just replace the word Communists with Terrorists today and you get the same effect from that statement.

McCarthy could not understand the meaning of Nixon's words because he could not back out of his posture. McCarthy may even have come to believe his own rhetoric.  He did not recognize the danger to his reputation in history as he repeatedly threatened justice by threatening free speech.  His name is now a euphuism for all that is wrong with this kind of rhetoric.    

I believe that in spite of the best intentions of his advisors, our President is being driven by surroundings of poor advice.  Regardless of the reason however, the President is responsible.  His administration is ignoring the fact that we now live in an Internet society of opinion that accumulates over time.  It is ignoring the fact that Washington's political retribution is greased by digital personal technology. His advisors ignored the fact that the President's political adversaries are counting on the destructive opportunities that Ashcroft has been providing.  

I believe that Ashcroft through his demeanor and words is at the very least misguided in his zeal to push objectives and views into the face of an America.  I am fairly sure that John would say that the objective of leadership is to get out front and lead.  In contrast, it was the Chinese philosopher Sun Su that expressed the thought that the enlightened leader leads his country without the citizens knowing.  Sun Su also completely understood the concept of sacrificing a scapegoat.

When all is said and done, against Mr. Ashcroft's desires and wishes, Americans can and will speak their minds.  Rank and file Americans have been swayed but remain  keenly aware that this idea of war on terrorism is not the legitimate war of World War II.  They understand that this is another huge police action that happens to use smart bombs.  It seems down right foolish for this administration to believe in the old fashioned ideals of absolute secrecy as they did in World War II when all one has to do today is read the newspapers from around the world on the Internet. Unless Federal Internet censorship is next, it is doubtful that access to world knowledge will change.  This is exactly why we are all treading on a slippery slope. 

The danger to the reputation and legitimacy of this free country is that Americans will not speak their minds.  The danger is not that an open and fair trial would lead to another example of the OJ Simpson fiasco.   The danger is that the United States can and will use its laws to try and imprison others without a fair trial, under the standards of American citizens.  The danger is not that our criminal legal system can not work or satisfy justice.  To say otherwise is to deny the American public's faith in the law of the land.  

If America does not treat our legal or illegal foreign guests with the same open degree of dignity and civility as ourselves then we are not living up to the essential concept that all men are created equal.  Double standards will necessarily be increasingly reciprocated by other countries and the United States will ultimately be held responsible for it's alienation to other cultures.  The danger is that regardless of our good intentions today, the unilateral actions of this administration will be a negative effect on our Nation tomorrow.  The danger is that the world will look at our nation as an Imperial United States with all that the term implies.  The danger is not that hidden evil exists in this world, it is that the world will run out of open civility.

"I believe that we might be partly laying the groundwork to undo what will be an inevitable military victory if we subvert the principles that the United States has always espoused for justice," former President Jimmy Carter said today.

May God bless you and your intentions Mr. Ascroft, but to the public your methods smack of McCarthyism and in spite of your patriotic words, your methods indicate to the public that you believe that ends justify the means.  You need to back off, come clean and lighten up if you want to protect the reputation of our President and your public office.  Not withstanding sympathies that are based on what I hope is our common desire to protect the United States , there appears to be some fundamental differences between what we stand for.  God and destiny did not elect the President that put you in your position of power, the American people did.  




Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved