Monday, June 7, 2010

Defending us from ourselves - Do we need arrests like these?

On NPR this morning (and run in the Washington Post) we learn that federal and state law enforcement authorities have arrested two men from New Jersey who were headed overseas to Somalia, supposedly to join up and fight with "Islamic" terrorists.
The increasing allure for some Americans of destinations such as Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen has alarmed U.S. officials, though no evidence has surfaced that the two men planned any immediate attacks in the United States or overseas. Officials fear that radicalized Americans, even if they start off as naive as the two New Jersey aspirants appeared to be, could return home battle-hardened and determined to commit terrorist acts on American soil.

Now, a few things you need to know. First, both are U.S. citizens, and so the "usual" canard about holding foreigners shouldn't apply. Second, they have yet to actually be linked to any attack that is planned or known about, so the arrest appears to be preemptive in nature. Third, amongst their training regimen was the use of paint balls and first person shooter games.

Ok, you say, the authorities need a pat on the back for getting a couple of rotting apples before they broke open and stank up the place, so to speak. But root deeper, and one has to ask what's the difference between a Palestinian-American who uses paint balls to learn how to shoot, and a white American who does the same thing from within a white supremacist militia? How radical is it to go and fight, overseas on the side of people you believe your government is oppressing?

My second question there is an important one, historically, as Americans fought with the Zionists as they battled to set up what we now know as Israel. Ditto for Americans fighting with Franco in the Spanish Civil War. But because history deemed those "good, moral" causes (Franco's later dictatorship not withstanding), those Americans were not ever persecuted or demonized.

So now, we wait and see if the U.S. Justice system can live up to its reputation. One hopes that these two men will be afforded their full Constitutional rights, since they were arrested on American soil long before they could become enemy combatants. Sadly, the Holder Justice Department seems as blind on this issue as his predecessor.

While we wait, ponder this - these two Americans have been arrested by our government for the crime of deciding to take up arms against a regime that they see as evil and oppressive. All they did was talk a lot, and play games that many of us play each weekend (or night, or afternoon). They haven't actually done anything yet, but our "leaders" now call them terrorists. Imagine what would have happened if Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and the Concord Militia had all been rounded up while they were still talking, and practicing "terrorist training" by shooting their muskets to hunt. What, dear readers would the world look like then?

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