Wire-tapping, herding Americans into “free speech zones,” detaining citizens without charges, and generally ignoring the law are acts George W. Bush excuses by saying that this is war. What does that mean, exactly?
War used to be easy to identify. It happened between states?governments, actually?according to predictable rules. But when someone blows up a building for a political cause, is it an act of war, or a crime? When bin Laden’s people did it in September, 2001, it was an act of war. When McVey et. al. did it in 1993, it was treated as a crime. When Iraqis do it, it’s treated as both at once.
It’s important to know the difference, because our constitution limits what police can do. They are forbidden, for example, from driving down the road shooting whoever looks suspicious. They aren’t permitted to arrest people and put them in secret prisons with no access to attorneys, and without filing charges.
The idea isn’t new that “rights” just don’t apply to certain groups of people. We’ve all heard someone say that child molesters don’t have rights. Lately, we hear that terrorists don’t have rights.
But here in America, we’re supposed to understand that people are innocent until proven guilty. Innocent men have rights. If we forget that because of the horror of the crimes involved, we will have given up on what it means to be freedom-lovers.