Is it Patriotic to Surrender Freedom?

January 3, 2002

Many Americans who have helped to fight the battle for limited government and Constitutionally-guaranteed individual liberty now feel puzzled and confused since the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Is it patriotic to unite behind a massive government buildup in the name of fighting terrorism? Should we all cease to protest the carrying of national ID cards or domestic passports? Do we build massive government data banks on every American in the name of freedom? Is it wrong to question our nation’s leaders about such policies in such times? Should we support calls to launch attacks in more than 60 countries in order to eradicate the terrorist threat? Must we now give up our ideals of an American nation of unlimited freedoms as we move into a new world of fear and security? Will any of these drastic actions protect us from terrorists?

There is no one better than Congressman Ron Paul to take these issues head on and drag us all back to reality and sanity, and away from our world of panic. The following is a speech delivered by Congressman Paul on November 29th before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressman Paul’s speech is reprinted here in an edited version because of space limitations. The full text may be read by clicking here.

Perhaps someday this speech will be regarded as the clarion call that saved our Republic. Or, it may become the final warning before liberty disappeared under a panic-inspired onslaught of a federal power-grab, in the name of fighting terrorism. Either way, it is vital that we all face the truth as Congressman Paul so clearly spells it out.

Tom DeWeese

Keep Your Eye On The Target
By Congressman Ron Paul

We have been told on numerous occasions to expect a long and protracted war. This is not necessary if one can identify the target- the enemy – and then stay focused on that target. It’s impossible to keep one’s eye on a target and hit it if one does not precisely understand it and identify it. In pursuing any military undertaking, it’s the responsibility of Congress to know exactly why it appropriates the funding. Today, unlike any time in our history, the enemy and its location remain vague and pervasive. In the undeclared wars of Vietnam and Korea, the enemy was known and clearly defined, even though our policies were confused and contradictory. Today our policies relating to the growth of terrorism are also confused and contradictory; however, the precise enemy and its location are not known by anyone. Until the enemy is defined and understood, it cannot be accurately targeted or vanquished.

The terrorist enemy is no more an entity than the “mob” or some international criminal gang. It certainly is not a country, nor is it the Afghan people. The Taliban is obviously a strong sympathizer with bin Laden and his henchmen, but how much more so than the government of Saudi Arabia or even Pakistan? Probably not much.

Ulterior motives have always played a part in the foreign policy of almost every nation throughout history. Economic gain and geographic expansion, or even just the desires for more political power, too often drive the militarism of all nations. Unfortunately, in recent years, we have not been exempt. If expansionism, economic interests, desire for hegemony, and influential allies affect our policies and they, in turn, incite mob attacks against us, they obviously cannot be ignored. The target will be illusive and ever enlarging, rather than vanquished.

If one encounters a single suicide bomber who takes his own life along with others without the help of anyone else, no further punishment is possible. The only question that can be raised under that circumstance is why did it happen and how can we change the conditions that drove an individual to perform such a heinous act.

The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington are not quite so simple, but they are similar. These attacks required funding, planning and inspiration from others. But the total number of people directly involved had to be relatively small in order to have kept the plans thoroughly concealed. Twenty accomplices, or even a hundred could have done it. But there’s no way thousands of people knew and participated in the planning and carrying out of this attack. Moral support expressed by those who find our policies offensive is a different matter and difficult to discover. Those who enjoyed seeing the U.S. hit are too numerous to count and impossible to identify. To target and wage war against all of them is like declaring war against an idea or sin.

The predominant nationality of the terrorists was Saudi Arabian. Yet for political and economic reasons, even with the lack of cooperation from the Saudi government, we have ignored that country in placing blame. The Afghan people did nothing to deserve another war. The Taliban, of course, is closely tied to bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but so are the Pakistanis and the Saudis. Even the United States was a supporter of the Taliban’s rise to power, and as recently as August of 2001, we talked oil pipeline politics with them.

Sound Foreign Policy Vs Mass Invasions

For various reasons, the enemy with whom we’re now at war remains vague and illusive. Those who commit violent terrorist acts should be targeted with a rifle or hemlock- not with vague declarations, with some claiming we must root out terrorism in as many as 60 countries. If we’re not precise in identifying our enemy, it’s sure going to be hard to keep our eye on the target. Without this identification, the war will spread and be needlessly prolonged.

Why is this definition so crucial? Because without it, the special interests and the ill-advised will clamor for all kinds of expansive militarism. Planning to expand and fight a never-ending war in 60 countries against worldwide terrorist conflicts with the notion that, at most, only a few hundred ever knew of the plans to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The pervasive and indefinable enemy – terrorism – cannot be conquered with weapons and UN nation building- only a more sensible pro-American foreign policy will accomplish this. This must occur if we are to avoid a cataclysmic expansion of the current hostilities.

It was said that our efforts were to be directed toward the terrorists responsible for the attacks, and overthrowing and instituting new governments were not to be part of the agenda. Already we have clearly taken our eyes off that target and diverted it toward building a pro-Western, UN-sanctioned government in Afghanistan. But if bin Laden can hit us in New York and DC, what should one expect to happen once the US/UN establishes a new government in Afghanistan with occupying troops. It seems that would be an easy target for the likes of al Qaeda. Should we invade Iraq?

Since we don’t know in which cave or even in which country bin Laden is hiding, we hear the clamor of many for us to overthrow our next villain – Saddam Hussein – guilty or not. On the short list of countries to be attacked are North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran, and the Sudan, just for starters. But this jingoistic talk is foolhardy and dangerous. The war against terrorism cannot be won in this manner.

The drumbeat for attacking Baghdad grows louder every day, with Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, and Bill Bennett leading the charge. In a recent interview, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, made it clear: “We are going to continue pursuing the entire al Qaeda network which is in 60 countries, not just Afghanistan.” Fortunately, President Bush and Colin Powell so far have resisted the pressure to expand the war into other countries. Let us hope and pray that they do not yield to the clamor of the special interests that want us to take on Iraq.

The argument that we need to do so because Hussein is producing weapons of mass destruction is the reddest of all herrings. I sincerely doubt that he has developed significant weapons of mass destruction. However, if that is the argument, we should plan to attack all those countries that have similar weapons or plans to build them- countries like China, North Korea, Israel, Pakistan, and India. Iraq has been uncooperative with the UN World Order and remains independent of western control of its oil reserves, unlike Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This is why she has been bombed steadily for 11 years by the U.S. and Britain. My guess is that in the not-too-distant future, so-called proof will be provided that Saddam Hussein was somehow partially responsible for the attack in the United States, and it will be irresistible then for the U.S. to retaliate against him. This will greatly and dangerously expand the war and provoke even greater hatred toward the United States, and it’s all so unnecessary.

It’s just so hard for many Americans to understand how we inadvertently provoke the Arab/Muslim people, and I’m not talking about the likes of bin Laden and his al Qaeda gang. I’m talking about the Arab/Muslim masses.

In 1996, after five years of sanctions against Iraq and persistent bombings, CBS reporter Lesley Stahl asked our Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright, a simple question: “We have heard that a half million children have died (as a consequence of our policy against Iraq). Is the price worth it?” Albright’s response was “We think the price is worth it.” Although this interview won an Emmy award, it was rarely shown in the U.S. but widely circulated in the Middle East. Some still wonder why America is despised in this region of the world!

Former President George W. Bush has been criticized for not marching on to Baghdad at the end of the Persian Gulf War. He gave then, and stands by his explanation today, a superb answer of why it was ill-advised to attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power- there were strategic and tactical, as well as humanitarian, arguments against it. But the important and clinching argument against annihilating Baghdad was political. The coalition, in no uncertain terms, let it be known they wanted no part of it.

It has been argued that we needed to maintain a presence in Saudi Arabia after the Persian Gulf War to protect the Saudi government from Iraqi attack. Others argued that it was only a cynical excuse to justify keeping troops to protect what our officials declared were “our” oil supplies.

Expanding the war by taking on Iraq at this time may well please some allies, but it will lead to unbelievable chaos in the region and throughout the world. It will incite even more anti-American sentiment and expose us to even greater dangers. It could prove to be an unmitigated disaster.

It is not our job to remove Saddam Hussein- that is the job of the Iraqi people. It is not our job to remove the Taliban- that is the business of the Afghan people. It is not our job to insist that the next government in Afghanistan include women, no matter how good an idea it is. If this really is an issue, why don’t we insist that our friends in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait do the same thing, as well as impose our will on them?

Talk about hypocrisy! The mere thought that we fight wars for affirmative action in a country 6,000 miles from home, with no cultural similarities, should insult us all. Of course it does distract us from the issue of an oil pipeline through northern Afghanistan. We need to keep our eye on the target and not be so easily distracted.

Assume for a minute that bin Laden is not in Afghanistan. Would any of our military efforts in that region be justified? Since none of it would be related to American security, it would be difficult to justify.

Remember, to bin Laden, martyrdom is a noble calling, and he just may be more powerful in death than he is in life. An American invasion of Iraq would please bin Laden, because it would rally his troops against any moderate Arab leader who appears to be supporting the United States.

It would prove his point that America is up to no good, that oil and Arab infidels are the source of all the Muslims’ problems.

We have recently been reminded of Admiral Yamamoto’s quote after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in expressing his fear that the event “Awakened a sleeping giant.” Most everyone agrees with the prophetic wisdom of that comment. But I question the accuracy of drawing an analogy between the Pearl Harbor event and the World Trade Center attack. We are hardly the same nation we were in 1941. Today, we’re anything but a sleeping giant. There’s no contest for our status as the world’s only economic, political and military super power. A “sleeping giant” would not have troops in 141 countries throughout the world and be engaged in every conceivable conflict with 250,000 troops stationed abroad.

The fear I have is that our policies, along with those of Britain, the UN, and NATO since World War II, inspired and have now awakened a long-forgotten sleeping giant- Islamic fundamentalism.

Let’s hope for all our sakes that Iraq is not made the target in this complex war.

The President, in the 2000 presidential campaign, argued against nation building, and he was right to do so. He also said, “If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us.” He wisely argued for humility and a policy that promotes peace. Attacking Baghdad or declaring war against Saddam Hussein, or even continuing the illegal bombing of Iraq, is hardly a policy of humility designed to promote peace.

Ulterior motives?

As we continue our bombing of Afghanistan, plans are made to install a new government sympathetic to the West and under UN control. The persuasive argument as always is money. We were able to gain Pakistan’s support, although it continually wavers, in this manner. Appropriations are already being prepared in the Congress to rebuild all that we destroy in Afghanistan, and then some- even before the bombing has stopped.

Rumsfeld’s plan, as reported in Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, lays out the plan for the next Iraqi government. Turkey’s support is crucial, so the plan is to give Turkey oil from the northern Iraq Karkuk field. The United States has also promised a pipeline  running from Iraq through Turkey. How can the Turks resist such a generous offer? Since we subsidize Turkey and they bomb the Kurds, while we punish the Iraqis for the same, this plan to divvy up wealth in the land of the Kurds is hardly a surprise.

It seems that Washington never learns. Our foolish foreign interventions continually get us into more trouble than we have bargained for- and the spending is endless. I am not optimistic that this Congress will anytime soon come to its senses. I am afraid that we will never treat the taxpayers with respect. National bankruptcy is a more likely scenario than Congress adopting a frugal and wise spending policy.

We must make every effort to precisely define our target in this war and keep our eye on it.

One commentator pointed out that when the mafia commits violence, no one suggests we bomb Sicily. Today it seems we are, in a symbolic way, not only bombing “Sicily,” but are thinking about bombing “Athens” (Iraq).

If a corrupt city or state government does business with a drug cartel or organized crime and violence results, we don’t bomb city hall or the state capital- we limit the targets to those directly guilty and punish them. Could we not learn a lesson from these examples?

As members of Congress, we have a profound responsibility to mete out justice, provide security for our nation, and protect the liberties of all the people, without senselessly expanding the war at the urging of narrow political and economic special interests. The price is too high, and the danger too great. We must not lose our focus on the real target and inadvertently create new enemies for ourselves.

On the home front- the excuse for power

We have not done any better keeping our eye on the terrorist target on the home front than we have overseas. Not only has Congress come up short in picking the right target, it has directed all its energies in the wrong direction. The target of our efforts has sadly been the liberties all Americans enjoy. With all the new power we have given to the administration, none has truly improved the chances of catching the terrorists who were responsible for the 9-11 attacks. All Americans will soon feel the consequences of this new legislation.

Just as the crisis provided an opportunity for some to promote a special-interest agenda in our foreign policy efforts, many have seen the crisis as a chance to achieve changes in our domestic laws, changes which, up until now, were seen as dangerous and unfair to American citizens.

Granting bailouts is not new for Congress, but current conditions have prompted many takers to line up for handouts. There has always been a large constituency for expanding federal power for whatever reason, and these groups have been energized. The military-industrial complex is out in full force and is optimistic. Union power is pleased with recent events and has not missed the opportunity to increase membership rolls. Federal policing powers, already in a bull market, received a super shot in the arm. The IRS, which detests financial privacy, gloats, while all the big spenders in Washington applaud the tools made available to crack down on tax dodgers. The drug warriors and anti-gun zealots love the new powers hat now can be used to watch the every move of our citizens.

“Extremists” who talk of the Constitution, promote right-to-life, form citizen militias, or participate in non-mainstream religious practices now can be monitored much more effectively by those who find their views offensive. Laws recently passed by the Congress apply to all Americans – not just terrorists. But we should remember that if the terrorists are known and identified, existing laws would have been quite adequate to deal with them.

Even before the passage of the recent draconian legislation, hundreds had already been arrested under suspicion, and millions of dollars of al Qaeda funds had been frozen. None of these new laws will deal with uncooperative foreign entities like the Saudi government, which chose not to relinquish evidence pertaining to exactly who financed the terrorists’ operations. Unfortunately, the laws will affect all innocent Americans, yet will do nothing to thwart terrorism.

The laws recently passed in Congress in response to the terrorist attacks can be compared to the effort by anti-gun fanatics, who jump at every chance to undermine the Second Amendment. When crimes are committed with the use of guns, it’s argued that we must remove guns from society, or at least register them and make it difficult to buy them. The counter argument made by Second Amendment supporters correctly explains that this would only undermine the freedom of law-abiding citizens and do nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or to reduce crime.

Now we hear a similar argument that a certain amount of privacy and personal liberty of law-abiding citizens must be sacrificed in order to root out possible terrorists. This will result only in liberties being lost, and will not serve to preempt any terrorist act. The criminals, just as they know how to get guns even when they are illegal, will still be able to circumvent anti-terrorist laws. To believe otherwise is to endorse a Faustian bargain, but that is what I believe the Congress has done.

We know from the ongoing drug war that federal drug police frequently make mistakes, break down the wrong doors and destroy property. Abuses of seizure and forfeiture laws are numerous. Yet the new laws will encourage even more mistakes by federal law-enforcement agencies. It has long been forgotten that law enforcement in the United States was supposed to be a state and local government responsibility, not that of the federal government. The federal government’s policing powers have just gotten a giant boost in scope and authority through both new legislation and executive orders.

It is estimated that approximately 1,200 men have been arrested as a consequence of 9-11, yet their names and the charges are not available, and according to Attorney General John Ashcroft, will not be made available. He uses the argument that he’s protecting the privacy of those charged.

Unbelievable! Due process for the detainees has been denied. Secret government is winning out over open government. This is the largest number of people to be locked up under these conditions since FDR’s internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Information regarding these arrests is a must, in a constitutional republic. If they’re terrorists or accomplices, just let the public know and pursue their prosecution. But secret arrests and silence are not acceptable in a society that professes to be free. Curtailing freedom is not the answer to protecting freedom under adverse circumstances.

Assault on American liberties

The Anti-Terrorism Bill did little to restrain the growth of big government. In the name of patriotism, the Congress did some very unpatriotic things. Instead of concentrating on the persons or groups that committed the attacks on 9-11, our efforts, unfortunately, have undermined the liberties of all Americans.

“Know Your Customer” type banking regulations, resisted by most Americans for years, have now been put in place in an expanded fashion. Not only will the regulations affect banks, thrifts and credit unions, but also all businesses will be required to file suspicious transaction reports if cash is used with the total of the transaction reaching $10,000. Retail stores will be required to spy on all their customers and send reports to the U.S. government. Financial services consultants are convinced that this new regulation will affect literally millions of law-abiding American citizens. The odds that this additional paperwork will catch a terrorist are remote. The sad part is that the regulations have been sought after by federal law-enforcement agencies for years. The 9-11 attacks have served as an opportunity to get them by the Congress and the American people.

It’s easy for elected officials in Washington to tell the American people that the government will do whatever it takes to defeat terrorism. Such assurances inevitably are followed by proposals either to restrict the constitutional liberties of the American people or to spend vast sums of money from the federal treasury. The history of the 20th Century shows that the Congress violates our Constitution most often during times of crisis. Accordingly, most of our worst unconstitutional agencies and programs began during the two World Wars and the Depression. Ironically, the Constitution itself was conceived in a time of great crisis. The founders intended its provision to place severe restrictions on the federal government, even in times of great distress. America must guard against current calls for government to sacrifice the Constitution in the name of law enforcement.

The “anti-terrorism” legislation recently passed by Congress demonstrates how well-meaning politicians make shortsighted mistakes in a rush to respond to a crisis. Most of its provisions were never carefully studied by Congress, nor was sufficient time taken to debate the bill despite its importance. No testimony was heard from privacy experts or from others fields outside of law enforcement. Normal congressional committee and hearing processes were suspended. In fact, the final version of the bill was not even made available to Members before the vote! The American public should not tolerate these political games, especially when our precious freedoms are at stake.

Almost all of the new laws focus on American citizens rather than potential foreign terrorists. For example, the definition of “terrorism,” for federal criminal purposes, has been greatly expanded. A person could now be considered a terrorist by belonging to a pro-constitution group, a citizen militia, or a pro-life organization. Legitimate protests against the government could place tens of thousands of other Americans under federal surveillance. Similarly, internet use can be monitored without a user’s knowledge, and internet providers can be forced to hand over user information to law-enforcement officials without a warrant or subpoena.

The bill also greatly expands the use of traditional surveillance tools, including wiretaps, search warrants, and subpoenas. Probable-cause standards for these tools are relaxed, or even eliminated in some circumstances. Warrants become easier to obtain and can be executed without notification. Wiretaps can be placed without a court order. In fact, the FBI and CIA now can tap phones or computers nationwide, without demonstrating that a criminal suspect is using a particular phone or computer.

The biggest problem with these new law-enforcement powers is that they bear little relationship to fighting terrorism. Surveillance powers are greatly expanded, while checks and balances on government are greatly reduced. Most of the provisions have been sought by domestic law-enforcement agencies for years, not to fight terrorism, but rather to increase their police power over the American people. There is no evidence that our previously held civil liberties posed a barrier to the effective tracking or prosecution of terrorists. The federal government has made no showing that it failed to detect or prevent the recent terrorist strikes because of the civil liberties that will be compromised by this new legislation.

Secret trials – secret government

The executive order that has gotten the most attention by those who are concerned that our response to 9-11 is overreaching and dangerous to our liberties is the one authorizing military justice, in secret. Nazi war criminals were tried in public, but plans now are laid to carry out the trials and punishment, including possibly the death penalty, outside the eyes and ears of the legislative and judicial branches of government and the American public. Since such a process threatens national security and the Constitution, it cannot be used as a justification for their protection.

Some have claimed this military tribunal has been in the planning stages for five years. If so, what would have been its justification?

The argument that FDR did it and therefore it must be OK is a rather weak justification. Roosevelt was hardly one that went by the rule book – the Constitution. But the situation then was quite different from today. There was a declared war by Congress against a precise enemy, the Germans, who sent eight saboteurs into our country. Convictions were unanimous, not 2/3 of the panel, and appeals were permitted. That’s not what’s being offered today. Furthermore, the previous military tribunals expired when the war ended. Since this war will go on indefinitely, so too will the courts.

The real outrage is that such a usurpation of power can be accomplished with the stroke of a pen. It may be that we have come to that stage in our history when an executive order is “the law of the land,” but it’s not “kinda cool,” as one member of the previous administration bragged.

It’s a process that is unacceptable, even in this professed time of crisis.

There are well-documented histories of secret military tribunals. Up until now, the United States has consistently condemned them. The fact that a two-thirds majority can sentence a person to death in secrecy in the United States is scary. With no appeals available, and no defense attorneys of choice being permitted, fairness should compel us to reject such a system outright.

Those who favor these trials claim they are necessary to halt terrorism in its tracks. We are told that only terrorists will be brought before these tribunals. This means that the so-called suspects must be tried and convicted before they are assigned to this type of “trial” without due process. They will be deemed guilty by hearsay, in contrast to the traditional American system of justice where all are innocent until proven guilty. This turns the justice system on its head.

One cannot be reassured by believing these courts will only apply to foreigners who are terrorists. Sloppiness in convicting criminals is a slippery slope. We should not forget that the Davidians at Waco were “convicted” and demonized and slaughtered outside our judicial system, and they were, for the most part, American citizens. Randy Weaver’s family fared no better.

The ongoing debate regarding the use of torture in rounding up the criminals involved in the 9-11 attacks is too casual. This can hardly represent progress in the cause of liberty and justice. Once government becomes more secretive, it is more likely this tool will be abused. Hopefully the Congress will not endorse or turn a blind eye to this barbaric proposal. For every proposal made to circumvent the justice system, it’s intended that we visualize that these infractions of the law and the Constitution will apply only to terrorists and never involve innocent U.S. citizens. This is impossible, because someone has to determine exactly who to bring before the tribunal, and that involves all of us. That is too much arbitrary power for anyone to be given in a representative government and is more characteristic of a totalitarian government.

Congress has a profound responsibility in all of this and should never concede this power to a President or an Attorney General. Congressional oversight powers must be used to their fullest to curtail this unconstitutional assumption of power.

Military power for police

The planned use of military personnel to patrol our streets and airports is another challenge of great importance that should not go uncontested. For years, many in Washington have advocated a national approach to all policing activity. This current crisis has given them a tremendous boost. Believe me, this is no panacea and is a dangerous move. The Constitution never intended that the federal government assume this power. This concept was codified in the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. This act prohibits the military from carrying out law-enforcement duties such as searching or arresting people in the United States, the argument being that the military is only used for this type of purpose in a police state.

The threats to liberty seem endless. It seems we have forgotten to target the enemy. Instead we have inadvertently targeted the rights of American citizens. The crisis has offered a good opportunity for those who have argued all along for bigger government.

I see good reason for American citizens to be concerned- not only about another terrorist attack, but for their own personal freedoms as the Congress deals with the crisis. Personal freedom is the element of the human condition that has made America great and unique and something we all cherish. Even those who are more willing to sacrifice a little freedom for security do it with the firm conviction that they are acting in the best interest of freedom and justice. However, good intentions can never suffice for sound judgment in the defense of liberty.

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.