Friday, July 18, 2008

the bogus uses of terrorism

Two otherwise unrelated articles demonstrate the way that American law enforcement and military types are over-reacting to terrorism and/or using the terrorist threat to justify behavior and actions that clearly have nothing to do with what any rational person would call "terrorism."

First, the scarier story.  Maryland State Police officers under former Governor Robert Ehrlich infiltrated dangerous organizations on the grounds of fighting terrorism.  The groups?  Not some shadowy Islamic cell or even unreconstructed Irish Republican Army financiers.  Nope, we're talking about anti-war groups and peace protesters and anti-capital punishment groups.  The Maryland cops even put a famous peace activist called Max Obuszewski (a 63-year old man, not the typical terrorist profile) into a criminal database.  Max was categorized as an anti-government terrorist and a terrorist anti-war protester.  No evidence of the "terrorist" part; apparently being anti-government and anti-war is enough to make you a "terrorist" automatically.

And ACLU lawyer David Rocah said it best:  "To invest this many hours investigating the most all-American of activities without any scintilla of evidence there is anything criminal going on is shocking.  It's Kafkaesque."  It is a real threat to our civil liberties - investigating people for their political views only, with not one shred of evidence of any meaningful threat to anybody.

The other one is less dangerous, but emblematic of the gross waste of counter-terrorism funds.   The Air Force is building luxury compartments in its airplanes for its top generals and civilian politicians.  That in itself is just military waste, something we are familiar with.  And the cost of these nifty little compartments, to be decorated befitting the rank of the occupants including 37" TV screens, is coming in more than expected, again a surprise on the order of the sun rising in the east.

But the Air Force has tried to tap anti-terror funds to pay for it.  I guess on the grounds that these generals and politicians to spend time thinking about countering terrorism.  If we have money like this available for plush first-class airplane beds, perhaps we could spend it more wisely?  Or could realize that we'd be better off spending money to improve the capacity of our public health system to respond to mass casualties or mass illness than frittering it away on Air Force beds and chemical suits for some small town in Iowa that can't even afford to train its people how to use these suits.



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