I wrote this about 2 1/2 years ago for a book I was working on. It seems appropriate to post now in lieu of the tragic events in Boston.
Al-Qaeda carries off a new series of attacks in New York City. First there is the bombing of a NYC MTA Transit Bus killing all hostages and a terrorist. The FBI determines that there is a cell of 5 involved. Next is a subway bombing. The 3rd is a Broadway bombing killing everyone in the packed theater.
Intelligence develops that it is a cell out of Yemen. The FBI is unable to locate it and seems powerless to stop the next attack.
The last explosion is the FBI building itself killing hundreds. Panic grips the nation. Pursuant to the War Powers Resolution, and executive authority to use military domestically in emergency situations, President Obama acts. He declares a state of national emergency. The National Guard and regular military are called in. The next morning, tanks are rolling down Broadway and across the Brooklyn Bridge. In response to outcry from the ACLU and human rights groups, President Obama releases the following statement:
“We are in a time of national emergency. Extraordinary measures are needed to ensure the security of our nation and prevent further loss of life. Furthermore,domestic use of the military against Al-Qaeda is legal because it serves a national security, rather than a law enforcement, purpose. I have constitutional and statutory authority to deploy the military against international or foreign terrorists operating within the United States”
The military begins house to house rounding up all Muslims fitting that profile and putting them in the new Yankee Stadium for interrogation. The U.S. borders are closed to anyone flying in from selected “Muslim Countries”.
In “ripple in the water panic reaction” localities such as Deaborn Michigan with large Muslim populations begin rounding up all Muslims and placing them in their own detention facilities for interrogation and questioning.
Constitutional? Outrageous? Reasonable given the fact scenario?
When we are afraid it becomes all so disturbingly easy for us to dismiss out of hand the blood, sweat and tears that were put into the Constitutional rights we have today . Our rights when we are at peace and feel safe. Our rights when we are at war and/or a large portion of us are living in fear. Should it make a difference? It certainly has made a difference in our past. Who can forget The Sedition Acts of 1798 and 1918, The McCarthy Hearings or Korematsu v. United States where Justice Black writing for the majority stated that:
“Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire”
While it has been frowned on publicly in every sense, it should be noted that Korematsu has never been overruled. Are we at war now? Certainly not in the traditional Congressional declared sense. If we are, how easy would it be to substitute names and nationality in Justice Black’s statement. There is no doubt that we have trended towards more power to the executive during times of “war” and national emergency.
No one wants to live in fear. That is what terrorists want but on a much broader scale than you and I. They want chaos at airports. They want us to engage in pure racial and ethnic profiling. They want us to round people up and put them in stadiums. They want our Constitution to change for the worse so that we feel less afraid, lulled by into a false state of calm by our new “Fear Based Constitution” They know that it’s always easier to justify a Fear Based Constitution when we are on the outside of the barbed wire looking in.
THAT is the fear they shoot for when bringing down planes. That is how they win. By bringing about fundamental changes to our way of life. What is a more fundamental than a change in our Constitutional Rights solely out of fear.
As we stand united this moment , Is our “Cup Of Constitutional Rights” half-full or half-empty? One thing is certain. Whether the “water-level” rises or falls in the near future will be impacted by whether voices of calm and reason or voices of knee-jerk fear are doing the pouring.
Our Constitution has been around for well over 200 years and while getting its edges torn now and then has always managed to withstand moments in history of and moments of great fear. I hope it will escape this fearful moment in-tact.