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Commentary Last Updated: Dec 11th, 2007 - 00:27:40

They can do it to all of us
By JC Garrett
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 11, 2007, 00:14

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Politicians are constantly regurgitating a false belief that national security is more important than the rights of individuals. They are willing to do whatever it takes to keep America "safe from the terrorists" -- even at the expense of civil liberties and basic human rights. They attempt to justify oppressive policies and actions that the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world have always condemned as immoral and illegal.

What we desperately need is for someone to explain to the Congress that national security is, and must always be secondary to preserving our civil liberties and ensuring that human rights are our first priority, subordinate to no other goal or interest. We need the Congress to explain the same thing to the president and the courts, in straightforward terms that can't be "interpreted" by clever, smirking administration lawyers to mean anything other than what they are intended to mean.

The thinking seems to be that anything that might be good for the nation automatically outweighs what might be good for the individual, and if there is a conflict between the two, individual rights must be sacrificed on the altar of "national security".

Nothing could be more absurd. America doesn't work that way.

If we place "national security" above the basic constitutional rights of citizens, and before the inalienable human rights which are bestowed upon all men by our Creator, exactly what is it that we are we fighting for? National security rests solely in securing and preserving the sanctity of those rights.

What has been misunderstood is the definition of "nation." The security of the nation does not just mean protecting land or physical structures. The nation is not embodied in any physical building, nor in any abstract ideology. The nation is embodied in the individual citizens who live in it. The People are the nation, and the nation cannot exist without the People. The national security of any nation can only be assessed by examining the security of the freedoms and liberties of the People in that nation.

Do you think the Framers would have accepted such a ridiculous notion as "the good of the nation" being separate and apart from "the good of the individual citizen"? Or that violations of human rights can be justified by the necessity of protecting our physical structures from attack? Who among us would surrender his God-given natural rights in the name of protecting his house? Because that is essentially what the authoritarian power-grabbers in Washington are telling us is necessary for our "protection." They are literally trying to convince the American People that in order to preserve our Freedom we must surrender our Liberties. That kind of reasoning is so illogical that Jefferson and his buddies would have laughed the Congress out of the Capitol, and run the president out on a rail. Why do we refuse to do the same thing now?

Try to imagine how the Framers would have reacted if a man filed suit against his torturers and the court dismissed the case on the grounds of "state secrets." The reality is that human rights are vastly more critical to the survival of a democracy than any "secret" could ever be. Nothing is more important than human rights. There is no secret -- no matter how critical -- that could possibly justify refusing to give a man who has been kidnapped and tortured his day in court. Especially if that man was ultimately released when his torturers realized they had the wrong man. And even more especially if the secretary of state has acknowledged that it was a case of mistaken identity or inaccurate information.

By refusing to give an innocent, tortured man access to the courts, in order to right the wrongs that were perpetrated against him, in the interest of keeping the evidence against those who tortured him from being exposed, the court becomes complicit in that man's torture. And it is just as guilty as if it had repeatedly poured water down his throat. The members of such a court that would deny Justice in the name of Secrecy might as well have been the ones who bloodied their hands in the name of "National Security."

The members of that court may as well have ordered him stripped naked and humiliated, refused him food and water, kept him in a soundproofed cell with a sandbag on his head, wearing earmuffs, chained and shackled, soft mittens on his hands to deprive him even of his sense of touch for long periods of time. They may as well have personally kept the man in extreme cold, and doused him with buckets of ice water night and day to prevent him from sleeping for days or even weeks at a time. They may as well have been the ones who cuffed a man's hands behind his back and suspended him by his wrists for hours on end.

Here is the bottom line: Individual rights are everything.

Without individual rights, there is no freedom, there is no nation. National security must be subordinate to individual rights. Indeed, national security is analogous to, and dependent upon, individual rights. All of our liberties, separate and as a whole, are derived from those rights. No president, no legislature, and no court can legitimately rob us of those rights. Moreover, those rights belong to all mankind. The first basic principle of America is that all men are created equal. The second principle is that all men are endowed with inalienable rights given to each of us by our Creator, and that no man possesses the authority to take away what the Creator has given.

The most valued possession a man can have is his freedom. If all men are equal, and possess inalienable rights, how is it that justice for Americans is different from justice for others? What happened to the blind lady? Why have the scales of justice tipped so far to one side? Why have we forgotten that in the absence of truth, there is no justice, and without justice, there can be no truth?

If we value our freedom and insist that the Rule of Law is paramount, if we truly believe the notion that all men are equal, and are innocent until proven guilty, how can we have the nerve, the audacity, the self-righteous arrogance, to apply different standards to anyone else?

Because if those in power can steal one person's freedom, if they can rob even one person of his rights and strip him of his very humanity in the name of "national security" and then refuse that person access to the courts in the name of "state secrets," they can do it to all of us.

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