My father responded:
This opinion is one of many. Some pro and some con. The writer has every right to it. However, it does sound a little like one who is jealous of the successes. For example, the passage on how McCain is only one of thousands of heroes. Everyone has a right to join whatever group they choose. Veterans for Peace is an honest, if mistaken, organization. Freedom is not free. It is paid for by the blood of thousands of "heroes" . And if the payment is not made, freedom will be lost.
In general when my father makes these sort of cliched remarks I let them stand and pass. They seem indicative of a stance that the remark is only the tip of the iceberg. To tug at that thread threatens to pull up everything that's ever been dropped into the pond. For some reason this day I chose differently and sent this message to the group:
When you say that Veterans for Peace is 'mistaken' and then say 'Freedom is not free' it makes me wonder what you mean by 'mistaken'. Do they believe that freedom is free? Or do they believe that each of the lives of these heroes is precious and should be spent with only the greatest of care and grave consideration? Is digging a hole and then having to expend lives and treasure to repair the damage a responsible expenditure?
Our freedom is as much at risk from within as from external enemies. I've been troubled by the quiet ways that George Bush and Dick Cheney have increased executive power, and the way they've done it. It appears to me that their means and rationale have been dubious and don't pass the smell test. I'm curious about the people who say we're defending our Freedom and then in the next breath say we should surrender our civil liberties in the name of security. They don't seem to realize the internal contradiction.
The increased power the executive has taken to itself isn't limited to a Republican administration. I was just reading an article about how neither presidential candidate has clearly renounced the increased power Bush has taken for the presidency. Our constitution is based on checks and balances among the three branches of government. I think that people who say that the president should have the power to overrule the other branches of government are saying that our republic is functional only during good times. I think that reveals a lack of faith in our democratic system that has endured for 232 years, both in times of peace and times of war.
Just my .02
At this point he responded to me privately, opting out of the group discussion:
Hi Debora,As I understand Veterans for Peace, they believe peace at any nearly price is desirable. I do not. They also believe they are better suited to decide when (and if) to fight. I do not. That is why we elect a president and a congress. If we don't like their decisions, then unelect them next time. They have much more information than anyone else about the threat to our country and to our liberties. There are things for which I would fight and die if necessary although I dislike war about as much as anyone. As for the loss of civil liberties from President Bush and Vice-President Chaney, I have not noticed that I have lost any. By what means have they accomplished this piracy of our rights? The Patriot Act? It seems to me that Congress passed that bill. The interception of communications from foreign suspected terrorists to someone inside this country? It seems to me that to allow terrorists to communica te with each other in order to plan our murder is stupid. With all the "curtailment" of civil liberties, there has been not one major terrorist act in this country since 9/11, and it has not been for lack of attempts. Let's give some credit to those in authority who are charged with protecting the civilian population for this record. I do not want a "dirty" bomb or nuclear device to be exploded in a city in this country so that I can say my civil rights are not infringed. I am willing to be searched in an airport to ensure no one carries weapons on board. I am willing to make similar concessions to ensure detection and interdiction of plans to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc.I am sorry if I am a dinosaur. This is the greatest country in the world. I do trust our government to a large extent, even those who are not conservative. I think they want the best for the country even though they have some misguided positions, according to me. Please forgive me for my out dated and perhaps short sighted thinking.The biggest threat to our country is the exploding National Debt, now around $9.5 TRILLION. President Bush shares some responsibility for this, but the Congress is the main problem. They consitutionally are the organization that approves the budget and authorizes the spending. We can defeat the terrorists, but I wonder if we can defeat the congressman who wants to get reelected so badly that he promises a "Bridge to Nowhere", as most of them have.I love you all
I thought about this for a couple days and wrote:
Hi, finally getting back to you.
I half wonder if the 9.5 trillion dollar debt in a backward way is GOOD for American security: a great deal of that debt is to China, and I can't see that it would be in their best interests to go to war with a nation that owes them that kind of money! Their best interest is to have us working away.
I think the main threat to civil liberties comes from the executive branch of the government accumulating power to itself. Under steps that the Bush administration has taken it can and has declared American citizens to be unlawful combatants and therefore can be held indefinitely without charge or access to a lawyer. No, it hasn't happened to many Americans, but you can see the potential for abuse.
Under the Material Witness Law immediately after 9-11 at least 70 men were taken into custody without charge or access to lawyers. Most were kept for over 2 months, one for 6, and another for a year. Many were never brought before a grand jury to testify or were asked for information about ties to terrorists. This was through the Justice Dept, an executive agency.
We have been informed that the FBI is found to have mis-used it's power to issue National Security Letters and has accessed information about people with no remote connection to terrorism. The Pentagon and CIA have their own versions of national security letters (although recipients have the right to refuse; recipients of the FBI NSL do not) The Pentagon and CIA are both much more involved in domestic intelligence than ever historically. We know that peaceful groups, such as Quakers have been monitored and their names entered into data bases. Again these are the actions of the executive branch.
We also know that over 700,000 people have found themselves mistakenly on 'do not fly' lists with little recourse and that Americans' bank data is being electronically surveilled.
Though we have not (yet) been personally affected by these actions (at least, not that we know of) and so might be inclined to dismiss them it matters very much to the people who have been. And what makes our country great is that it has enshrined in our Constitution basic human rights for individuals. All individuals are entitled to being treated according to the rule of law. So if an individual is deprived of his/her civil rights for arbitrary reasons and no just cause, we are all at risk--and from the government that has sworn to protect those rights.
America is a great country. However, this greatness is undermined by its government when it doesn't live up to the high standard set by our Constitution. It's not America that's been 'hated' around the world--America is still loved. It's when it fails to live up to its ideals that it draws criticism.
To which I received a rather terse reply: (the subject line was "sorry")
I think you and I will have to agree to disagree on this subject. I don't know where you got your numbers, and I am not disputing them. I just have a hard time imagining the FBI or the Justice Department coming up on a completely innocent person on the street and saying "We are going to hold you for the next year, we are not going to give you access to legal council and you can't argue with us". Sorry, but if a guy like Padilla was detained for a time, he probably did something to cause it. At least we do agree that this is a great country.
I had kept some of the web pages open that I'd cited my statements from, and I considered sending him some sources. However, his email seems to be a pretty clear door-slam, no-more-discussion message.
There's an interesting division among conservatives. It seems there are some who want to 'conserve' the human rights (also known as 'freedoms' in this country) guaranteed by our Constitution. And there are conservatives who claim allegiance to "freedom" but they're really about loyalty and obedience to authority. I suppose they are the ones who don't see the internal contradiction between talking about 'fighting for our freedom' and in the next breath ridiculing someone who expresses concern about erosion of our civil liberties.