Thursday, May 20, 2010

Security and Terrorism: Reductio ad Absurdum

Security and Terrorism: Reductio ad Absurdum

Ever since 9/11, the US federal government has been working overtime trying to keep Americans afraid of terrorists, namely al Qaeda (who are said to be responsible for the attacks of that day). Since that time Americans have been subjected to a draconian infringement of their rights as citizens, namely through the infamous USA PATRIOT ACT, so that Americans, we are told, might be safe and secure.

This government terror/fear mongering now extends itself at the slightest provocation. Incidents such as the underwear bomber and the Times Square fizzle bomber come to mind here. Other incidents, such as the Fort Hood shooter, have been declared both the act of a lone deranged gunman and the terrorist actions of a man who had been in contact, via email, with an al Qaeda cleric (who happens to be a US citizen and is now on President Obama's US citizen hit list).

The ancient philosopher Socrates used a line of questioning, the so-called Socratic method, in order to get-at the truth of a matter by taking the premise of a person's argument to its logical conclusion; thereby showing the (eventual) absurdity of the person's premise. This type of argument, called reduction ad absurdum, can be helpful in critiquing the US government's arguments concerning terrorism and homeland security.

Terrorism is a tactic, it's not an entity. If terrorism is a real threat to Americans, then nothing short of a total police state can possibly be a solution.

And this is exactly where America is now headed.

Consider this: a terrorist can be a lone gunman, the driver of a car, or someone with a backpack. How—short of policing everyone, everywhere, all of the time—does anyone suppose that the US government can keep Americans safe from the threat of terrorism?

This is the whole point of terrorism: it can't be stopped by police tactics. Terrorism will only end when oppressive governments, who are the targets of the attacks, decide to address the political grievances of the terrorists.

If we want to keep the American homeland safe from terrorist threats, then the US government needs to address the political grievances the terrorists have against it. For example, al Qaeda never struck first at America; al Qaeda reacted to the US government's decision to attack Iraq (killing thousands of innocent civilians) and to put US troops in Saudi Arabia in 1991 (which blasphemed the two holiest sites of Islam).

If government fear/terror mongering continues, then the US will, inevitably, become a total police state.

Just as with DUI checkpoints, in which everyone who is driving a car is suspected to be drunk, anyone who drives a car can now be considered a terror suspect; as is anyone who is carrying a backpack; or anyone who carries their lunch to work.

If you don't believe me, then just think about it. If the Times Square fizzle bomb was a real threat, then how could it have been stopped? By searching every car that goes through a checkpoint before it can get to Times Square; right? Just like airport and sporting event screenings, access to all areas will, eventually, require screening.

So don't be surprised if, when you're driving somewhere, you're stopped at a checkpoint by the police, who look like soldiers, and asked to prove that you don't have a bomb in your car. And don't be surprised if, when you're walking to class one day, you're stopped by the police, who look like soldiers, and asked to prove that you're not carrying a bomb in your backpack.

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