Bomb Throwing Pacifist

If you took that happy, smiling guy from the box of Quaker Oats, handed him a bottle of gin and a rifle, and pissed him off to a point where he decided he wasn't going to take it anymore, you'd get a little something like this.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Untied, and untiedability

Today's column comes to us from BTP virgin Thomas Sowell. In it, he wonders what has become of the patriotism which once so united the United States of America, and wonders if people have stopped caring. More observant readers would be well advised to question Mr. Sowell's own patriotism, considering the fact that this column did not appear until the 7th of July, three days after our very own national holiday. Evidentally, Mr. Sowell the uber-patriot has better things to do on the 4th of July than spend his time writing columns decrying our nation's lack of patriotism. Either that or he was hungover and wasn't able to sober up in time to hit the "send" button in his e-mail account in time to make the 7/4/06 deadline (or the 7/5/06 deadline, or the 7/6/06 deadline). Take it away, Thos!

Is Patriotism Obsolete?

By Thomas Sowell

Friday, July 7, 2006

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On the eve of a holiday that used to stir patriotic emotions -- the Fourth of July -- it has been painful to see examples of how little remains of that glue that holds a society together.
I couldn't agree more. When I was a kid, the pounds of cotton candy we consumed on the 4th were cooked up in such a way so as to ensure that the heat from the fireworks and the July sun would literally fuse us together in one happy, friendly, sticky glob- but we were patriotic damnit!
Perhaps the worst of these signs of national disintegration was the New York Times' recent revealing to the whole world the covert methods by which the American government has been tracking the money that finances international terrorism.
I couldn't agree more. As that great terrorist appeasnik, Osama Ben Franklin once said, "There is no action more cowardly and unpatriotic than questioning the actions of your own government."
The usual excuses about "the public's right to know" ring even more hollow than usual in this case. Just so!
The public's right to know should be restricted to what their semi-elected and plutocraticoverlords wish to tell them. Anything else is just plain dangerous! The public was not dying to know the methods by which their lives were being safeguarded.
Only the terrorists were helped by these revelations. Americans may in fact be dying literally now because of what the terrorists have been told -- and ultimately because a jerk inherited the New York Times. As usual, the mainstream media circled the wagons around one of their own. The media spin is that the terrorists were already bound to know that we were monitoring their international transfers of money. The Times says terrorists had to "suspect" this.
Well presumably, if these terrorists are so stupid as to think the U.S. government and various international agencies are not monitoring their financial transactions, then they should be rated at the same threat level as those terrorists who have yet to master tying their own shoelaces or figuring out which end of the gun faces the enemy.

This is an all-or-nothing argument. There are vast numbers of terrorists around the world and not all of them are affiliated with the same organizations. Nor is there any reason to believe that they all have the same level of knowledge or sophistication.

Whatever knowledge or suspicions some of the terrorist leaders may have had about American surveillance of the money transfers that finance their operations, that does not mean that all the terrorists knew about all the methods or about all the countries that were cooperating to track them down by their money trails.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, THEY STILL DON'T. Want to know why? Because "all the methods" and "all the countries" and all the other specific details in the article which supposedly ruined this program for the administration basically boil down to this: the CIA has been monitoring and searching the databases of financial groups which track various funds transfers, while paying particular attention to those involving Saudi Arabia and the UER. Or, in simpler terms...Yankees analizing bank accounts to find suspected terrorists. Or as Bush himself said "The 9/11 Commission recommended that the government be robust in tracing money. If you want to figure out what the terrorists are doing, you try to follow their money. And that's exactly what we're doing. "
After all, so many of these terrorists would not have been captured or killed if they were infallible.
So presumably, because these terrorists are not omniescent, those who survived were only able to do so because they read various NYT articles with headlines like "Coalition Forces launch new Raids," and "68 Terrorists killed outside Karbala," yes? Perhaps you've got something thre, Thos. If we were to impose a complete media blackout on everything having to do with Iraq, the "terrorists" would suddenly forget that there are people out there trying to kill them and the whole insurgency would come screeching to a halt in a matter of days. Idiot.
Not only do the terrorists now know how they are being tracked, some of the countries that have secretly helped in that tracking may now back off from helping, now that the New York Times' revelations can create internal political problems or fear of terrorist retaliation in those countries.
What countries? The only country I read about in the article was Belgium, and even then it was in the context of the location of the data tracking firm. That and the fact that Saudi Arabian and UER transfers were undergoing considerable scrutiny. In either case, it's not like the terrorists can do much about it anyway, is it? Saudi Arabia and the UER have no say in wether or not bank transfers involving those countries are monitored, and the company in Belgium is private. So much for your grand theory.
The all-or-nothing idea that secrets are either secret from everybody or secret from nobody will not stand up under scrutiny.
Of course it won't. That's why we liberals aren't making that arguement. It's a retarded strawman of an statement so blantant that we can smell them coming from miles away.
New York Times has spread the secret of American financial surveillance of terrorists around the world, undermining or destroying this method of tracking them, as well as undermining the cooperation that can be expected in the future from countries fearful of political or terrorist repercussions.
Once again, that's a lame arguement because for all intents and purposes, NO COOPERATING COUNTRIES ARE NAMED. Looks like someone didn't do the assigned reading, Thos. From now on, any time Thomas Sowell wishes to delve into the accusation that the NYT is responsible for aiding and abetting the enemy in a time of war, he must make a solemn oath to read the offending article first. But this is getting old. Let's skip to the end.

Patriotism is not chic in the circles of those who assume the role of citizens of the world, whether they are discussing immigration or giving aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime.

The decline and fall of the Roman Empire was as much due to the internal disintegration of the ties that bind a society together as to the assaults of the Romans' external enemies.The pride of being a Roman citizen was destroyed by cheapening that citizenship by giving it to too many other people. The sense of duty and loyalty eroded among both the elites and the masses.

Well, not to mention the fact that from about 180 A.D. onwards they were ruled by a succession of hedonistic, untalented, turnipheads drunk off the idea of Imperial Glory but at the same time woefully militarily incompetent. Now, while there are a whole multitude of theories as to why the Roman Empire fell, we all know that it is hard enough to get Thomas to read a 3500-word essay in the NYT. Therefore, I will simply summarize the Wikipedia's entry below (links by me). Draw from it what conclusions you may.
Bryan Ward-Perkins' The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization (2005) makes the more traditional and nuanced argument that the empire's demise was brought about through a vicious cycle of political instability, foreign invasion, and reduced tax revenue. Essentially, invasions caused long-term damage to the provincial tax base, which lessened the Empire's medium to long-term ability to pay and equip the legions, with predictable results. Likewise, constant invasions encouraged provincial rebellion as self-help -- further depleting Imperial resources.
Marc with a C, 1:20 PM


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