Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The First Amendment, Part 9.11

Peruse the Internet and you're bound to encounter any and all variety of unique, repulsive, weird, freaky tibits of humanity. And that's just at MarthaStewart.com.

On a more serious note, there are a variety of disturbing trends born from Internet life, including, but not limited to: fake nudes, beastiality and kiddie porn, other bizarre sexual practices, lists of the most inconsequential bullshit ever assembled (try searching for how many women Captain Kirk nailed on Star Trek or The Ladder Theory or caffeinated snack beverages manufactured in Wyoming). In short, we have invited the Internet into our lives and have therefore begrudgingly accepted the benefits along with the many negatives a blank slate of human perversity offers.

My rationale for invoking the ills/benefits of the Internet as part of our daily lives is a result of my personal attempt to exercise my freedom of thought and speech, not merely in these pages but in noting the presence of a news article at CNN involving a cleric who, less than a week after 9/11, was arrested for inciting and encouraging young muslim men to travel to Afghanistan to fight the US and its interests. My reaction was that this news was not very newsworthy on its surface; the twist is that this particular muslim is a prominent cleric in the state of Washington. The article, located here, gives some details as to how many of his "followers" sought training on foreign soil, how they fared in obtaining said training, and some mumbo-jumbo from attorneys on both sides.

Why would someone so decidedly anti-US be living here? Aside from terrorists belonging to sleeper cells, why would a foreigner come to the US to plot against said nation?

My initial reaction was that Ali al-Timimi, the cleric in question, wanted to recruit US-based muslims knowing the converts could eventually return to the US in order to (eventually) do damage to the US from the inside. In other words, putting myself in Mr. al-Timimi’s position, if the US’s immigration policies were either so poorly erected or so poorly enforced that virulent, anti-US foreigners like al-Timimi were welcomed to these shores with open arms, then why not go right to the source – the people (ie muslims) of the US and spread the gospel, so to speak.

The other, more significant question that needs to be asked is: how much protection does the First Amendment provide to those who use its Constitutional protection in order to destroy the nation and everything that the Constitution represents? And more importantly, why should a foreigner advocating the overthrow and/or destruction of the US be permitted to remain in this nation?

Before I even attempt an answer to any of these questions, the crux of the article was that Mr. al-Timimi was arrested for attempting to recruit his followers to perpetrate anti-US activities, ie receive terrorist training in Afghanistan and in neighboring countries. To me, this seems a bit of a gray area; eg the Federal Government could arrest someone who tries to assemble a group of federal employees to work together to get better wages and benefits from the government. While it doesn’t equate to terrorism, it’s a group of people working together against the government, albeit to a much less dangerous extent.

And where’s the limit? al-Timimi was calling for anti-US Jihad, but if I stand in a local park, or even on a public street in Manhattan, and tell people that George Bush is insane and should be ridiculed publicly anytime he appears anywhere, would or could – or should – I be arrested for encouraging others to act in a way that is not in the government’s interests?

Personally, I think this case highlights the fact that we need to address our immigration policies immediately; for this to be occurring on US soil shows that someone’s asleep at the wheel. And we also need to revisit how the First Amendment protects those intent on destroying it. I can’t envision the forefathers, in literal or interpretative view, acceding to this cleric’s corruption of America’s freedoms to perpetrate anti-American activities, whether here or elsewhere.

Obviously, however, with the 9/11 hijackers and presumably a small collection of existing “sleeper cells” located within the US as of this writing, because we’ve allowed these people to enter into and take refuge within the US, we as a nation offer protection to those who want to destroy this nation. Paradoxical at best, disturbing and distressing at the very worst.

And if this man’s belief-based hatred of the country he calls home is illegal, what would happen if another person aimed a 9mm pistol at al-Timimi’s hate-filled head and emptied it? Would the US then take action against a US citizen for murdering a person actively engaged in what would be considered treason if Mr. al-Timimi was a citizen?

Obviously these questions need to be addressed and resolved quickly. And knowing the speed at which the government operates, “quickly” is both a subjective and humorous euphemism. It’s obviously an unfortunate occurrence when the laws and freedoms are in place but the protection of the system and its borders are not.

And while I fully support the first amendment in all its guises, I would not shed a tear if Mr. al-Timimi’s rights were violated with his death, deportation, or life imprisonment. It just seems fairly obvious to me that anyone perpetrating anti-US recruitment on US soil forfeits the rights and protections granted by living in this country. And frankly, I would be disappointed if Mr. al-Timimi was merely deported or imprisoned. But it suggests to me that in the coming years, we as a nation need to deal with our enemies, both domestic and foreign, not with Minutemen volunteers bearing t-shirts and digital cameras, not with rhetoric and careful consideration of the rights of those who violate the Constitution of the United States, but with lead, steel and fire, the same tools with which they intend to deal with us. As Sean Connery’s character, Jimmy Malone, quipped in The Untouchables, “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun.” Answering evil, destruction and bile with rhetoric, law and procedure is showing weakness, and – in my opinion – this nation is too great and has stood by for too long to be showing weakness.

Further, if the enemies of America want to turn US soil into a battleground, then it seems to me it is about time we, as a nation, accepted the challenge and let them know we intend to meet their actions with some of our own. Action, not inaction, bring forth resolution; inaction brings forth more incidents like 9/11.

And I think one 9/11 is one more than we need endure.


Anonymous said...

ali tamimi was a U.S. Born citizen... so tougher immigration laws woudln't help. But changing our foreign policy especially in regards to dealing with the Muslim world just might.

Boogie said...

I misspoke: Al-Tamimi is a US citizen (born in Washington, DC). Which means he can be federally indicted for treason.

While there have been many instances where US foreign policy has countered what many muslims desire (the Shah/Iran is just one example), it seems to me that the reason why the US and the West has trouble with Muslim nations is its support of Israel. I don't expect that support, nor the policies that align with said support, to change anytime soon.

Osama bin Laden and the mujahadeen accepted aid from the US through several channels in the 1980s to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan; and once that goal was reached, bin Laden turned his focus (and hate) to the US. Politics is irrelevant; left, middle, right -- we're all infidels. So it seems to me that it's not so much about foreign policy but the extremist position -- rather, belief -- that any Western, non-Muslim involvement in the Muslim world must be resisted, defended, punished and prevented.

Any culture of belief that supports martydom over coexistence virtually guarantees long-term conflict that will never cease.