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When did the government become perfect?

Recently I had a lively exchange with someone commenting on my entry Not Sorry Yet. We were talking about torture and pretty much all of his responses included a variation of the line:

“You want to give rights to terrorists.”

I was trying to focus on the universality of human rights and so didn’t address a key assumption in this sentence and which was a major part of every single comment from this poster — That anyone tortured by the government was a terrorist.

This implies that everyone the government thinks is a terrorist is in actual fact, a terrorist. No doubt some are. But to say that EVERYONE picked up by the government as a terrorist is in fact a terrorist implies the government has perfect knowledge.

Maybe this will make more sense if we put it more everyday terms. Does anyone believe that EVERYONE arrested by the police are guilty of the crime they are arrested for? That no cop makes a mistake, ever?

More generally speaking, raise your hand if you believe there is ANY activity that any government carries out with 100% efficiency. No hands? I didn’t think so.

If we’ve established that the government can’t carry out ANYTHING with perfection, then logically, some of the people it has picked up as being terrorists are not, in fact, terrorists.

So I’m not talking about “giving rights” to people who “are terrorists.” I’m talking about applying our laws and our Constitution to people in our custody who have been accused of being terrorists.

I also believe that if we give in to the people who say that the government is perfect when it comes to deciding who is and who is not a terrorist at the time of arrest, we are taking steps down the road where we’ll wind up deciding that the government is perfect when it comes to deciding who is and who is not a criminal as soon they’re picked up. That will be a bad day for everyone because we have a government of human beings, not angels.

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2 Responses

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. To me, one of the things that makes America great is our ability to rise above the frey. Treating suspects with the rights established by the Constitution and law goes along with it.

    I saw the comments going a little crazy on the “Not Sorry Yet” post and didn’t want to join in the frey. I will still vote for him (most likely) in 2012 as well.

    One thing that I have found extremely frustrating, is that although I don’t think government is perfect, I expect the politicians to do the right thing (I’m thinking specifically about extending unemployment benefits for people who found themselves unemployed). Given the tough job situation and that extending benefits for a little bit longer doesn’t take that much extra effort or add to the debt all that much. Honestly, it just seems like it’s the decent thing to do. To be perfectly frank, I think most politicians know this (among other issues as well), but won’t to keep up an appearance of some sort. This type of thing really turns me off to politics.

  2. Hi Carolyn, Thanks for stopping by and taking a public stand for constitutional process for all persons under US jurisdiction. I don’t blame you for keeping your head down last week.

    While I don’t personally oppose an extension of jobless benefits, I think people of good will can come to different conclusions. In a posting at http://www.nationalreview.com/agenda/230827/how-think-about-benefit-exhaustion/reihan-salam, National Review blogger Reihan Salam presents a couple of studies, two of which appear to indicate that people seem to find work shortly after their benefits exhaustion date. If this is true, it could have implications for how long we should extend aid. Personally I think I’d extend the benefits for another six months, but also order up some new studies on this topic as the evidence appears inconclusive.

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