Two thoughts flashed into my mind as I stood in a hotel room outside Springfield, Illinois watching the events of 9/11 unfold on the television. I had just gotten up after a restful night's sleep in the midst of a long drive from North Dakota to Tennessee when I switched on "The Today Show" that awful morning. The first thought was for the safety of my brother-in-law. At the time he was a helicopter pilot in the Army Special Forces. I knew something like this could put his life in peril. My second thought was the fallout this event would have on the civil liberties in the United States. I knew the events in New York City, Washington, D.C. and in rural Pennsylvania were a game changer.
As I raced back to North Dakota in my car I had a lot of time to reflect on the attacks and the changes that were to come into our lives. My guts said we've got to get the bastards who did this and it would require this great nation to do things that were better left unspoken. I had no problem with pushing the envelop in terms of human rights when it came to fighting terror.
But the events which followed, the unnecessary war in Iraq and the blatant power grab by Vice President Dick Cheney have left me wondering how close we were to living under a kind of tyranny that we have not witnessed since the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II. I don't like the idea of prying the lid off of the activities of the CIA. I guess I ascribe to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" theory when it comes to this sort of activity. Yet the United States under the Bush Administration sought to spread its vision of democracy throughout the world through whatever means necessary. It's the greatest political oxymoron of my life.
Now Darth Vader (Cheney) keeps injecting himself into the public discussion about these activities. It's disgusting. The United States tortured people. It's wrong, it destroys our standing with people we want to sway and it alienates our allies. Cheney used the Justice Department to rig the game to cover the Bush Administration's tracks. Now he has the gall to call out the Obama Administration for "rigging" the investigation into these clearly illegal operations.
Honestly, I could give a rip about what happened at Abu Ghraib and I think the vast majority of Americans would agree. And I think most Americans could care less about the bulk of the activities conducted against Al Quaeda terrorists. But I do care when Americans on our own soil like Jose Padilla, even if they are terrorists, are systemically deprived of their rights as citizens of this country. I do care when politicians subvert our system of justice to their own means. The rule of law is what makes this nation great.
The right is working hard to equate President Obama with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. By that line of thinking I guess that leaves it to the left to put the Bush White House alongside Joseph Stalin and the Communists. Am I missing something in all of this? Can Dick Cheney just stay in his bunker? I would like to be with the President on this one and simply look forward, but God almighty we need to ensure that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past.