Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Say This About Scalia

Not being buffaloed by every passing trend has its advantages at times. His tour of legal history 101 in the Hamdi case was a slap at the notion that terrorism is a "new kind of enemy" that requires us to ditch our antiquated rights in order to fight it.

States have always been assailed by insurrections, treason, outside attack, and domestic terror. The constraints of operating within the law were enough to combat past terrors, from Oklahoma City to anarchist violence at the turn of the last century. What exactly is different about al-Qaeda? That they're well-financed? Secretive? Fanatical? So were any number of organizations, from the Mafia to the Communist International to the Rajneeshis in Oregon. All were controlled through ordinary laws, or at least kept to a tolerable level of mayhem.

Or maybe it's that terrorism is more deadly now than before... But the two worst recent incidents (Oklahoma City and 9/11) were achieved with a fertilizer bomb and jet fuel, respectively.

I'm not saying that the threat from terror groups is not evolving, simply that it has not undergone a quantum shift from threatening horrible but sustainable damage to localized places (which has been with us since, oh, the Gunpowder Plot) to threatening the existence of the nation. As such, it's not really that new, and our response to it shouldn't be either.


Blogger Chris said...

So, RICO is an "ordinary law"?

June 30, 2004 at 5:43 PM  

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