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December 15, 2005

Are you willing to die for your liberty?

A commentary by Jim Babka

Pro-war supporters are fond of saying that, “Freedom isn’t free.” They sing songs about it. They send young men and women to die for it. They revel in this notion that blood has to be shed and they honor that impulse with near-religious fervor.

The politicians encourage this concept and are quite willing to sacrifice young men and women. Incredibly, ironically, it’s good for votes! The families of the fallen troops strongly support those politicians who are the most trigger-happy.

Meanwhile the pro-war supporters sway side-to-side at the news of these deaths singing, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…”

But there’s a disconnect here.

As I write this, there’s a debate over the Patriot Act being conducted in the House of Representatives. I’m listening to the debate.

Pro-war supporters are almost universally for this bill. Those who question, or better yet oppose the Iraq war are much more likely to oppose the renewal and expansion of this civil-liberty-crushing bill.

One who has consistently opposed this war is Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. He just stood up and reminded his colleagues of a famous Benjamin Franklin quote

: Those who would give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither.

So here’s the disconnect… The very folks most eager to send other people to die for their liberty are unwilling to live with the incredibly slim risk that they will die. And for the politicians, their courage ends with the possibility that some of their constituents might blame them if another terrorist act takes place and they didn’t vote for this bill.

Talk about being unwilling to die for your principles!

Let me be clear. I haven’t supported sending others to die. I opposed our present Iraq policy from the beginning.

But I’m quite willing to live with the risks of liberty. I recognize the wisdom of Franklin. The grossly-misnamed Patriot Act, as well as things like the Real ID Act and excessive, federalized airport security, are bad bargains. Those who support these things demonstrate an unwillingness to do anything more than sing about liberty. They demonstrate that there is a very large class of people unwilling to live free if it means _their_ lives.

9-11 was terrible. And the terror hasn’t ended. Our own government now harasses me, my family, and my friends far more than any terrorist ever has.

Our government now invades the private records of suspected dissidents using National Security Letters to the tune of 30,000 times per year. That means they mine financial, credit, telecommunications (including Internet use), medical, and other private records of American citizens. Judges can’t question the application. The enterprise being asked to turn over the information about their client can’t challenge the request.

Why do we need such a law as the Patriot Act? Because pro-war supporters are scared to death! I hear no popular songs being sung heralding the unwillingness to let Osama Bin Laden change our way of life (we’ve changed considerably). Instead, I see numerous television shows starring charismatic, do-gooders using these civil-liberty-crushing rules and forms of harassment to solve case after case after case of terrorism.

The pro-war supporters are right about one thing: Freedom isn’t free. But one cannot be free unless they personally assume some risk. After all, what are the odds that you will be victimized by terrorists?

And in the end, we have no choice but to embrace the risk. Ole Ben was quite right. Security can never be guaranteed. And it is hypocritical to ask others to risk their lives to preserve something that we consider so cheap we trade it at the first threat of danger.

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Jim Babka is the President of the Downsize DC Foundation and DownsizeDC.org, as well as the host of the Downsize DC Conference Call heard on the Genesis Communications Network.

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