On Wednesday the last hope of blocking the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was shattered when President Barack Obama not only declined to veto the bill but said he would willingly sign it into law.
Typically this annual appropriations bill for the Department of Defense is passed by the House and Senate without controversy. This year, however, a new clause added that would redefine the United States as a theater of operations in the War on Terror led such disparate figures as Occupy Wall Street, the American Civil Liberties Union, and even Ron Paul to decry its passage.
They argued that the bill would gut the right of Habeas Corpus without officially suspending it and would also come dangerously close to overturning the Posse Commitatus Act of 1877, which prohibits the armed forces from serving as a police force on United States soil except in cases of National Emergency.
NDAA 2012 essentially creates a permanent state of emergency in the United States in which the Department of Defense may now join the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security in arresting and detaining U.S. citizens on our home turf.
Defenders of the bill argue that only those associated with terrorist organizations need be concerned. They also claim that revisions to the language of sections 1031 and 1032 of the bill offer sufficient protections to U.S. citizens to prevent them from being arrested, imprisoned and tried by military authorities. This, however, is cold comfort.
Under the expanded powers afforded to the Justice Department since 9/11, it is now possible to be suspected as a terrorist for giving money, donating time, or otherwise offering services to charitable groups that are on a mysterious "watch list" that only those in the upper echelons of power have access to. This tragically ridiculous state of affairs has led former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter to fall under Justice Department suspicion for his work on behalf of the Palestinians.
How did we arrive at this sorry state of affairs where the Bill of Rights can be waived by simply calling someone a "terrorist?" It was a slow creep that began after 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act and, as Obama's recent actions show, it cannot be blamed solely on George W. Bush and his associates.
We all carry a share of the blame for indulging in an unhealthy fear that led us to fight a Quixotic War on Terror. The world is inherently a dangerous place and no amount of military hardware will ever change that. In fact, the existence of this military hardware probably makes the world less safe.
With the war in Iraq coming to an end and an exit from Afghanistan on the horizon, it is time to retire the War on Terror as well. Police and judicial processes are needed to find, arrest, and prosecute the criminals who kill innocent people in the United States. This is not the duty of the army, an institution designed to protect the nation from attacks by other nations or from internal insurrection.
In this instance we have met the enemy and it is not Al Qaeda or any other terrorist group. The enemy is us and our own irrational fears. Somewhere in hell Osama Bin Laden is laughing at us as we throw away our civil liberties one by one to get even with him for getting lucky.