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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dept. of Homeland Security: Our NKVD?

The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens has a great analysis of the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) new memo on terminology for describing our Global War on Ter -- er, make that our "Global Struggle for Security and Progress."

Seriously. That's what DHS is encouraging us all to call this massive waste of military matériel/personnel and financial res -- er, international initiative to secure nice things for everyone -- in lieu of possibly offending anyone. And that's just the beginning of this Orwellian nonsense from our most Soviet of federal bureaucracies (yeah, I know -- the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms [BATF] and the Department of Agriculture's farm programs would give it a run for its ruble, but still ....). As Stephens continues:

In its most eye-catching recommendation (which goes strangely unmentioned in an Associated Press story about the memo), the DHS authors explain their preference for the word "progress" over "liberty."

"The struggle is for 'progress,' over which no nation has a monopoly," reads the memo. "The experts we consulted debated the word 'liberty,' but rejected it because many around the world would discount the term as a buzzword for American hegemony. But all people want to support 'progress,' which emphasizes that there is a path for building strong families and prosperity among the current dislocations of globalization and change. And progress is precisely what the terrorists oppose through their violent tactics and through their efforts to impose a totalitarian world view."

It seems to have escaped the authors' notice that the most formidable totalitarian movement of the 20th century – communism – was, by its own lights, "progressive." It seems to have escaped their notice that the essence of a totalitarian system is the denial of liberty (often in the name of progress). It seems to have escaped their notice that "progress" is a word that signifies nothing. Exactly what is one progressing to?

It gets better:

The inanity here is so mind-boggling that it seems almost deliberate, and causes one to wonder just which "American Muslim leaders" the U.S. government is consulting. Last October, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was a guest of honor at a Ramadan event at which, according to one participant, he was publicly thanked by the president of the Islamic Society of North America for "keeping the doors open so we can advise you on how to engage the Muslim world."

For the record, the ISNA was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the case of the Holy Land Foundation, a U.S.-based charity alleged to have had ties with Hamas. Imagine if the Kennedy administration had consulted with the Workers World Party on strategies to contain the Soviet Union, and you get a sense of what Homeland Security is doing today.

That last analogy is particularly apt, and goes to the heart of what is so utterly absurd about the existence of DHS in the first place. As anyone even vaguely familiar with the run-up to 9/11 surely knows, it was the massive bureaucracy's complete cluelessness about al Qaida and the large stack of clues and leads gathered indicating an ongoing plot to fly jets into U.S. targets -- which came in from U.S. FBI agents, Philippine intelligence, and a host of other sources -- that led to our leaders finding out about 9/11 just after the rest of us did (and by turning on CNN, not through secured channels). So what did the Bush administration do to fix this problem? Create an even bigger and more cumbersome bureaucracy that proved a blistering failure in the first major post-9/11 crisis it faced: Hurricane Katrina.

No need to recap all the Constitutional end-runs that have accompanied the establishment of "homeland security" here in the homeland. Perhaps one day we'll have DHS reenactors to mirror the NKVD reenactors (a la this gentleman to the left) to re-create historic ambiance for Russians starved for live entertainmnet, as well.

Of course, Stephens works for The Wall Street Journal, which as a matter of policy supports everything about the occupation of Iraq, imminent attack on Iran, and anything else that could escalate our military operations in the Middle East, quagmires be damned. Still, brownie points for seeing the absurdity of waging war while trying not to offend anyone.

BTW, for choice tidbits from the perpetual plodding of DHS and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), don't miss Homeland Stupidity.

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