Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ron Paul has a point about that whole Boston "military-style occupation" thing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm not saying he's entirely right, but he's certainly got a point:

Former Rep. Ron Paul said the police response to the Boston Marathon bombings was scarier than the bombing itself, which killed three and wounded more than 250.

"The Boston bombing provided the opportunity for the government to turn what should have been a police investigation into a military-style occupation of an American city," Paul, a Texas Republican, wrote [yesterday] on the website of the libertarian writer Lew Rockwell. "This unprecedented move should frighten us as much or more than the attack itself."

Paul said the scenes of the house-to-house search for the younger bombing suspect in suburban Watertown, Mass., were reminiscent of a "military coup in a far off banana republic."

"Forced lockdown of a city," he wrote. "Militarized police riding tanks in the streets. Door-to-door armed searches without warrant. Families thrown out of their homes at gunpoint to be searched without probable cause. Businesses forced to close. Transport shut down."

And he's right to remind us of this key fact:

"The suspect was not discovered by the paramilitary troops terrorizing the public," Paul wrote. "He was discovered by a private citizen, who then placed a call to the police. And he was identified not by government surveillance cameras, but by private citizens who willingly shared their photographs with the police."

As a civil libertarian myself, I do sometimes find myself in agreement with Paul's libertarianism, even though his version of it is generally a rather extreme right-wing one.

In this case, I understood the over-reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing, particularly after the shootout in Watertown that left an MIT officer dead, but I also found it worrisome.

To take nothing away from the suffering of the victims, and of course from the deaths of the three others, the incident was overblown, because... terrorism! Gun violence kills far more, but nothing is done about that. Here, a massive manhunt was conducted, with a major American city locked down.

The terrorists have won, you see, and so anytime anything happens that is, or could be, terrorism, the whole country goes berserk. (Terrorism, or the appearance thereof, justifies anything and everything. Hence anything and everything Bush and Cheney did.)

But, really, this needn't have been the case, as Paul contends. The bombing happened, the police responded, and law enforcment officials did their jobs in what appears to have been, for the most part, pretty amazing fashion.

But of course the larger political response was panic, fearmongering, and another form of terrorism. Indeed, what is so striking in retrospect is how quickly, and how willingly, the community embraced what was essentially a police state.

That shouldn't just worry Ron Paul. That should worry everyone who cares about liberty.

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