World questions Bush's
President George W. Bush's speech to Congress
gave me more respect -- not necessarily
for Bush, but for his
speechwriters, whose turns of phrase were
by turns soothing and
Some of the points he made were surprisingly
tolerant -- for
example, his words to the Muslims of the
world ("We respect your
faith … Its teachings are good and peaceful")
and to the populace
("The enemy of America … is not our many
Repeatedly, Bush emphasized the "new war"
America is now
facing. "Americans should not expect one
battle, but a lengthy
campaign, unlike any other we have ever
seen," he said.
What can civilian Americans expect from
this new war? If it serves
its purpose, we can expect an increased
sense of safety and
immunity to terrorism. In the process,
though, several liberties
once taken for granted may see revision
Lines are already longer at the Canadian
and Mexican borders,
as agents search cars and trailers much
more thoroughly, and the
shape of air travel is rapidly changing
as well to include armed
marshals on every flight.
There is also the possibility of an e-mail
administered by the federal government.
The form and reach of
such a system (if implemented) is unclear
as yet; it may be as
innocuous as a filter that would screen
for certain words or as
sinister as the collection of a J. Edgar
Hoover-esque database of
There's also the possibility of new "personal
that would contain a photograph of the
bearer and genetic
information such as a handprint or even
a retina scan. These
would be required for renting cars, purchasing
airline tickets and
possibly even for credit card purchases,
and would maintain
information on the activities of all Americans.
The Bush Administration is also considering
the establishment of
"military tribunals," which allow for
suspected terrorists to be tried
without some of the usual legal restrictions.
This occurred in
Washington, D.C., during World War II,
when German saboteurs
were tried this way. Those convicted were
hanged 30 days later.
The thought is ominous, even if the intentions
are good. Is such
an action necessary in a "war" that most
admit will be based
around intelligence and secretiveness,
not military operations? Is
an administration led by Bush qualified
to take that action? The
president is experiencing the surge in
popularity garnered by any
leader after a tragedy -- but outside
the United States, the world is
questioning his abilities.
England's Observer recently conducted a
poll in which 62 percent
of respondents said they were "not confident
(Bush) would make
the right decision," as compared to just
37 percent who trusted his
judgment. It's easy to forget in a time
like this that our president
was a "C" student at his father's alma
mater who often has
difficulty pronouncing the names of the
foreign leaders who are
rapidly becoming his allies.
The nation we live in has been wounded
more deeply than ever
before, and Americans may well be willing
to give up some of
their personal freedoms in exchange for
protection against the
forces we now know can hurt us. Perhaps
such action is even
necessary, especially on a temporary basis.
But we must be
careful how far these measures stretch.
Diminished liberty is
diminished liberty, no matter
who takes it away.
Simonson, a senior English major wary of
new world order, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.