Tuesday, November 27, 2001

We are in the middle of a national tizzy about President Bush’s decision to jail aliens and apply military justice to terrorists when the nation’s defense is best served thus. William Safire in the New York Times went so far as to accuse Mr. Bush of seizing dictatorial powers. Pros and cons fill the media, and it is only a matter of time before the American Civil Liberties Union declares war on the president along a broad front.

An excellent discussion of rationale, precedents and reasonable safeguards has been provided by Catholic University’s Douglas W. Kmiec in the Wall Street Journal.

Yet, as usual these days, all discussions are about symptoms with no reference to the cause. Mr. Bush is responding to an acute crisis, brought about by decades of chronic neglect of our national health.

No bona fide American can be happy at the prospect of even the slightest dent being permitted to disfigure our legal system. But where have they been all these years? Our laws, and their reasonable application, have fallen into disuse to an extent that defies human reason.

Based on possibly well-meant but nonetheless ludicrous political views, alternately labeled “liberal,” “compassionate” or “inclusive,” a demographic assault upon these United States has been allowed to proceed unchallenged.

Contrary to the battle cries of the multicultural establishment, the issue has nothing to do with the continent from which immigrants arrive. In other words, the damage sustained has not been caused by the expansion of the immigrant pool beyond traditional, mostly European, places of origin.

The damage has been sustained because of the number of immigrants admitted within a given period, the individuals selected and the manner in which newcomers have been encouraged to conduct themselves over here.

The vast numbers have made it simply impossible for immigrants to be absorbed gradually, the way they used to be when the frequency of new arrivals was controlled by reasonable laws and officials.

Individuals selected no longer are required to be of good health, of good character, of good intentions, or to possess the basic ability to build a life in the United States.

Once here unlike the pre-1965 days no one is responsible for their sustenance, and newcomers are no longer required to study, comprehend and adopt the ways of the United States. Indeed, they are encouraged to rely on the state, and to build ever-larger communities in which the way of life they had chosen to reject in favor of a new one in the United States is reconstructed language, customs, appalling political and absent legal traditions all included.

And this is just the damage inflicted by laws passed to satisfy political agendas that run counter to the interests of the United States.

There is no intention to observe the law, even for appearance’s sake. As everyone knows, our borders have been open to all and sundry. We even corrupted our language by renaming illegal aliens “undocumented immigrants.”

As we abandoned our laws and their reasonable application, so our woes multiplied. And so 19 men caused the horrible death of about 4,000 persons and material damage we may not ever be able to quantify. None of the 19 should have set foot in this country. Bad laws and their negligent application, acting in concert with political agendas unsympathetic to the interests and security of this country, enabled them to be here, learn to fly the latest passenger aircraft and board the flights we shall never forget.

Because all 19 were of the same cloth, potentially innocent millions are under suspicion, no matter how many times we state the opposite.

“Innocent until proven guilty” has been among the primary assets of this nation from the beginning. All the U-boats of the Third Reich, all the ICBMs of the Soviet Union proved powerless against that asset.

But now, the president believes he has to make concessions because the risk to the nation has become too great. We might not be able to afford traditional trials by jury a crown jewel of the English-speaking world since King Henry II introduced the concept around the year 1172.

The tragedy is, the president may have a point under the prevailing circumstances. We may have to pay this bitter price because we had abandoned our laws and their reasonable application. Right now, we may not have another option.

Beware. This path leads downward. Each step away from the strict rule of law brings on the next step in the same direction. We can still take stock and recommit ourselves to the rule of law. One way or the other, there is now a price to pay.

But if our choice is to abandon the law, let no one be surprised if, before long, the law will abandon us.

Balint Vazsonyi is a concert pianist and director of the Center for the American Founding and is the senior fellow of the Potomac Foundation and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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