by Guy Somerset
When growing up many of us are raised on a strict diet of absolutes. Often things are not only right or wrong, but also good or evil. As we mature (some of us) come to understand while this method of rearing is helpful and sometimes even necessary for children, in the realm of adults such fundamentalism is a hindrance in dealing with obscure difficulties and divergent individuals.
While once upon a time I might have subscribed to the hoary maxim, "My country, right or wrong!" we are rapidly approaching a juncture at which my country, or at least its homeland security apparatus, must reassess its ways. Evidence the regular "terrorist arrests" which come like clockwork.
Most if not all of these involve personages who would be characterized as socially isolated and usually mentally deficient as well. Near-universally they are attended by helpful agencies which typically elevate inflammatory talk into actual threats and which frequently provide the materiel to carry them out.
The habit of a mere Headline Reader (which is lamentably most citizens) is to dismiss any criticism whatsoever of these operations as pandering to criminals at best and fevered ravings of conspiracy theorists at worst. Still how many "nearly averted" attacks assisted by law enforcement must we endure before questions regarding the capacity of the supposed perpetrators can no longer be cowed down?
Since 2001 have been over 60 such cases and while they began with serious events such as a "shoe-bomb" on an airplane they have in recent years devolved disproportionately into farcical affairs in which bumbling reprobates engage in a good deal of rhetoric and, absent official help, very little else.
There is no warrant here for making the lives of genuine evildoers easier, but one might easily envision from a handy arm-chair any number of plots which make more sense than of what these suspects are alleged. Why is every apprehension accompanied with a Rube Goldbergian plan of attack whose infinitesimal odds of success boggle the mind?
Either these schemers are to a man actually as imbecilic as is proposed, and we can safely reduce our billions of dollars on "defense" spending; or there is a pattern of agency self-promotion taking place, one which seizes upon the most vulnerable simpletons in society and deftly manipulates them into seeming cases of entrapment.
Having had experience in the world of law enforcement these agencies should not necessarily find me opposed to such methods in certain limited circumstances. None has ever heard me argue on behalf of the supposedly sympathetic prisoner locked up for "low-level drug offenses" who also happened to be a suspect in ten or twenty home invasions (which oddly stopped after his incarceration). Thus I am by no means averse to using a means to justify an end when justice itself demands.
However there is a point at which such practices cross the line from dubiously achieving the right outcome to disturbing abuses perpetrated against those who otherwise posed no appreciable danger. When we begin the process of rounding up the mildly retarded, harmless "big talkers," and innocuously peculiar loners not only is the intent of the law thwarted but any justification by which we have a moral license to impose it.
Without a doubt there are those parties which wish America and Americans harm. Yet to do harm one must be capable of executing harm. In the most recent case it is alleged the young man bought weapons with an intent to assault the Capitol, but his father emphatically posits his son had no capital with which to make these purchases. In fact he accuses the relevant departments of providing the funds for such an endeavor to the "mama's boy." This not only rings true according to what we know of similar incidents, but it may eventually be proved true when the prosecution presents its evidence.
My query is if we can put Hollywood celebrities on psychiatric hold because they purchase Cartier jewelry for strangers why can we not do the same for such people as this one who purchase a gun? Granted, there are shades of the Soviet in a state abusing mental facilities to criminalize dissent; still if there is recorded evidence of an actual threat to enact violence that should satisfy even the most dogged civil libertarian. Certainly our revenue would be better spent to rehabilitate than to incarcerate?
Alas, that presupposes such actions have the welfare of the nation at heart rather than the well-being of pensions or organizational budgets. Although I begin by giving a man the benefit of the doubt, that doubt becomes unreasonable when agencies can provide citizens with few instances in which the suspect was much more than a patsy who was encouraged in some random foolish comment and then recompensed with monies to make what was simply blowing off steam into a plot to blow up a building.
Worse than an execrable abuse of power is the false sense of safety inept defendants provide. There are genuinely deranged people in the world who rely upon weapons rather than words to prove their point. Eventually such a person will put his musings into action and he will not be some barfly or internet anti-hero. If we are constantly plucking low-hanging fruit consisting of half-wits we will hardly be in a position to anticipate malefactors who combine a devious intelligence with their demented ideals.
When that day comes the true impact of spending our time on Walter Mitty while we ignored the Al Capones of the world will be devastating.
I love America, but my country ought not grind a prison heel into those who should be in psychiatric wards. It is time for representatives to realize they do a disservice to the homeland when they recklessly antagonize petty egomaniacs who deserve more pity than prosecution. By doing otherwise institutional paychecks may be made secure, but the people of the United States are made vulnerable.
Technically each of the pathetic accused above may be guilty of one crime or another, and sometimes the ultimate right necessitates doing the transitory wrong. Yet until authorities can make a better case these poor fools posed more danger before agency involvement than after it, to deal with them in this way is worse than wrong; it is stupid, imprudent and unproductive. We are all imperiled by such irresponsibility.
Guy Somerset writes from somewhere in America. He is a lawyer by profession
On May 19, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin will take part in an online ceremony to mark the launch of the construction of the Russian-Chinese nuclear power facility