The United States has always done best when we have lived up to our highest ideals. As we look back on our history, we feel bad about our country when we see instances where America has not lived up to its highest principles.
We all know about slavery. segregation, Jim Crow laws, etc., so let's put that aside and deal with other things.
During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus. And, during World War II, our government shipped thousands of Japanese-Americans from their homes on the West Coast to interment camps in the middle of the country, for the duration of the war. Now, we look back on those suspensions of individual rights with feelings of national embarrassment.
We know that we could have won both the Civil War and World War II without violating America's Bill of Rights.
In fact, the Attorney-General of California who supervised the expulsions of the Japenese-Americans from California during World War II was Earl Warren, who later became governor of the state. In 1954, President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Warren soon became the most liberal Chief Justice in American history. Warren was totally repulsed by what he had to do as Attorney-General in expelling the Nisei, and he saw clearly that this country could do everything it had to do while still preserving to the fullest all the individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
So, the Warren Court issued decisions like Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation in America; and the Miranda Rule, which required that a police officer must read his rights to an arrested person, including the right to an attorney, etc. When the Miranda decision was announced, many law enforcement officials protested that they would not be able to get criminals off the streets if they had to read them their rights and make sure they had an attorney. (Judging by the current huge population of our jails, those fears have proved to be unwarranted).
The ACLU is now America's foremost organization in making sure that the United States adheres to its Bill of Rights, no matter how difficult or unpopular the circumstances may be.
You may remember that, about 30 years ago, the ACLU defended the right of American Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois, which was the home of many Jewish Holocaust survivors. The ACLU took lots of flack for that decision. I personally would have preferred to take a machine gun and mow down those Nazis as they went marching by. But that only shows that I'm not as good an American as the ACLU is, and that I don't believe in basic American principles as much as they do.
Well, the ACLU prevailed. The Nazis had their march through Skokie. And, guess what? Everyone survived. In fact, that Nazi march probably aroused so much revulsion and antipathy towards American Nazis that I don't believe they've conducted a similar march anywhere in this country ever again.
So, now the ACLU wants to make sure that captured terrorists in Guantamo have lawyers, and they want to get rid of waterboarding as an interrogation device.
Well, you know what? We will win the War on Terror whether or not the Gitmo terrorists have lawyers, and whether or not we continue to use waterboarding. We have never used waterboarding in previous wars, and somehow we have always managed to get the information we needed. The ACLU believes we can win this war without violating American principles. We've always done so in the past. In those few instances where we have violated our principles, those violations of individual rights did not make any difference to the war effort.
What I can't understand is why so many of our right-wingers disliked Saddam Hussein. Now that Saddam is gone, they look to him as their example, their model. They want to run the United States the same way that Saddam Hussein ran Iraq (just ask Bill O'Reilly -- Bill knows now that Saddam knew exactly how to control all those uppity, recalcitrant Iraquis).
The ACLU wants the United States to be run according to American principles yet, in the doctrine of some right-wingers, that has become Un-American. Right-wingers want America to be run Saddam's way. Well, who can argue with them? Saddam's way was certainly more efficient.