Before we burn the Constitution in this war on terrorism, why don’t we try living under it?

In an emergency executive order, President Bush has pushed the panic button, thrown the baby out with the bathwater and discarded 200 years of the rule of law in this country.

It’s just a short step to dictatorship when one man has the power to jail or even execute aliens in secret kangaroo courts. And those are just some of the powers assumed by the president in an order released last week.

I don’t think there is anyone who takes a harder line than I against Islamist terrorism of the kind we witnessed Sept. 11. But turning America into a police state is not the answer.

We’ve seen other evidence of this kind of extra-constitutional reaction in the last two months. We’ve seen federal power grabs – as if centralization of authority has proved effective in the past.

Clearly Bush wants to act decisively, but this is the wrong way to go. There’s plenty the U.S. government can and should be doing to protect the country without Talibanizing us.

  • No matter what his new-found friend Vladimir Putin says about it, the U.S. has a duty – an obligation – to protect against the inevitable next wave of attack by terrorists and terrorist states. If we’re lucky, it might not come for two years, three years or five years. But it is coming. The unthinkable happened Sept. 11, and it will happen again. But instead of hijacked airliners crashing into buildings, it will be missiles carrying nuclear warheads crashing into cities. That’s why we must build a missile-defense system.

  • The U.S. must begin mobilizing its people and its resources to renew a commitment to civil defense. Russia has civil defense. China does. Do those countries care more about their people than we do?

  • We must cut off all aid to terrorists. That’s right. We’re still subsidizing terrorists around the world – from Yasser Arafat in the Mideast to the Kosovo Liberation Army in the Balkans. What kind of a crazy war against terrorism is this when we are ready to resort to summary executions of suspected terrorists on the one hand, but on the other we are providing them with taxpayer cash?

  • Work to achieve energy independence for our nation. It’s time to stop relying on Saudi Arabia for our nation’s lifeblood. We have oil within our own borders. If this is truly a national emergency, as the president says, let’s go get it. Let’s drill.

  • I’ll keep repeating this one until others pick up the cry: Repeal all restrictive gun laws so that every law-abiding American can take part in national defense against this elusive enemy. There obviously aren’t enough FBI agents to do the job. Empower the American people. Tell them they have a duty to their country. Deputize 300 million.

  • Require all airline crews to be armed. Train them in self-defense. Hasn’t unilateral disarmament on planes proven to be a disastrous policy?

  • And last, but certainly not least, it’s time to realize that a country without borders is not a country at all. It’s time to admit we as a nation made a mistake when we relaxed enforcement of immigration laws. An estimated 1 million foreigners per day enter the country. That needs to be stopped. We need to beef up the Border Patrol – five times, 10 times, 20 times if necessary. We need to secure our borders on the north as well as the south. We need to recognize that this enemy we are fighting will never be stopped if we don’t control the flood of people over our porous borders.

There’s much more we can do – and must do – without so much as smudging the spirit or the letter of the Constitution that sets us apart from other people around the world. This is no time to forget who we are – or who we aspire to be.

Protecting our country isn’t the responsibility solely of the president of the United States. It’s up to all of us. President Bush has a much bigger army at his disposal than he evidently realizes. It’s time to call us as a nation to action – not time to suspend the contract that makes us a nation.

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