Preemptive War/Preemptive Body Scans



Image of an adult man as revealed by a Rapiscan Secure 1000 backscatter X-ray scanner (the technology used by TSA) (Credit: John Wild, johnwild.info)

Americans who followed George W. Bush’s fractured reasoning in supporting a preemptive invasion of Iraq—a country that hadn’t actually aggressed against the U.S., but he just “knew” was going to—in the process implicitly supported the deprivation of the right to life for an estimated 122,000 Iraq civilians—on top of the up to 1.5 million (mostly children) estimated to have died as a result of the previous decade’s economic sanctions—not to mention cutting off any opportunity for the remainder of Iraq’s population to exercise its right to the pursuit of happiness.

The preemptive war has been accompanied by countless other preemptive rights violations—from warrantless wiretapping to rendition of suspects without trial. But of course the majority of Americans felt no personal threat from wiretapping or rendition, and most movies portraying the horrors and injustices of the War on Terror have been box office flops.

Suddenly, the preemptive deprivation of the rights of the presumption of innocence, security in one’s person, and against unreasonable searches has hit Americans now subjected to the lose-lose proposition of providing real-time images of one’s nude body to bureaucratic clerks demonstrated to lack discretion (see, for example, here and here), and with no reasonable assurance the image won’t be shared or leaked; or to allow one’s most intimate body parts to be groped by these same clerks.

It is sincerely to be hoped that the current show of outrage against the body scans/aggressive pat-downs will continue to grow, and force the draw-down of these intrusive techniques. But a better hope would be that the American populace—the beneficiaries of the greatest protections of rights and privileges in the history of mankind—would use this bare-faced exposure to what unchecked power reaps to reassess its tolerance to tyrannies small and great.

As noted by Mario Vargas Llosa, whose keen insights and masterful portrayals of political oppression and the abuse of power (among other themes) have garnered him the 2010 Nobel Laureate in Literature, tyrants are made, not born—and made possible only with “the complicity of the people,” and by “the abdication of the right to resist:”

Humans must resist (tyranny), especially at the beginning. Later it is harder to resist once the system is in place. But it is always possible.

Time will soon tell if Americans have been marched as far down the road to tyranny as we will be complicit with. If so, let’s this time remember and reaffirm allegiance to the understanding that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

All men—not just we who happened to be born in the United States.

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