MOST OF THE GROUPS that adamantly oppose the USA PATRIOT Act are oriented toward worrying more about terrorists’ civil liberties than their murderous intentions: The ACLU, People for the American Way, Human Rights Watch.
Then there are some whose connection to the anti-anti-terrorist movement are less clear. Chief among them: the National Organization for Women.
NOW is a feminist organization. It exists to promote and defend “women’s rights,” however perversely it defines them. It’s hard to see what domestic anti-terror legislation that primarily affects Middle Eastern men would have to do with NOW’s agenda. Harder still is to fathom why NOW members would get hung up over a law that the government has effectively used to thwart and capture Islamofascist operatives working to engineer the next 9/11 and forcibly put American women under the burqa.
After all, it’s not as though Islamofascists and feminists make for natural allies. If radical Muslims most despise Jews and Americans, their hatred for women of all religions and nationalities probably ranks a close third. “Women’s rights,” is, for them, a blasphemous oxymoron. One of the qualities of Western society they most detest is the freedom of women to do such radical things as drive, vote, and show their faces in public. In his will, Sept. 11 mastermind Mohammad Atta insisted that no women ever be allowed to touch his corpse, or even attend his funeral—although he fully expected that dozens of submissive virgins would be waiting for him in that special paradise reserved for Islamofascist “martyrs.”
But sure enough, NOW has joined the anti-PATRIOT Act chorus. Chapters across the country have promoted various local resolutions encouraging police not to cooperate with federal anti-terror investigations. When NOW issued a proclamation preemptively denouncing the liberation of Iraq, it included a line condemning “the draconian homeland defense policies promoted by the Bush administration, and already enacted by Congress in the form of the Patriot Act.”
Such policies, the resolution said, “are designed in part to stifle political dissent.” NOW’s Progressive Agenda for Peace echoes the same theme, calling on feminists far and wide to “expose the stifling of political dissent by the Bush Administration through such policies as the USA Patriot Act.”
Stifling political dissent? There are, to be sure, sincere opponents with valid objections to the PATRIOT Act and its potential for abuse. Yet anyone who pretends that the law’s “purpose,” either in part or in whole, is to trample the First Amendment rights of those who disagree with the Bush Administration is engaging in heavy-duty—and baseless—fear-mongering.
The PATRIOT Act sailed through Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. It garnered a single negative vote in the Senate, and won the support from some of the Administration’s most strident critics, including Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd. Congress approved the law six weeks after 9/11 with one unmistakable purpose: combating terrorism. That purpose bears zero relation to “stifling dissent”—unless one’s definition of dissent includes piloting hijacked airliners into densely populated buildings and incinerating thousands of innocent people.
And, for what it’s worth, less than two years since the PATRIOT Act took effect, it has proved remarkably effective in achieving its intended ends. It’s enabled the federal government to obtain 23 convictions and guilty pleas in terrorist-financing cases while freezing $124 million in terrorist assets. It helped authorities identify conspirators in the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. It’s resulted in the capture of more than 20 suspected al-Qaeda members, netted 100 convictions and guilty pleas for terrorist-related crimes, and led to the deportation of 515 suspicious illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile, no court has ruled a single portion of the legislation unconstitutional, nor have the Act’s opponents at NOW or anywhere else identified one bona fide dissident punished or harassed under the act merely for holding unpopular or anti-Administration views. Far from it. The one “dissident” the Left rushed to defend—University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian—now awaits trial for 50 counts of terrorism, including senior membership in Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which actively sponsors homicide bombings and other forms of mass murder.
The Patriot Act also led to the apprehension of Pakistani brothers and illegal immigrants Arsalan and Armaghan Rizvi, whom the Justice Department has identified as possibly complicit in terrorist operations. What’s interesting, or at least should be as far as NOW is concerned, is that the brothers came to authorities’ attention when Arsalan’s wife filed a domestic violence complaint. Thanks to the PATRIOT Act, police were allowed to question him about his national identity, bring in the feds, and dig a little deeper. If the charges against the Rizvis bear out, then Arsalan will prove to be not only a lout who roughs up his wife, but a terrorist, too.
Go figure: The sort of people who think nothing of killing innocent women and children tend not to treat the women and children in their own lives much better. One would think NOW would support any law making it easier to put such brutes away.
And, to be fair, maybe it does. Consistency has never been one of the organization’s hallmarks. That much was made clear during the Clinton years. Maybe that’s why, under the right circumstances, NOW supports the very PATRIOT Act it denounces. When the Supreme Court ruled, in NOW v. Scheidler, that the federal government could not use RICO anti-racketeering statutes to prosecute abortion protesters, NOW vowed to find some other means. “We are looking at every avenue, including the U.S.A. Patriot Act,” said President Kim Gandy, “in order to protect women, doctors and [abortion] clinic staff from these ideological terrorists” (emphasis added).
In other words, NOW is willing to use the PATRIOT Act against its enemies but denies the people of the United States the right to use that same law against the enemies of theit nation.
By the same token, the organization is willing to pitch an overblown fit over anti-terrorism legislation just to throw mud at a president it despises. First NOW betrayed women through its love of Clinton, now it’s betraying national security in its hatred of Bush.
Such dissent doesn’t need stifling; it discredits itself.