Have Bush's actions in the wake of 9/11 been justified

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Title

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Have Bush's actions in the wake of 9/11 been justified?

Overview

Although the "point" debater (supporting Bush's actions) had the opening point and therefore framed the terms of the debate, all of the supporting points have been countered. The point debater has been invited to respond, but has not yet done so.

This debate is currently open for counterpoints (arguing in support of Bush). Even if you are against Bush, it is helpful to document pro-Bush points so that they can be countered; it is much easier to dismiss an argument if you can think of a point which the argument does not address. See Issuepedia:Reinforcement by Contradiction.

  • Current Verdict: Bush's actions have not been justified.

Debate

right-arrow debaticon Bush's actions in the wake of 9/11 have been justified.

up arrow debaticon 1 This is a war, and waging war requires some curtailment of freedom.
up-arrow debaticon 1a We are at war.
down-arrow debaticon 1a-1 Can you call it a war when the enemy isn't a country or even an organized group?
down-arrow debaticon 1a-1.1 If it's not a war on some recognized geopolitical or cultural entity, do the usual caveats about "being at war" – specifically that freedoms must be curtailed – even apply?
down-arrow debaticon 1a-1.2 How do we know that Bush hasn't shaped his response to the situation specifically so that the label "war" could be applied, allowing him to make bad decisions and behave corruptly? Do we trust Bush to make "wartime" judgment calls without any accountability? See Is Bush trustworthy? for further discussion.
down-arrow debaticon 1a-2 We shouldn't be at war, and any restrictions we do have to put up with are further confirmation that it was a bad idea.
down-arrow debaticon 1a-2.1 War is an inappropriate response to this situation.
down-arrow debaticon 1a.2.1.1 You don't attack the Mafia by invading Chicago, destroying its infrastructure, and getting all the locals ticked off at you. Similarly, you don't destroy terrorism with an army; it takes intelligence, in both senses of the word, and the Bush people have shown over and over again that what mental powers they do possess are mostly devoted to the intelligent design of sweetheart deals for their supporters – and consolidating their power through subterfuge, misdirection, and highly questionable legal theory. See Is Bush trustworthy? for further discussion.
up-arrow debaticon 1a.2.1.1-1 The Islamofascists are a worse problem than the Mafia in a couple of ways.
up-arrow debaticon 1a.2.1.1-1.1 If you left the Mafia alone, they would leave you alone; the Islamofascists won't.
up-arrow debaticon 1a.2.1.1-1.1a The Mafia wasn't a problem when they were left alone.
down-arrow debaticon 1a.2.1.1-1.1a-1 The Mafia often demanded "protection money" of those who just happened to be within their turf, with dire consequences if the money was not paid.
up-arrow debaticon 1a.2.1.1-1.1b The islamofascists are a problem even when left alone.
down-arrow debaticon 1a.2.1.1-1.1b-1 Even if this represented a difference from the Mafia, how would that justify the necessity for revoking civil liberties? This point (1a.2.1.1-1.1). supports fighting them rather than leaving them alone, a point not in contention here.
up-arrow debaticon 1a.2.1.1-1.2 The mafia don't blow up innocent people just to make a point.
down-arrow debaticon 1a.2.1.1-1.2 Possibly not, but they certainly did gun people down for that same reason.
down-arrow debaticon 1a-2.1.2 Granting the premise that terrorism is Enemy #1, we should be engaged in carefully-calculated strategic political, economic, and espionage activity to defeat this enemy. Going after them with hordes of military is like trying to swat a fly with a 20-pound sledgehammer. See asymmetric warfare for further information. Titanic leadership metaphor: Just because "the iceberg is priority #1!" would not justify absolutely any action – e.g. dumping all remaining fuel "to save weight!" or locking dissenters in the brig "so that we can be strong and act in a united front!". Actions must make sense in the context of the particular situation involved.
down-arrow debaticon 1a-2.1.3 Calling it a "war" lends entirely the wrong mindset to the operation, and leaves the door open for excesses of the type we began seeing soon after the invasion was complete. See 1a-2 for a proper approach to fighting terrorism.
down-arrow debaticon 1a-2.2 Congress did not grant Bush the authority to wage war on Iraq unless certain conditions were met; the conditions weren't met, but he did it anyway. (Query: Whose job is it to stop the president when he uses his power as commander-in-chief to do something which exceeds his official powers? I think it's supposed to be Congress, and they certainly didn't do it.)
up-arrow debaticon 1b Waging war requires some curtailment of freedom.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1 The curtailments we are seeing in this war are severely mismatched to the situation.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1 The types of curtailments we have encountered in real wars generally made some kind of sense (or at least seemed to, even if they ultimately were more psychological in nature than truly logistical): rationing gas and food, because of short supply; giving troops higher priority for usage of infrastructure (such as trains). The internment of Japanese-descended American citizens was a stain on our honor, and I would certainly argue against curtailments of that nature in this case. Query: Did we ever make it illegal to publish pro-German or even pro-Hitler literature? I don't think this happened; Americans were mainly urged not to discuss anything they might hear, from (say) relatives in the military, about troop movements or strategy.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1.1 (assertion) The only legitimate reasons to curtail freedoms during wartime are (a) to prevent the enemy from learning details of our military strategy, and (b) to maintain control of resources vital to the war effort.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1.2 (assertion) Preventing the enemy from learning details of our military strategy and plans has not been an issue in the current situation:
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1.2a We don't know what Bush's strategy is; he doesn't seem to have one.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1.2b There has been no evidence of Al Qaeda having a domestic spying program in the US, or of ever having made use of strategic information in their attacks.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1.2c Oddly, Bush has never even made a point of asking people who have friends or family in the military (with whom they may be in very frequent contact via email and chat – an unprecedented situation in the history of warfare, I think) to be very careful what details they might circulate. If ever there was a freedom he could legitimately argue we should be curtailing, this would be it – and he is not.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1.2d Bush's own people have given valuable information to Al Qaeda on at least one occasion (see Bush administration hypocrisy) with no apology from Bush, indicating that keeping tactical secrets from the enemy is not a high priority for him.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1.3 It seems to me that maintaining control of resources vital to the war effort has not been an issue in the current situation:
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1.3a Again, Bush has never made any mention of a need to carefully husband vital resources. Indeed, his rhetoric seems to subtly encourage a culture of heedless waste; see Gas Guzzling Pride for an example.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-1.1.3b None of the restrictions put into place thus far seem likely to have any conservative effect upon vital resources.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-2 The Mafia situation was worse than this one, and yet there was no significant curtailment of freedom.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-2.1 Regardless of whether you call the situation now with the Islamic terrorists, the Mafia in America in the 1920s-30s was substantially worse – people were being attacked on American soil, by a well-funded enemy who looked like us and even (mostly) had US citizenship – so there was no quick-and-dirty way to profile them for detention, as we are now doing. City governments were being corrupted and infiltrated by Mafia operatives, people were being gunned down in broad daylight, businesses were being burned.
down-arrow debaticon 1b-2.2 And yet, as far as I know, there was no significant curtailment of freedom in the fight against these terrorists. (Significantly, they largely arose as a major threat because of a curtailment of freedom – Prohibition. On a related note, the rampant corruption of the US occupation of Iraq is having a similar effect over there.)
down-arrow debaticon 1b-3 As I understand it all the terrorist plots that have been foiled since 9/11 were foiled using normal police methods – not by virtue of Bush's wiretapping, or by extracting confessions from tortured prisoners, much less any of the other reductions of freedom. If any of his actions had clearly played a part in the successful rounding-up of terrorists, I'm sure he would have been taking credit for it.
up-arrow debaticon 2 Bush's abridgments of civil liberties thus far are at least within reason, whether or not you agree on the details.
up-arrow debaticon i.e. it's difficult to judge if the current war justifies the curtailments thus far, so why not grant Bush the benefit of the doubt?
up-arrow debaticon 2a We still have far more freedoms than European countries do, so we don't really have any cause for complaint.
down-arrow debaticon 2a-1 Those countries aren't democracies; their leaders are presumably not breaking their oaths of office by clamping down on freedom.
down-arrow debaticon 2a-2 Just because someone else is doing something morally reprehensible does not make it acceptable; this is the Two wrongs fallacy.
up-arrow debaticon 2b Some increase in surveillance powers at least seems reasonable.
down-arrow debaticon 2b-1 Such increases must be obtained by legal means, i.e. through Congress, so that the watchers are not simply given carte blanche to do whatever they want. Bush feels free to go around Congress and make his own laws whenever he chooses, or to ignore laws made by Congress by appending "signing statements". This is illegal, and violates even wartime standards.
down-arrow debaticon 2-1 In order to be "reasonable", such abridgments should seem to at least be potentially helpful toward the war effort. How do Bush's abridgments claim to be helpful?
down-arrow debaticon 2-2 Why isn't he pushing any of the arguably necessary restrictions, such as "loose lips sink ships"? Even gas rationing would be believable ("We must not give the terrorists any levers to use against us! The time has come to phase in zero tolerance for Middle East crude, and show the terrorists that we cannot be held hostage to foreign oil or ideologies!")
up-arrow debaticon 3 Nobody has been seriously harmed by these curtailments so far.
up-arrow debaticon 3a The potential for abuse is there, but Bush would not intentionally abuse the power he has obtained.
"i" debaticon This too hinges on the question of Bush's trustworthiness.
down-arrow debaticon 3-1 We don't know if anyone has been unjustly harmed because we don't know what's happening in Gitmo.
up-arrow debaticon 3-1-1 I have little sympathy for the great majority of the Gitmo detainees, I'm afraid.
down-arrow debaticon How can you have an opinion when you don't know anything about why they were detained?
up-arrow debaticon They were detained on the battlefiled in Afgh & Iraq.
down-arrow debaticon That's where the government says they were detained from, but there's no way to know. Also, does the fact of being found on a battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan prove guilt? What is the definition of "on the battlefield"? (Some might overgeneralize and define all of Iraq as a battlefield.) Why is it important that the list of detainees and specific accusations against them be kept from the public? Add this to the list of issues depending on the question Is Bush trustworthy?.