29.10.07

Ouch!

Op-Ed Contributor: Bush’s Dangerous Liaisons: "(...) By 1792, France was confronting the hostility of neighboring countries, debating how to react. The Jacobins were divided. On one side stood the journalist and political leader Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville, who argued for war.

Brissot understood the war as preventive — “une guerre offensive,” he called it — to defeat the despotic powers of Europe before they could organize their counter-Revolutionary strike. It would not be a war of conquest, as Brissot saw it, but a war “between liberty and tyranny.”

Pro-war Jacobins believed theirs was a mission not for a single nation or even for a single continent. It was, in Brissot’s words, “a crusade for universal liberty.”(...)

To defend the nation from its enemies, Jacobins expanded the government’s police powers at the expense of civil liberties, endowing the state with the power to detain, interrogate and imprison suspects without due process. Policies like the mass warrantless searches undertaken in 1792 — “domicilary visits,” they were called — were justified, according to Georges Danton, the Jacobin leader, “when the homeland is in danger.”(...)

He warned his political opponents, “This severity is alarming only for the conspirators, only for the enemies of liberty.” Such measures, then as now, were undertaken to protect the nation — indeed, to protect liberty itself.

If the French Terror had a slogan, it was that attributed to the great orator Louis de Saint-Just: “No liberty for the enemies of liberty.” Saint-Just’s pithy phrase (like President Bush’s variant, “We must not let foreign enemies use the forums of liberty to destroy liberty itself”) could serve as the very antithesis of the Western liberal tradition.(...)

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur."