First we have the attack on the Turkish flotilla bringing aid to Gaza.
And now, the US Supreme Court is on board to curb humanitarianism and peaceful resistance, with its ruling in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project. Any “material contribution” or “service” extended by American citizens to “terrorist groups” designated by the State Department is a violation of the PATRIOT Act and punishable by imprisonment — even if the contributions and services advocate peaceful means to accessing international legal remedies.
In the NYT article, Chief Justice Roberts claims First Amendment protections are unencumbered by criminalizing support for peaceful conflict resolution between nation-states and terrorist groups:
“Plaintiffs may say anything they wish on any topic,” he wrote. “They may speak and write freely about” the Kurdish and Tamil groups, “the governments of Turkey and Sri Lanka, human rights and international law.” Indeed, the chief justice added, the plaintiffs are free to become members of the two groups.
What they cannot do is make a contribution to a foreign terrorist organization, even if that contribution takes the form of speech. “Such support,” he wrote, “frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends,” “helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups” and strains “the United States’ relationships with its allies.”
In our current progressive climate, moral citizens already learn that the best way to support their causes is political activity through passive means: wearing t-shirts or ribbons, casting ballots, amassing in groups in a fixed place during a fixed time, and sending money to campaigns. However, the media’s enamored reporting about movements like the Tea Party shows us that people across the political spectrum are anxious for more civic engagement. Civic engagement includes reaching out and extending material contributions and services to important causes beyond the rote actions of political institutions.
In an effort to make a terror-ridden world less terrifying, people now sit in the cross-hairs of criminal prosecution. Policy-wise, this Supreme Court ruling has no logical sense in it. It treats people behind terrorist acts as beings incapable of reason and morality who are uninterested in peaceful resolutions by cutting off any education on legal ways to attain their goals. The movie The Dark Knight famously remarked that “some people want to watch the world burn.” But with rulings like these and attacks on peacemakers, we have to wonder which people want the world to burn, and the depth of their interest in it.
The Court’s ruling cements the “us vs. them” War on Terror binary shaped during the presidency of George W. Bush: if you are not with the government, you are against it. Voltaire was right when he said, “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.” The consequences of keeping the alleged enemy away from peaceable means of resolving conflicts include the enabling of military spending, more long-distance war campaigns and more opportunities for war profiteering. The interests of national security, as Breyer noted in his dissent and during the oral argument, are bulldozing the democratic civil liberties these wars and conflicts are allegedly defending.
The line between a conscientious dissenter and a terrorist is becoming blurrier, and citizens of all nations are treading a fine line between acting under a moral imperative and obeying the law. What is the use of having freedoms one cannot exercise?
Cross-posted at Problem Chylde.