From the Cold War to the War on Terror: the harms from authoritarian "solutions" are often greater than the threats they are ostensibly designed to combat.
Members of the National Guard and the Washington D.C. police stand guard to keep demonstrators away from the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) In the days and weeks after the 9/11 attack, Americans were largely united in emotional horror at what had been done to their country as well as in their willingness to endorse repression and violence in response. As a result, there was little room to raise concerns about the possible excesses or dangers of the American reaction, let alone to dissent from what political leaders were proposing in the name of vengeance and security. The psychological trauma from the carnage and the wreckage at the countrys most cherished symbols swamped rational faculties and thus rendered futile any attempts to urge restraint or caution.
Nonetheless, a few tried. Scorn and sometimes worse were universally heaped upon them.
On September 14 while bodies were still buried under burning rubble in downtown Manhattan Congresswoman Barbara Lee cast a lone vote against the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF). Some of us must urge the use of restraint, she said seventy-two hours after the attack, adding: our country is in a state of mourning and thus some of us must say: lets step back for a moment, lets pause just for a minute, and think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control.
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