Guarding the borders

Tool of the Day

Debbye at Being American in T.O. posted a letter that appeared in yesterday’s Toronto Sun. In short, the writer was upset by the fact that, while crossing into the United States from Canada with a friend in a van loaded with kids toys and clothes, the US border agents wouldn’t let them pass. The agents suspected that they were sneaking into the US to work illegally.

We were then told that we had to have our fingerprints and picture taken with their new electronic system. “Blame the criminals that could have been caught if this system was implemented years ago,” was his reasoning.

When is this violation of people’s rights going to end? I am no criminal, I have a perfect record, and now I am in the mass U.S. database. How long can things like this continue under the guise of “War on Terrorism” and “Homeland Security”? Will they not be happy until the entire world is tagged and catalogued and under surveillance?

The Toronto Sun responded with

(Unfortunate, but even before 9/11 U.S. officials took a dim view of anyone who crossed the border with a load of belongings, while claiming they weren’t planning to stay. That’s their job)

Debbye writes

Sir, you and your friend (clearly not a US citizen) do not now nor have you ever had the “right” to go to the United States just because you are citizens of Canada or any other nation except the United States. You do not now nor have you ever enjoyed any “freedom” to pass the border into the United States unless you are a citizen, and anyone who took it for granted that non-citizens had the right to cross the border, as the letter writer says he did, took for granted something that never existed and, in fact, never pretended to exist.

(Emphasis in the original.) Go read the whole thing.

I don’t think that anyone enjoys tighter security. I don’t think anyone enjoys watching New Years Eve in Times Square or the Super Bowl with that nagging idea in the back of their mind that someone sure could hurt a lot of people all at once if they tried.

The fact is that WE ARE AT WAR.

A lot of people pretend that we aren’t, of course. And they seem to get a lot of satisfaction out of pooh-poohing those who claim we are.

“If we let security and surveillance interfere with our daily lives then they’ve already won,” is a favorite of theirs.

Well, when the people in 1940 London turned off their lights at night so German bombers couldn’t see their targets so easily, did that mean the Germans had already won?

Apparently not.

Why is it that so many of the same people who are mad that the CIA didn’t do more before 9/11 are mad today when the government tries to do more? Not that I’m defending the Patriot Act in toto, but most would agree that something has to be done, no?

Then when something is done, they bitch and moan about how their freedoms are disappearing. Often they go onto television to discuss how they’ve lost the right of free speech. Whatever sense that makes.

On 9/11/01 everyone said nothing would ever be the same again. Now everyone is mad that nothing is the same as it was before.

This is the Fourth World War. It’s going to last a long time.

In the comments to that post, someone wrote (in part)

More to the point:

“We are resolved to do what we can to stop the use of terrorism as a tactic and, in too many case, a strategy and even a principle.”

This is a mistruth. The clearly stated truth should read “Americans are concerned with acts of terrorism inflicted on Americans”. Let’s be clear–the US isn’t losing any sleep over the regular acts of terrorism that happen throughout, say, Africa.

That reminded me of a comment to this post which indicated that we should not focus on stopping harm being done to Americans but on stopping harm being done to anyone.

That is wrong.

My response is

The US government’s responsibility is to the people of the United States. If/when those interests are served by protecting the people of another nation, we will do it. But not for the express purpose of protecting those people. We will do it because it serves us.

Mad that Canada isn’t doing as much to protect Canadians as the US is doing to protect Americans? Don’t cry to the US. Happy that Canada isn’t doing as much? Well, there you go.

But if Canada isn’t doing enough on ITS side to make the US feel secure on ITS side, the US will make up the difference.

Anything else would be dereliction of duty.

The American government is there for the American people. We must be sure that we don’t do good at the expense of others if we can help it, but the fact is that the American government exists to serve American interests.

That means, more than anything right now, winning the war.


  1. The US government’s responsibility is to the people of the United States. If/when those interests are served by protecting the people of another nation, we will do it. But not for the express purpose of protecting those people. We will do it because it serves us.’ I can’t say I agree with that. The U.S. does many things that aren’t to our advantage compared to the dollars/lives that it costs. Take humanitarian aid to various situations in Africa. We pay for that, and as a taxpayer, I don’t have a problem knowing that some (a VERY tiny bit) is going to help people survive, and our country will get essentially nothing in return. (Certainly nothing to compensate for the expense.) Part of that is just being human. Based on the atrocities we’ve always suspected, and are now being shown to be fact in Iraq, I’m not sure I wouldn’t even support our action there based on purely humanitarian need. (And the fact that we could actually do it successfully, unlike other similar situations like NK. But then, that’s probably because at least based on the Polital Compass, I’m some bleeding heart left-wing nut job.

  2. I’ll agree with your disagreement. We as a nation are not completely uncharitable and I’m not proposing that we become so. But the *responsibility* of our government is to allow our nation to continue to exist. Aiding people in other nations out of the goodness of our heart is in out best interest. We tried to feed Somalia at gunpoint, and I’m not sure that that wasn’t a wrong thing to do. AIDS aid to Africa won’t directly affect the US, but it may sway some opinions and pay off practically in the long run. We aren’t trying to buy happiness so much as we’re trying to buy off unhappiness. (I think I heard that in a movie, but I’m not sure.) For every person we can manage to keep from being unhappy, there’s one less person (and probably that person’s family) who doesn’t think that suicide bombing US Marines is a good idea. Iran claims we’re providing earthquake aid for political purposes (which we are, in part at least) then refuses to accept aid from Israel. Pot and kettle, there, isn’t it? The US government exists to make sure that US citizens continue to exist. If feeding hungry people helps ensure that, all the better. And I’d like to point out that everything our government is doing isn’t necessarily what I think we should be doing.

  3. Thanks for the link, murdoc. I think your overall points were also at the heart of the discussion about whether the US should intervene in that quagmire-in-waiting, Liberia. It was interesting how the UN tried to pressure us to get involved there and it exposed more of the hypocrisy of that body when it declared itself helpless to do anything without our ‘leadership.’ The US is viewed like one big insurance company: people will clamour to try to get as much as they can ‘because America can afford it’ thus blackmail, embezzlement, cheating and fraud are considered perfectly acceptable. Yet we remain a generous nation. Could it possibly be due to our much-maligned Christian heritage?

  4. Agreed. There *is* a certain amount of ‘quagmireness’ about our occupation of Iraq, though nothing approaching the levels that the Maureen Dowds of the world wish or claim. But Iraq is a mess that we involved ourselves in because we believe that it is in our best interest overall. Of course, only time will tell, but I think we’re right. Liberia, on the other hand, is a place where the task is easier (relatively speaking), the costs would be lower, and the international support would be stronger. But the gains there don’t really justify the means. It’s too bad that we can’t just run around the world making sure that everyone plays nice and helping everyone out. But the fact is that we are having trouble just making sure that everyone doesn’t kill our citizens. First things first. Maybe when the Europeans agree on (read: France and Germany strong-arm everyone else) an EU constitution, they will help everyone everywhere out the goodness of their hearts. After all, they’re so much more sophisticated and wise than we silly, simpleton cowboys are.