Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Nov. 18, 2003 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Exposer of the idiocy of bureaucracy and the threat to individual freedom posed by government Ten minutes with author James Bovard | Few journalists have done more to expose the idiocy of bureaucracy and the threat to individual freedom posed by government than author James Bovard.

His earlier books — "The Fair Trade Fraud," "Freedom in Chains" and "Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion and Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years" are just three — earned him the title of "roving inspector general of the modern state" from The Wall Street Journal.

Conservatives aren't as thrilled with Bovard's newest work, "Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice and Peace to Rid the World of Evil," which argues that the Bush administration's war on terror is giving dangerous new powers to the federal government. (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR. )

Bovard, doing unto Bush what he did to Clinton, sets his libertarian sights on the motives of the war in Iraq, the phoniness of Homeland Security and the harm being done to Americans' privacy rights and civil liberties by the global war on terrorism — what he calls the first political growth industry of the new millennium. I talked to him this week.

Q: It's pretty hard not to get the point of the book by looking at your subtitle, but what's the main message or theme of your book?

A: The main message is that sacrificing freedom will not make us secure.

Q: You've written a bunch of books about the loss of our basic freedoms to government. What personally bothers or worries you the most about what has happened since Sept. 11?

A: It's a bad thing to place government on a pedestal, and that is much more the case after 9/11. Folks are much more deferential to government. Folks are much more likely to see government as a savior. It's not as extreme as it was in the weeks immediately after 9/11, but excessive trust of government is subversion of democracy.

Q: How do you define your political position?

A: Moderate.

Q: That's pretty funny. I buy that but ...

A: (laughs) Well, I try to express the values and the work of the Founding Fathers. On most issues that makes me fairly libertarian. On some issues, I'm conservative, on some I'm liberal. It's vital to keep government in its place, and especially after Sept. 11, the government is off its leash.

Q: What is the most dangerous new power that the government has accrued?

Donate to JWR

A: It's difficult to pick out a single one, but one that really resonates, one that strikes home with people, is the Carnivore e-mail wire-taping system. The FBI can now get a search warrant to track one person's e-mail and go into the Internet service provider and compel them to attach this black box to their computer system.

Then the FBI can push one button on that box and automatically make copies of all the e-mail of all the people that use that Internet service. You might have a search warrant for one person and, voila, the FBI gets 100,000 people's e-mail. This is information which could be, and often is, stored and could be used against people sometime in the future.

Q: Is the threat of terrorism just another "emergency" or "crisis" that the folks in the federal government can exploit to increase their power?

A: Well, there is a terrorist threat and it is important that the government concentrate resources on al-Qaida. And if there are other groups like al-Qaida that are very competent and very focused on attacking America, the government needs to focus on them too.

Part of my concern is that Bush talks about a global war on terrorism as if any terrorist anywhere is automatically an enemy of the U.S. This is a mind-set that has led the U.S. to intervene in foreign conflicts which we had no business to jump into, and all of sudden there were a lot more terrorists attacking the U.S. or U.S. forces as a result.

Q: Conservatives loved your earlier books. Are you getting a different reaction from them on this one?

A: Some of them yes, some of them no. A friend told me this past week that the Conservative Book Club sent out a very nice notice on the book, and I appreciate very much that the Conservative Book Club would carry a book like this, though it is critical of Mr. Bush.

I've certainly got much more hate mail on this than I had from previous writings, and some of it is from conservatives. Some of it is people outraged and acting like I'm guilty of heresy for some of the things I say about U.S. government policy.

But I don't think I've changed my principles at all. It's just that I'm criticizing Bush and Ashcroft now for many of the same kind of things I criticized Bill Clinton and Janet Reno for during the previous eight years. But some people have an us-versus-them paradigm in how they look at politics. That can be very unfortunate, because there are good guys on both sides in both parties and among both liberals and conservatives.

Q: You would argue that you are consistent in applying your principles at home and abroad, I guess?

A: Yeah. In "Feeling Your Pain," I had a chapter entitled "Moralizing With Cluster Bombs," in which I very harshly attacked Clinton's war against the Serbs. I thought that was completely unjustified.

It was permeated with lies. It did little or no good. It just changed the side which was doing the persecuting, primarily in Kosovo. And it certainly has not brought any real peace or harmony there. It's amazing how quickly people have forgotten the lies of the 1999 war against Serbia and Kosovo.

Q: Do you think anything would have been different if Al Gore had been president on Sept. 11, 2001?

A: Well, if Gore had been president there would have been an effective, intelligent, conservative Republican opposition, so some of the worst excesses of the war on terrorism here would have been at least partially avoided.

Q: Is there anything good about the war on terrorism, as prosecuted at home or abroad, that you can say, "Yeah, that was good. They've done that right. This is smart. We needed that"?

A: Uh, uh, uh, uh ... you know, I'm glad Brian Lamb didn't ask me that on C-SPAN. There are some changes in the Patriot Act which make sense, as far as updating some of the laws for new technologies and wiretaps on new telephones, for instance. But the actual successes are few and far between, and they are far outweighed by the government fraud — the success stories that turned out to be smoke and mirrors.

Q: Such as?

A: Oh, things like the roundup of 1,200 suspected terrorists after 9/11. It turned out that none of them had anything to do with 9/11 and almost all of them had nothing to do with terrorist groups, and yet Ashcroft still talks about this roundup of suspected terrorists like it was great success story.

Q: When will the war on terrorism end, and can we win it?

A: The war on terrorism will end when politicians no longer think that they can get votes by fighting the war on terror. I don't see this war, as Bush defines it, as ever ending.

Q: How does he define it?

A: Bush talks about the war on terrorism as if it were a holy crusade, a question of good versus evil, us versus them. But there are lots of very brutal governments on our side and there are lots of groups that we have no need to fight with on the other side.

But I am concerned that the political profit could keep fanning this war far past finishing off al-Qaida, which we have to do. But almost everything else the federal government is talking about doing is counter-productive to the safety of the American people.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

11/14/03: Two stories examine Wal-Mart's domination
11/07/03: The real Rumsfeld 10 minutes with author Midge Decter
11/05/03: Lights! Camera! Fudge!?
10/31/03: The straight dope on hate, drugs, Jon Stewart
10/24/03: See what federal $$$ does?
10/21/03: Esquire recalls its glory days
10/14/03: A 784-page biography hatchet job that only Clinton-haters will love — published by Random House? Ten minutes with Nigel Hamilton
10/10/03: Bush adviser girds for a tough fight ... 10 minutes with Mary Matalin
10/07/03: Forbes gives advice on making rich list
09/30/03: A 20th Century American tour
09/26/03: Reagan's life in letters
09/24/03: Bin Laden and Boy Bill
09/22/03: Dennis Miller makes funny business of politics
09/16/03: Famous 'bad girls' clear the air
09/12/03: Ben Stein gets serious: Davis is a 'thug in a gray flannel suit'
09/09/03: Smart(-Alecky) mag's very different 'swimsuit issue'; Murdoch might not be as bad as we thought
09/02/03: Ex-teacher lambastes our schools
08/25/03: Vanity Fair strives to be more than glamorous
07/22/03: Title IX's original intent Ten minutes with Eric Pearson
07/11/03: Vanity Fair dishes it out on JFK Jr., N.Y. Times
07/09/03: Why Ben Franklin should be the "Father of Our Country" ... 10 minutes with Walter Isaacson
07/07/03: Honoring nation's first celebrity superstar
06/27/03: Reader's Digest can't help but act its age
06/24/03: Dick Morris, consultant for hire, reveals the inside story
06/20/03: Move over, Hillary. Here comes a better work of fiction
06/10/03: Publications take us away from Middle East
06/03/03: Dear graduates: Work for freedom 10 minutes with Penn Jillette
05/30/03: National Geographic goes to the top of the world
05/23/03: Editors dabble in history, fiction
05/16/03: The Old Grim Lady gets covered
05/09/03: Political parties fighting over Iraq's wreckage
05/07/03: 10 minutes with a big-city Dem mayor who loathes budget deficits, the federal highway program, taxpayer-funded sports stadiums and the meddling (and aid money) of Washington
05/02/03: Are you sufficiently terrified?
04/29/03: Finally, a president defending American principles in the Middle East ... 10 minutes with Alexander Haig
04/25/03: Newsweeklies starting to lose interest in Iraq war
04/21/03: There's bias, and then there's bias
04/11/03: Planning future of Iraq, world
04/04/03: Newsweeklies come back with graphic look at war
03/28/03: Newsweeklies try to keep up with TV war coverage
03/26/03: Wen Ho Lee whistle-blower says beware of China
03/21/03: America's ready for war ... and peace
03/18/03: Baseball limping, not dead 10 minutes with author Andrew Zimbalist
03/14/03: Vanity Fair gets us ready for month's big event
03/11/03: A road map for Iraq's liberation devised by James Madison? 10 minutes with James S. Robbins
03/06/03: Iraq war will come and go before we know it
02/28/03: America takes time out for swimsuits
02/26/03: 'We shall be seen as liberators' .... 10 minutes with noted Brit commentator David Pryce-Jones
02/21/03: Terrorism one of many losing battles
02/14/03: Editors planning for the day after Gulf War II
02/12/03: The 'religiosity' of Ronald Reagan 10 minutes with author Paul Kengor
02/10/03: Should the shuttle crash be the end of NASA?
02/06/03: Dear Joan ...
01/31/03: Newsweek, Nation ponder pros, cons of Gulf War II
01/24/03: 'Original' ideas follow New Deal philosophy
01/22/03: When handicapping 2004, watch the economy: Ten minutes with Charlie Cook
01/17/03: New Republic fans hatred for SUVs
01/14/03: 10 minutes with Santorum on ... taxes, steel and Lott
01/10/03: Newsweeklies move on to latest menace
01/07/03: The best of the Q&As
12/30/02: Rosie's demise tops list of 2002 highlights
12/23/02: GOP must stick to its principles: 10 questions for ... Bill Kristol
12/20/02: Lott fiasco uncovers bigger problem
12/18/02: Free markets king in Sweden, at least for a day: Ten minutes with . Donald Boudreaux
12/13/02: Corruption of Indian casinos no surprise
12/06/02: Giving credit to young philanthropists
12/02/02: Ten minutes with . Chris Matthews
11/26/02: It's critical to memorialize communism's victims: 10 minutes with Lee Edwards
11/22/02: JFK's secret health woes are revealed
11/19/02: “It's best to contain Saddam”: Ten minutes with Col. David Hackworth
11/15/02: Brushing up on the affairs of a wild world
11/12/02: Make Dems filibuster 10 minutes with Robert L. Bartley
11/08/02: National Geographic: Urban overpopulation is good
11/05/02: The bloody consequences of a broken INS: Ten minutes with Michelle Malkin
11/01/02: Going to pot; thank heaven for media overkill
10/29/02: It's all about federalism: Ten minutes with Jonah Goldberg
10/25/02: Frank Sinatra, Kurt Cobain, Mad Magazine will never die
10/22/02: Here's why Orwell matters: Ten minutes with Christopher Hitchens
10/18/02: The sniper knocks Iraq off the covers
10/15/02: Iraq, oil and war: 10 minutes with ... economist/historian Daniel Yergin
10/11/02: England's gun-control experiment has backfired
10/04/02: Buchanan the media baron?
09/27/02: Analyzing Esquire, GQ is not for the squeamish
09/20/02: CEOs: The rise and fall of American heroes
09/13/02: Skeptics remind U.S. to calm down
09/10/02: 'A failure to recognize a failure': 15 minutes with ... Bill Gertz
09/06/02: Rating the 9-11 mags
08/30/02: Bad trains, bad planes, and bad automobiles
08/28/02: Baseball, broken, can be fixed: 15 minutes with George Will
08/16/02: 9-11 overload has already begun
08/13/02: Tell us what you really think, Ann Coulter
08/09/02: A funny take on a new kind of suburb
08/02/02: It's not the humidity, it's the (media) heat wave; the death of American cities
07/12/02: Colombia's drug lords are all business
07/09/02: If capitalism is 'soulless' then show me something better: 10 minutes with Alan Reynolds
06/25/02: Origins of a scandal: 10 minutes with Michael Rose
06/21/02: 9/11 report unearths good, bad and ugly
06/18/02: The FBI is rebounding 10 Minutes with Ronald Kessler
06/14/02: U.S. News opens closet of Secret Service
06/11/02: 10 minutes with William Lind: Can America survive in this 'fourth-generation' world?
06/07/02: America, warts and all
05/30/02: FBI saga gets more depressing
05/13/02: The magazine industry's annual exercise in self-puffery
04/30/02: 10 Minutes with ... The New York Sun's Seth Lipsky
04/26/02: Will the American Taliban go free?
04/23/02: 10 minutes with ... Dinesh D'Souza
04/19/02: Saddam starting to show his age
04/12/02: Newsweek puts suicide bombing in perspective
04/09/02: How polls distort the news, change the outcome of elections and encourage legislation that undermines the foundations of the republic
04/05/02: Looking into the state of American greatness
03/25/02: The American President and the Peruvian Shoeshine Boys
03/22/02: Troublemaking intellectual puts Churchill in spotlight
03/20/02: 10 minutes with ... Bill Bennett
03/18/02: Suddenly, it's cool again to be a man
03/12/02: 10 minutes with Ken Adelman
03/08/02: TIME asks the nation a scary question
03/05/02: 10 minutes with ... Rich Lowry
02/26/02: 10 minutes with ... Tony Snow
02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?

© 2002, Bill Steigerwald