Sunday, February 3, 2013

Manufactured Terror Courtesy of Uncle Sam, Inc.

You might recall that I wrote about a travesty of justice back in April.  It appeared to me that the defendant, Tarek Mehanna, was well and truly railroaded and sentenced to prison for 17+ years on the flimsiest of pretexts.  I think that we are all uncomfortably aware of various cases where our government appears to play a bit too active a role in the generation of terrorist plots.  It had seemed to me, at least, that this was a real growth industry for various government bureaucrats.

Well, there is a new book, available on Amazon and reviewed in Reason, which tells a very sad and frightening story.  I guess that I wasn't the only one who saw the business connection.  From the Reason review:
Imagine a country in which the government pays convicted con artists and criminals to scour minority religious communities for disgruntled, financially desperate, or mentally ill patsies who can be talked into joining fake terror plots, even if only for money. Imagine that the country's government then busts its patsies with great fanfare to justify ever-increasing authority and ever-increasing funding. According to journalist Trevor Aaronson's The Terror Factory, this isn't the premise for a Kafka novel; it's reality in the post-9/11 United States.

Folks, it is a very short step between catching a person with evil intent and helping him be evil. I will be the first to say that home grown terrorist that plan on planting explosives to endanger us all should be locked up in Supermax.  The problem that I have is when you have some idiots, with limited intelligence  who are guided every step of the way by agents of our government.  And only then arrested.  The idea that unactualized evil is helped along to a point where it is legally actionable is very troublesome to me and it should be to you too.

Which brings us to the concept of a "Near Occasion of Sin".  Let me quote 

In the form of the Act of Contrition that many of us learned as children, the final line reads, "I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin." It's easy to understand why we should "sin no more," but what is a "occasion of sin," what makes it "near," and why should we avoid it? 
Answer: An occasion of sin, Fr. John A. Hardon writes in his indispensable Modern Catholic Dictionary, is "Any person, place, or thing that of its nature or because of human frailty can lead one to do wrong, thereby committing sin." Certain things, such as pornographic images, are always, by their nature, occasions of sin. Others, such as alcoholic beverages, may not be an occasion of sin for one person but may be for another, because of his particular weakness.
There are two types of occasions of sin: remote and near (or "proximate"). An occasion of sin is remote if the danger it poses is very slight. For instance, if someone knows that he tends, once he starts drinking, to drink to the point of drunkenness, but he has no problem refraining from ordering the first drink, having dinner in a restaurant where alcohol is served might be a remote occasion of sin. We don't have to avoid remote occasions of sin unless we think that may become something more.
An occasion of sin is near if the danger is "certain and probable." To use the same example, if the person who has trouble controlling his drinking is going to dinner with someone who always buys him a drink and bullies him into drinking more, then the very same restaurant that serves alcohol might become a near occasion of sin. (Indeed, the bullying person can be a near occasion of sin as well.)
Perhaps the best way to think of near occasions of sin is to treat them as the moral equivalent of physical dangers. Just as we know we should stay alert when we're walking through a bad part of town at night, we need to be aware of the moral threats around us. We need to be honest about our own weaknesses and actively avoid situations in which we're likely to give in to them.
(Thank you to Scott Richert, writing in About.Com, for his lucid definition) 
 Interesting stuff, isn't it?   Note the bolded portion.  That is, as they say, the rub.  I have no doubt that there are a lot of people who have evil intent but that is a far cry from being actively dangerous.  If, for example, a person is encouraged and provided the means it seems to me that the forces of the Government have greatly overstepped.  The Government, then, becomes a Near occasion and that is really not a good thing because, frankly, they prey upon the weak as well as identifying the evil.

The frightening thing is that our mealy-mouthed polititions cannot take a stand on something that concerns national security without being slammed by their opponents and, as we all know, reelection is job one.  Bottom line is don't go looking for reform anytime soon.  Like the "War on Drugs" this "war on Terror" is becoming a business and is institutionalized which means it is part of our landscape for the foreseeable future.  

Sad stuff.


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