Thursday, December 22, 2005

Here's A New One: Bush=Botha

It's moral equivalence time again, and Arlene Getz at Newsweek is in full stretch mode as she compares George W. Bush to P.W. Botha (hey, they both have a "W").
For anyone who has lived under an authoritarian regime, phone tapping—or at least the threat of it—is always a given. But U.S. citizens have always been lucky enough to believe themselves protected from such government intrusion. So why have they reacted so insipidly to yet another post-9/11 erosion of U.S. civil liberties?

I'm sure there are many well-meaning Americans who agree with their president's explanation that it's all a necessary evil (and that patriotic citizens will not be spied on unless they dial up Osama bin Laden). But the nasty echoes of apartheid South Africa should at least give them pause.
What was happening in Botha's apartheid South Africa?
No matter that Pretoria was detaining tens of thousands of people without real evidence of wrongdoing. No matter that many of them, including children, were being tortured—sometimes to death. No matter that government hit squads were killing political opponents. No matter that police were shooting into crowds of black civilians protesting against their disenfranchisement.
I'm not minimizing the importance of the issue of government surveillance, but comparing it with South Africa's past is quite a leap. This commentary says more about the author than anything else.