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The Truth About Watertown

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It turns out I was wrong about Ron Paul. No, I was not wrong about his policies being (for the most part) dangerous and wrong, and I was also not wrong in thinking that Paul is just a tad bit crazy; what I was wrong about was thinking he couldn’t stoop any lower than he already has. I thought Paul’s commentary had hit rock bottom when he blatantly twisted and misused scripture to try and prove a point in the death of U.S. Sniper Chris Kyle, but it was Paul’s take on the Boston bombing and the subsequent lock-down of Watertown that really crossed the line. Ron took to his buddy Lew Rockwell’s site to pen an article entitled Liberty Was Also Attacked in Boston; the following is a deconstruction of the article in question.

“Forced lock-down of a city. Militarized police riding tanks in the streets. Door-to-door armed searches without warrant. Families thrown out of their homes at gunpoint to be searched without probable cause. Businesses forced to close. Transport shut down.”(1)

To open his op-ed, Paul uses classic dramatic language, the kind you might hear in the trailer for an upcoming movie; Paul knows the power of drama and chooses his words carefully. The phrase “Families thrown out of their homes at gunpoint…without probable cause” is meant to shock you, meant to get you angry, even if it isn’t entirely true or provable. The “evidence” used in this case is a link to a YouTube video which claims to be of the search in Watertown, the description says the video proves that police were “storming houses” and “ripping people” from their homes. The problem there is that the video shows only one house, not house to house searches. Second is the issue of “ripping”; it is obviously a term used in order to stir up passion, but anyone who watches the video can tell that whatever was happening, it was not as violent and appalling as they make it out to be.

In the video, the police team came unto the porch, knocked on the door for about 10-15 seconds (at most) and then made the “come on out” hand motion to the man who answered the door. He came out with his hands partially raised and when started to put his hands down, an officer took his arm and put it back up. Once the man was off the porch, the officers walked into the building. Soon a few more people came out by themselves with hands up and were pointed to an area away from the premises. Hardly the atrocity you were expecting huh? There was no breaking down the doors and physically throwing people out as you would expect there to be. Point being, the reason I am being so critical on the technical use of words by Paul and his evidence, is because words mean something and the words used were meant to paint a picture of horror that never happened based on Paul’s evidence.

Paul continues:

“These were not the scenes from a military coup in a far off banana republic, but rather the scenes just over a week ago in Boston as the United States got a taste of martial law. The ostensible reason for the military-style takeover of parts of Boston was that the accused perpetrator of a horrific crime was on the loose. The Boston bombing provided the opportunity for the government to turn what should have been a police investigation into a military-style occupation of an American city…”

This statement is almost completely inaccurate, and it shows once again that Ron Paul has very little understanding of the English language and the meaning of words (despite his use of “ostensible”). First Paul claims that the U.S. got a taste of Martial Law, but did we really? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Martial Law two ways:

1: the law applied in occupied territory by the military authority of the occupying power 2: the law administered by military forces that is invoked by a government in an emergency when the civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety” (2)

We’ll deal with the first one in a minute because that is probably the one Mr. Paul would choose, but the second definition must be looked at as well. The second does not apply to this situation because it does not fit the criteria of a military force administering a law when the police can’t maintain public order and safety. Why? First of all because the people patrolling the streets were in fact the police, state police that is; this is not a military force administering a law. The second reason is due to the fact that the lock-down was not instituted because the police were unable to keep order and safety; it was because they were trying to keep those things. With a bomber on the loose, they were trying to keep people from becoming hostages or targets of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Before we can look at why the first definition also does not apply, let’s look at the other statement Paul made; he claimed that the bombing provided the government the “opportunity” to perform a “military style takeover/occupation” of an American city. When I first read this my reaction was utter shock; is Paul kidding? The fact that he classifies what happened in Watertown, a lock-down during the search for an armed and dangerous terrorist, a military style occupation is beyond belief. It seems Mr. Paul forgot to check his dictionary for the second time in one paragraph; but fortunately Merriam-Webster once again is ready to aide us, and it defines Military Occupation thusly:

“Control and possession of hostile territory that enables an invading nation to establish military government against an enemy or martial law against rebels or insurrectionists in its own territory” (3)

Again we have to ask ourselves if the definition applies to what happened in Watertown and the answer is surely no. What happened in Watertown was not a hostile territory that came under the control of and allowed an invading nation to establish military government against an enemy; nor was it Martial law against rebels or insurrectionists. The government did not occupy the town with the armed services to put down any kind of rebellion from the citizens of the town, they put a lock-down in place to catch a terrorist; Paul’s rhetoric here is over the top and wrong. Now I know what the Paul supporters are about to say: “Paul didn’t say it was a military occupation, he said it was a military style occupation…” This is true, but it is for all intents and purposes the same thing in that the entire criterion would be met except for the armed services part. But wait, didn’t Paul say an American city experienced Martial Law? What was that first definition again? “the law applied in occupied territory by the military authority of the occupying power.” See, Paul can’t have it both ways; it’s either a military style occupation which necessitates no actual military, or it is Martial Law which does necessitate military involvement. We have seen from both definitions that what happened in Watertown is in no way Martial Law, nor is it a military occupation; but sadly Paul was not done.

“…This unprecedented move should frighten us as much or more than the attack itself …”

So let me get this straight, a lock-down of a town in search for a terrorist, is just as or even more frightening than a bombing? Seriously? And Paul supporters wonder why people have a vitriolic dislike for the man! Claiming that a lock-down of a town and searching homes for a terrorist with bombs on him is just as or more frightening than the actual bombing that killed three people and mutilated over one-hundred, may be the most despicable thing we’ve ever heard Paul say. And I know why he says it; it’s because he thinks that the searches of the homes were unconstitutional and he thinks that rights were violated, but here’s the thing, they weren’t.

The 4th amendment to the constitution says in part that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” (4) The key phrase there is unreasonable searches; was the search in Watertown unreasonable? No! They had very good reason to search the town and the houses; they knew for a fact that Dzhokhar was within a certain radius and so they locked down that radius. Now the law enforcement, being knowledgeable in these kinds of things, understood that if a bomber is hiding out in a town his likely plan would be to find some place to hide.

Houses are very good places to hide, and if you can get hostages it may play to your advantage; knowing this, can Paul or anybody else still say with a straight face that these were unreasonable searches? If so, then this proves just how willing people are to disregard facts in order to try and hold to an ideology. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a strict constitutional conservative, I believe in following the constitution, what I’m saying here is that the circumstance provided a reasonable suspicion and a probable cause to search these houses.

But what about the Warrants issue? Even if this is a reasonable search, with probable cause, how is it possibly legal for the police to search these houses without Warrants? After all, the 4th amendment does finish with “…and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (4) There are two different theories in terms of the two clauses of this amendment; the first saying the two are connected, and the second saying that they are independent clauses that can be used separately (a reasonable search without a warrant). It is an interesting debate to have, but I’m not really going to go into it here; what I am going to say is that there are circumstances where a warrant is unneeded to perform a search. According to the Heritage Guide to the Constitution:

“Many circumstances exist in which law enforcement may dispense with the requirement to secure a warrant, so long as their conduct is otherwise objectively reasonable. For example, they may conduct a search when exigent circumstances demand it. Mincey v. Arizona (1978).” (5)

Because I know Ron Paul doesn’t use a dictionary, the definition of “exigent” is “requiring immediate action or aid; urgent; pressing.” (6) In other words, if a situation is urgent, pressing or requires immediate action, law enforcement can legally forgo the process of getting a warrant if their conduct is reasonable. So to Paul and friends I ask; do you really think a bomb-toting terrorist hiding out in a residential neighborhood is NOT an exigent circumstance? Of course it is! This is basic common sense; if you have a guy who has already set of a bomb in the middle of a crowd, and he is armed with a gun and even more bombs, hiding in a residential neighborhood where he can do it again…it’s a pretty urgent situation that requires immediate action!

I know Paul would have us believe that even if this was exigent, the actions of the police were not reasonable, but as explained before, Paul’s video evidence did not show anything unreasonable, nor do the accounts of people interviewed by local news, who said they understand why the police were doing what they were doing. If it is reasonable to the people involved Mr. Paul, it should be reasonable enough for you; now that this issue has been thoroughly addressed, we can move on to the rest of Paul’s article.

“What has been sadly forgotten in all the celebration of the capture of one suspect and the killing of his older brother is that the police state tactics in Boston did absolutely nothing to catch them. While the media crowed that the apprehension of the suspects was a triumph of the new surveillance state – and, predictably, many talking heads and Members of Congress called for even more government cameras pointed at the rest of us – the fact is none of this caught the suspect. Actually, it very nearly gave the suspect a chance to make a getaway.”

A couple things here; first, this was hardly a police state action given that “police state” refers to repressive government control over political, economic, and social life. (7) I’m sorry but locking down a town for a few hours while the police search for an armed and dangerous terrorist does not fall under the definition of a police state or a police state tactic. The second point he makes is that the supposed police state tactics almost gave the suspect a chance to get away. I am seriously in wonder how he could possibly think this; how is it possible for Paul to think that the lock-down of a town, where people couldn’t leave their houses without permission and the roads were blocked off, could have made it more possible for the bomber to escape. But Paul is kind enough to explain his meaning…kind of:

“The “shelter in place” command imposed by the governor of Massachusetts was lifted before the suspect was caught. Only after this police state move was ended did the owner of the boat go outside to check on his property, and in so doing discover the suspect. No, the suspect was not discovered by the paramilitary troops terrorizing the public. He was discovered by a private citizen, who then placed a call to the police.”

Let me point out that by Paul admitting that the “shelter in place” command was given by the Governor, he disqualifies his previous assertion of “a taste of martial law” being implemented (remember, martial law is from a military authority in an occupied area); not to mention Paul continues to disprove his own claim by referring to the command as “shelter in place” due to the fact that shelter in place commands are usually implemented for a short period of time and are not to be confused with martial law. But back to the point at hand; Paul claims that the “police state tactics” didn’t help because he was only found after the lock-down was lifted. This still does not explain how the lock-down almost helped him escape, and Paul really doesn’t go into detail on what he meant by his counter-intuitive claim of “almost allowing him to escape.”

Paul points out that it was a civilian who found the bomber and not “paramilitary troops terrorizing the public”; seriously Ron, paramilitary troops terrorizing the public? Haven’t you spewed enough nonsense for one article? These were state policemen and no one was being terrorized; well scratch that, the entire town was being terrorized, but it was not by the police looking for the suspect, it was by the actual terrorist who was hiding in their town! It sure takes a lot of nerve to blame the terrorism on the ones trying to catch the terrorist and not the terrorist himself; but then again, that’s what Ron Paul has always done, blame the victim.

His point about the civilian finding Tsarnaev and not the police is really actually quite pointless; Paul is asserting that since the civilian found him after the lock-down was lifted, that the lock-down had no hand in catching him. But I can just as easily assert that it did, because if it were not for the lock-down  who is to say that the homeowner would have been home at that time of night (around 6 o’clock)? And who is to say if it weren’t for the lock-down  the owner would have checked their property? I’d postulate that the reason the property was checked by its owners was because there was a lock-down and when it was lifted they wanted to make sure their property was safe. But even disregarding that, Paul’s whole claim is pointless, given that we have no idea if he would have been caught if the lock-down was never put into place.

For all we know, he could have escaped to another state if the lock-down was never instituted; then again, if the lock-down was kept in place longer, perhaps the police would have eventually found him in the boat, perhaps not. The point is, we do not know, nor can we know what effect the lock-down had in his arrest, so to claim that it didn’t help at all is not only irrational, but unnecessary; especially considering how easy it is to think about how it may have helped.

“…And he was identified not by government surveillance cameras, but by private citizens who willingly shared their photographs with the police.” Yes, and if the government had a street camera at the location, perhaps they could have used that to identify the brothers instead; this whole diatribe by Paul is quite pointless because he is assuming a government street camera wouldn’t have done the same job. But what if the public didn’t comply with the government’s request Mr. Paul? Then it would have been a lot harder to find out who these guys were; not only that, but it was the police who identified him in the pictures given to them. The only reason we really know who was responsible is because the police made the identification and then released the images back to the public. Now that’s not to say I’m arguing for government cameras on every street, I’m not; but to act as if the police are not the ones who identified him and that the identification could only be done by citizen cameras, or that civilian pictures will always be there so there is never a need for anything other than civilian cameras, is illogical.

Paul continues by quoting a journalist who talked about how it was civilian cameras that were used by the FBI, but that was already addressed in the last paragraph and does not need to be rehashed again. But Paul was not done as he had a few more things to say:

“Sadly, we have been conditioned to believe that the job of the government is to keep us safe, but in reality the job of the government is to protect our liberties. Once the government decides that its role is to keep us safe, whether economically or physically, they can only do so by taking away our liberties. That is what happened in Boston.”

It has very little to do with conditioning Mr. Paul; while I agree that the government’s main duty is to protect our liberties, they DO also have the responsibility to defend their citizens from threats, both foreign and domestic. It’s called national security, and that’s why we have a government who spends on defense, and that is why we have police, and swat teams ready to go when needed; it’s because it is their job to keep us safe and bring the bad guys to justice. I hate to break it to you Ron, but the police are a governmental organization.

“Three people were killed in Boston and that is tragic. But what of the fact that over 40 persons are killed in the United States each day, and sometimes ten persons can be killed in one city on any given weekend? These cities are not locked-down by paramilitary police riding in tanks and pointing automatic weapons at innocent citizens.”

I’d like to know whether it was paramilitary troops, or paramilitary police that were in Watertown Ron; you have claimed both, but you can’t have it both ways, but I digress. By this point Paul is just grasping at straws; yes 40 people across the U.S. are killed each day, and yes as many as 10 can be killed in a city over the weekend, but that is not even close to comparable to what happened in Boston/Watertown. The difference between the three examples is that the 40 per day and the ten per weekend statistic fail to have one essential characteristic as what happened in Boston; and that is that those situations 99 times out of 100 will not involve a terrorist armed with explosives who already set of a bomb in the middle of a crowd. There is no comparison between Tsarnaev and your average murdering thug off the street. The reason all these other cities or towns don’t lock-down with this amount of attention is because the vast majority of the other killers are not armed with weapons that can cause mass destruction in that city; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did.

Paul finishes his article by proclaiming: “This is unprecedented and is very dangerous. We must educate ourselves and others about our precious civil liberties to ensure that we never accept demands that we give up our Constitution so that the government can pretend to protect us.”

I will agree with you on one thing Mr. Paul; as a nation we do need to be educated and guarded about our civil liberties and Constitution, but that’s about it. You know what else is unprecedented and very dangerous? Alien invasions, Vampire attacks, and the Zombie Apocalypse; but those things have never happened and neither did most of the things Paul claimed happened in Watertown. All his article proved was that Paul is trying to continue is career through fear mongering and demagoguing in order to make people think like him; and in reality all he has really done is disrespect the victims of the Boston bombing, and all the brave law enforcers who helped bring Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to justice.

Sources:

1.      Ron Paul, LewRockwell.com: http://lewrockwell.com/paul/paul858.html

 2.      Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Martial Law: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/martial%20law

 3.      Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Military Occupation: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/military%20occupation

 4.      U.S. Constitution, 4th amendment: http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment

 5.      The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p324

 6.      Dictionary.com, Exigent:  http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/exigent

 7.      Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Police State: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/police%20state

 

 

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