Differing Views of Freedom on The Left and Right

Liberals have one thing in common with tea baggers and other people on the right. We all talk about supporting liberty. What differs is what we mean by freedom. While liberals fight to restrict infringements upon liberty by the government many on the right are unable to distinguish between legitimate functions of government and infringements upon civil liberties. Conor Friedersdorf points out some examples, discussing with a case in which the Bush administration allegedly covered up the 2006 murders of three Guantanamo Bay detainees:

Beyond the fact that laws were broken and lives extinguished, the Gitmo Three may provide additional proof that the United States perpetrated extreme abuses of power in recent memory—a painful fact that we must acknowledge if we’re to prevent its recurrence.

And yet conservatives are so far content to ignore the story.

If I may address the skeptics on the right directly, it is penny wise and pound foolish to worry about creeping tyranny via government-run health care or gun control when we’re another terrorist attack away from popular support for an archipelago of secret prisons where anyone can be whisked away and tortured without any evidence against them. Look to Europe if you doubt whether government-run health care or black sites run by secret police are a more immediate threat to the liberty of innocents.

Do you think that I exaggerate?

Know that one of the Gitmo Three was arrested at age 17, held for some years without being charged, and scheduled for release at the time of his death due to the military’s conclusion that no evidence linked him to al Qaeda or the Taliban. We may never know exactly how he and his fellow detainees died: A conclusive, independent autopsy is impossible because their bodies were returned to their families with their throats missing.

Many (but fortunately not all) conservatives overlook such abuses, along with other infringements upon civil liberties which they see as part of the “war on terror.” They ignore such abuses while they distort measures to reform abuses by the insurance industry and provide private health insurance to those who cannot now obtain it as a government take over of health care. They speak of imaginary conspiracies to take away their guns and bibles while ignoring the infringements upon civil liberties which are actually occurring.

When Megan McArdle discussed this case she even felt it necessary to respond to the inevitable complaints of a “liberal sellout” which she anticipated from her conservative readers:

My conservative readers are no doubt winding up to tell me I’m a liberal sellout.  But I don’t think it’s particularly bleeding heart to think that we shouldn’t have to fake suicides to cover up for abusing prisoners.  In fact, I think that’s the stance of a hard core believer in law and order.

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