Sixteen years ago today, the United States was attacked. On the day of the attack, 2,996 Americans lost their lives. The 9/11 attacks will never be forgotten, but they must also never be propagandized by the government. Ron Paul alluded to how that might happen in his official statement released on September 12, 2001:
Yesterday, Americans were awakened to find ourselves in a war, attacked by barbarians who targeted innocent civilians. This despicable act reveals how deep-seated is the hatred that has driven this war.
Though many Americans have just become aware of how deeply we are involved in this war, it has been going on for decades. We are obviously seen by the terrorists as an enemy.
In war there is no more reprehensible act than for combatants to slaughter innocent civilian bystanders. This is what happened yesterday.
If there is such a thing, a moral war is one that is only pursued in self-defense. Those who initiate aggression against others for the purpose of occupation or merely to invoke death and destruction are unforgivable and serve only to spread wanton killing.
In our grief, we must remember our responsibilities. The Congress’ foremost obligation in a constitutional republic is to preserve freedom and provide for national security. Yesterday our efforts to protect our homeland came up short. Our policies that led to that shortcoming must be reevaluated and changed if found to be deficient.
When we retaliate for this horror we have suffered, we must be certain that only the guilty be punished. More killing of innocent civilians will only serve to flame the fires of war and further jeopardize our security. Congress should consider its constitutional authority to grant letters of marque and reprisal to meet our responsibility.
Demanding domestic security in times of war invites carelessness in preserving civil liberties and the right of privacy. Frequently the people are only too anxious for their freedoms to be sacrificed on the altar of authoritarianism thought to be necessary to remain safe and secure. Nothing would please the terrorists more than if we willingly give up some of our cherished liberties while defending ourselves from their threat.
It is our job to wisely choose our policies and work hard to understand the root causes of the war in which we find ourselves.
We must all pray for peace and ask for God’s guidance for our President, our congressional leaders, and all America- and for the wisdom and determination required to resolve this devastating crisis.
Less than 24 hours had passed and Ron Paul already saw the opportunity for government power to grow in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. His statement outlines the limits for retaliation that avoid further civilian casualties and wanton destruction. Letters of marque are Congressional authorizations that allow private contractors to fulfill military duties.
If they had been granted, such letters would have allowed a private contractor to pursue a bounty on Osama Bin Laden’s head instead of having the United States military invade Afghanistan. After 16 years of occupation, such an option grows more appealing in hindsight.
Paul also condemned the increases in government surveillance that he foresaw would violate the rights of American citizens. While no one could have foreseen what would follow 9/11, he identified, in a clear-eyed fashion, the likely consequences of a push to fight terrorism by abridging civil liberties.
(Photo of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) speaking during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)