"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana
British writer Robert Harris wrote a fascinating op-ed piece that appears in today's New York Times.
It seems that in 68 BC a terrorist group -- they called them pirates back then -- attacked the Roman port of Ostia. (Remember that Rome was the superpower in those days.) They set it on fire, destroyed the fleet, and kidnapped two Roman senators.
Panic ensued, not unlike on September 11, except that the Romans didn't get to watch it on television. And in that panic, Harris writes:
[T]he Roman people made decisions that set them on the path to the destruction of their Constitution, their democracy and their liberty.They adopted what came to be known as the Lex Gabinia, under which, according to Plutarch, "Pompey was to be given not only the supreme naval command but what amounted in fact to an absolute authority and uncontrolled power over everyone."
Harris goes on to observe:
Those of us who are not Americans can only look on in wonder at the similar ease with which the ancient rights and liberties of the individual are being surrendered in the United States in the wake of 9/11.I've just hit the high points here. Go read the article. It's worth the hassle of free registration on The Times site.