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Feehery: The Ides of March remind us to take risks for liberty

A "Face Masks Required" sign in pink, left, is seen as a person in a black puffer coat walks into a store
A sign announcing that face masks be worn is displayed at a hospital in Buffalo Grove, Ill., Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Ides of March indeed. 

Twenty years ago, President Bush invaded Iraq. Three years ago, President Trump shut down America to slow the spread of COVID-19 and bend the curve.  

Both decisions cost countless lives and endless treasure, and undermined the faith that Americans have in their democracy.  

Both decisions were made by Republican presidents who placed their trust in a bureaucracy that betrayed them.  

Both the war on COVID-19 and the war on terror had seemingly justifiable starts. Two weeks to slow the spread sounded reasonable enough, didn’t it? And who didn’t want to punish Saddam Hussein? 

 For the war on terror, it wasn’t just about finding Osama bin Laden. Indeed, he became the least of our worries. First, we had to get rid of the Taliban, and then, while we were at it, why wouldn’t we replace Saddam Hussein? We believed he had weapons of mass destruction. It was a slam dunk. 

America got rid of polio and smallpox. Instead of managing COVID-19, shouldn’t we just eliminate it? We are a can-do people. And we have experts who are really good at making vaccines (although there still isn’t an AIDS vaccine). Instead of focusing on life-saving treatments, we shifted our focus and our resources to creating a vaccine that would get us to zero-COVID.  

But in the meantime, because it takes time to make vaccines, we had to mitigate. And to mitigate, we had to do things that we have never done before in our national history. We closed schools, we closed businesses, we forced people to isolate at home. This had never been tried before. But it wasn’t just two weeks to slow the curve. It was months and months of stopping people from living their lives.  

And it was a complete disaster. 

But we largely complied. We sacrificed our freedom.  

We fought the war on COVID-19 to eliminate all possibilities that somebody somewhere would get sick, like we fought in Iraq, so that terrorists would never get access to weapons of mass destruction. And the media, because it was good for clicks, seemed to play up every instance where somebody did die from COVID-19, focusing mostly on people who would scare the populace the most.  

Nothing pleases a bureaucrat more than the ability to expand his/her bureaucracy. And nothing gives you more of an opportunity to get a bigger budget than a crisis. Never let a crisis go to waste, the Washington saying goes. And the endless wars that ensued from the war on terror proved to be very lucrative for the national security apparatus. Just look at the wealth generated in Washington’s suburbs.  

Not to be outdone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) apparently saw the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity expand its budget and its power. The CDC director, early on during the shutdown, called for a massive influx of new employees to help with the “contact-tracing.” But contact-tracing never had a real chance. You can’t chase down a virus that has infected half the country. It’s ridiculous. And this was just the tip of the spear; the former president gave the CDC the authority to stop landlords from kicking out renters who did not to pay their rent. Can you imagine?  

 Both the security state and the health care state used the power of the media to create panic porn. Well-placed stories that keep the American people on edge about the terrorists on one hand and the demon-virus on the other serve the purpose of keeping the government in the driver’s seat.  

History shows that when the American people have a choice to pick either their personal safety or their personal freedom, that they will pick safety every time.  

Do terrorists pose some risk to the average American? Sure, just as COVID-19 does to the general populace. Is it worth totally sacrificing our freedom and trampling our Constitution to keep safe from that limited risk? I, for one, don’t think so. 

The Ides of March should be a reminder for all Americans that to keep their republic, they must be willing to take risks for freedom. 

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at He served as spokesman to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).  

Tags Bush Iraq War Osama bin Laden Saddam Hussein Vaccine mandates

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