January 22, 2006
What Would Jack Bauer Do?
By Pat Buchanan
Palmer had saved Jack Bauer's life.
"military option" against Iran is the talk of the town.
wanted agent Bauer extradited to execute him for the killing of
their Los Angeles consul, gunned down in a crossfire between Chinese
security and Bauer's Counter-Terrorism Unit team that had penetrated
the consulate on an espionage mission.
out of office, conspired in a CTU scheme where Jack would appear
dead, to the satisfaction of the duped Chinese, and be sent to
Mexico with a fake identity.
year's series of Fox's "24" opened Sunday, President Palmer is
shot through an office window and assassinated. Word reaches Bauer,
working in the California oil patch.
at the death of the president he loved, for whom he had often
risked his life, Jack returns. He is intercepted and almost killed
by the team that murdered Palmer. Wounding the leader of the terrorists,
Bauer interrogates him, warning the bleeding man he will die unless
Bauer helps him get to a hospital. The terrorist talks.
spills all his information, Bauer starts to walk away. The terrorist
demands to be taken to the hospital.
the one who shot President Palmer? Bauer asks. Yes, replies the
wounded terrorist, in agony on the floor. Bauer stares at him
for two seconds -- then shoots him.
It is a Jack
Bauer moment, and all addicted to "24" knew what would happen
to that assassin. For Bauer is a take-no-prisoners patriot who
puts love of country and loyalty to friends first, and fights
by his own rules. To Jack Bauer, the only good terrorist is a
the appeal of "24"?
It is the
fastest-paced, most exciting TV out there. But at bottom, the
appeal is that, as in the Westerns of old and "Dirty Harry" movies
of the 1970s, Jack Bauer is a flawed but good man in a struggle
against evil, who is there to see that his loved ones are secure
and justice is done. To Jack Bauer, as to Clint Eastwood's Detective
"Dirty Harry" Callahan, vigilante justice is not only preferable
to no justice at all, it is the best kind. Evil men should get
what they deserve, without legal complications.
the innate demand in all of us that, the law aside, evil should
be punished and justice done.
audience for "24" is so loyal and large should tell us something
about America and our divisions over the war we are in.
Democrats and their media allies have been on Bush's case for
using the National Security Agency to intercept, without warrant,
phone calls and e-mails to terror suspects abroad. Before that,
Bush was charged with using secret detention centers in Eastern
Europe to interrogate suspects. Before that, the military was
accused of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Afghanistan.
Before that, the Justice Department was charged with violating
the civil rights of Jose Padilla and the Shoe-bomber.
stands accused of violating the Geneva Convention on treatment
of prisoners of war, ignoring constitutional protections of U.S.
citizens, and violating international agreements prohibiting torture
and the "rendition" of prisoners to countries where torture is
the American people stand?
may be right on the law, but the people seem to be standing by
Bush. Believing the character of this war, where the enemy's preferred
tactic is to slaughter civilians with terror bombings, people
seem to agree that we have to follow Jack Bauer's rules, not ACLU
Yet one senses
that Americans are conflicted. We want to think of ourselves as
decent people who fight wars honorably. But we believe the enemies
of 9-11 are so evil, so depraved, they forfeit the right to be
treated honorably. And while we believe in constitutional rights,
human rights, civil rights, Miranda warnings and all that, we
also believe in winning our wars. For without victory in the war
on terror, freedom may not survive.
alone justifies war," said Von Moltke, as Germany prepared to
violate Belgium's neutrality to outflank France in 1914. Americans
appear to believe that, too.
Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and blockaded Southern ports,
without congressional authorization. President Wilson locked up
Eugene V. Debs in World War I and never let him out. FDR interned
110,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans in relocation camps, in
a wartime act of racial profiling approved by the Supreme Court.
Truman dropped atom bombs on defenseless cities, killing 100,000
women and children. Yet all are judged by liberal historians to
be great or near-great presidents.
Bauer does not exist, and "24" is made-for-TV escapist entertainment.
As we cheer or laugh out loud at his daring exploits, however,
one wonders what liberal Democrats of the ACLU variety would do
to a real-life Jack Bauer?
Put him in Leavenworth for life. But President Palmer knew his
value, because President Palmer knew the real world.
2006 Creators Syndicate