On Native Ground
FEELING SAFER YET?
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- According to President Bush, "the only path to safety is the path of action."
To insure that the U.S. is safe, the president told the graduating cadets at West Point on June 1 that "we must take the battle to the enemy, and confront the worst threats before they emerge" by going after the "terror cells in 60 or more countries."
In other words, President Bush is declaring war on about half the nations of the world. The U.S. will strike wherever it needs to stop a repeat of the Sept. 11 attacks.
One of those countries probably won't be Pakistan, America's new pals in the "war on terror." The U.S. seems to prefer backing the terrorism-sponsoring military dictatorship of General Musharraf rather than the world's largest democracy, India, in that little dispute over Kashmir that has India and Pakistan poised to go to war with each other.
If India and Pakistan decide to use their nuclear arsenals in this fight, it's estimated that 12 million people would die within the first hour. Up to seven million more would be maimed and millions more would die from starvation and disease.
Feeling safer yet?
Maybe you want to place your fate with the new and improved Department of Homeland Security. While consolidating agencies such as the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency under one roof sounds like a good idea, do you truly believe that this can be done - as President Bush has promised - without spending any new money or hiring additional personnel?
Additionally, do you believe that simply consolidating agencies without reforming them would lead to more efficiency? It sounds like a recipe for more inefficiency, more redundancy and more problems. But few are questioning this proposal so far, just as few have questioned the supposed "reorganization" of the FBI.
After the abuses in the 1960s and 1970s of COINTELPRO - when the FBI infiltrated, disrupted, harassed and generally interfered with the lawful activities of civil rights and anti-war groups - guidelines were imposed by Congress to prevent agents from trolling for information unless there was a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity. These guidelines were mostly honored by the FBI, although there was some backsliding in the 1980s when groups that opposed President Reagan's policies in Central America found themselves spied on.
Without consulting Congress, Attorney General John Ashcroft now has thrown out this policy. Now the FBI (and the CIA, which had been barred from spying on American citizens) have the power to spy on Americans without restriction. Agents no longer need evidence of illegal activity to show up at a church, a library, a political meeting or your front door - not to mention monitoring your telephone and Internet usage.
And heaven help you if you aren't a citizen. More than a thousand Middle Eastern and Muslim individuals have been imprisoned without charges, without evidence and without legal counsel since Sept. 11. Thousands more have been questioned. If you look vaguely Arabic, you are under suspicion.
In the nine months since the Sept. 11 attacks, this is what we have
Contrary to what the President believes, new federal agencies, repressive new laws and more military campaigns will not insure the safety of the United States. New thinking is desperately needed.
I think of the words of Indian author Arundhati Roy. She wrote a recent column in the London Observer on watching her nation dance on the knife edge of nuclear holocaust. Her words can be equally applied to the absurdity of the president's endless "war on terror."
"Terrorists have the power to trigger a nuclear war. Non-violence is treated with contempt. Displacement, dispossession, starvation, poverty, disease - these are all just funny comic strip items now. Meanwhile, emissaries of the coalition against terror come and go preaching restraint...
"The last question every visiting journalist always asks me: 'Are you writing another book?' That question mocks me. Another book? Right now when it looks like all the music, the art, the architecture, the literature, the whole of human civilization means nothing to the monsters who run the world. What kind of book should I write? For now, just for now, for just a while pointlessness is my enemy. That's what nuclear bombs do, whether they're used or not. They violate everything that is humane, they alter the meaning of life.
"Why do we tolerate them? Why do we tolerate the men who use nuclear weapons to blackmail the entire human race?"
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).