On Native Ground
9/11 PLUS SEVEN YEARS: MOURNING OUR LOST LIBERTIES
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
September 12, 2008
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- We've been told this time and time again by the Bush Administration since the terror attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001 that the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution are luxuries we can no longer afford and that we must learn to live without.
The words of Benjamin Franklin from more than two centuries ago apply here: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Seven years after 9/11, it seems perfectly normal that our public spaces are now filled with security personnel. It seems perfectly normal to be searched and frisked and poked and prodded to get on an airplane. It seems perfectly normal that access to previously public information is curtailed and hidden from view. It seems perfectly normal to conduct warrantless searches and wiretaps, to torture detainees, to imprison people indefinitely without charge.
But it's not normal. It is the destruction of the civil liberties that our forefathers fought and died to obtain and preserve over the past two centuries of the American experiment.
Our freedoms did not make us vulnerable to terrorism on 9/11. The suspension of our civil liberties do not protect us from foreign terrorists. Instead, it makes us more vulnerable to abuses by our own government.
But protecting the nation has always been secondary to the Bush Administration's larger purpose of sowing fear and confusion among the citizenry. Keep the public afraid of the evil that lurks beyond our borders, and you can manipulate that fear to keep yourself in power while portraying anyone who questions you as disloyal and un-American.
This, in a nutshell, has been the last seven years in America.
All the empty promises have been unfulfilled. Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, still taunts us. Al-Qaida has cells all over the world. The invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban was left undone to instead invade a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 - Iraq.
Now, U.S. forces are enmeshed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Because of the U.S. war of choice in Iraq, the Taliban was able to regroup and reassert itself in Afghanistan. Instead of one war, we have two conflicts that might not ever be truly won.
Our nation's standing in the world has diminished with every day since 9/11. The one brief moment when we had virtually the whole world in our corner, immediately after the attacks, was squandered to pursue a dream of total global dominance by the United States. It will take generations to rebuild the lost credibility of the United States, particularly in the Arab world.
But the Bush Administration and its supporters are steadfast in their belief that our nation did the right thing. But we have neither liberty or safety anymore.
The list of abuses of power by the Administration are long, and nothing, not even 9/11, justifies them. Will our nation ever return to the way it was before that terrible day? It depends on how soon we wake up and see that we have been manipulated by our leaders for nothing more than political gain.
That is why on this day, we not only mourn those who died in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania, we also mourn our lost freedoms and resolve to reclaim our democracy from the grasping hands of those who want to take it away.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for nearly 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.