Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community
We Can't Do It Without You!  
     
Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives
   
 
   Featured Views  
 

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article
 
 
Politics of Fear
Published on Monday, December 30, 2002 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Politics of Fear
by Ruth Rosen
 

THESE ARE scary times. Al Qaeda terrorists prepare to attack American civilians. A desperate and paranoid North Korea builds an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

And how does our government respond? The Bush administration declares an urgent need to invade Iraq.

Why Iraq? Because Saddam Hussein may have weapons of destruction, which he might use against some unspecified enemy some time in the future. Since we aren't all that sure, we must wage a pre-emptive war against a nation that, just by coincidence, happens to sit on the world's second-largest reserve of oil.

Follow that? If not, you're not alone.

The domestic scene is just as surreal. Rank opportunism rules. In the name of preventing terrorism, the Bush administration has employed a politics of fear to create the most extensive national security apparatus in our nation's history.

Military tribunals. Mandatory registration. Mass detentions. Electronic surveillance. Government secrecy. Executive privilege. Office of Total Awareness. Perpetual war.

Folks, this is the stuff of such dystopian novels as Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" or George Orwell's "1984." As a historian, I hear echoes of voices from the past -- survivors of Nazi-occupied nations, dissidents who disappeared in Soviet prisons, Japanese Americans ordered to internment camps, political activists persecuted under McCarthyism.

No, none of these historical analogies is appropriate -- yet. But we civilians have just as much responsibility to protect our liberties as do combat soldiers. And right now, we are governed by an administration that wields far too much power -- simply because it can.

Fifteen months ago, we discovered that two immense oceans can't protect us from attacks on our own soil. Afterward, a traumatized people wanted to trust their president. But our leaders have taken advantage of our fear. The Bush administration has planted the seeds of a security state that can, without judicial oversight, congressional opposition, and popular resistance, grow into a repressive government.

I'm hardly alone in fearing our government's excessive usurpation of power. Nearly two dozen cities and towns have passed resolutions declaring their determination to refuse federal requests that violate citizens' civil rights or liberties.

Also worried is the American Civil Liberties Union, which recently launched a multimillion-dollar national advertising campaign called "Keep American Safe and Free." Television spots feature a close-up of a hand cutting up and rewriting the U.S. Constitution. A voice-over charges Attorney General John Ashcroft with violating our right to free speech and our guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.

"The Bush administration," says ACLU national spokeswoman Emily Whitfield, "has presented Americans with a false dichotomy that we must choose between being safe or free." The ACLU is even asking Americans to write Ashcroft to express our defiant willingness to defend American civil rights and liberties.

Hussein, a brutal and bullying dictator, is not the person who most directly threatens our democracy. Al Qaeda terrorists and North Korean leaders pose a far more dangerous threat to our nation.

Threats to democracy, however, are not always external. They sometimes burrow from within. Keep your eye on those members of the Bush administration who can't wait to dismantle big government services and regulations but seem way too eager to expand the state's power to curtail our civil rights and liberties.

For more information, visit www.aclu.org/safeandfree

©2002 San Francisco Chronicle

###

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article
 
     
 
 

CommonDreams.org
Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.
Independent, non-profit newscenter since 1997.

Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives

To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.