“They hate us because we’re free,” said the American President in the wake of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 human beings on September 11, 2001.
The “haters” despised us specifically for our open society, tolerance, and enlightened ways — at least that’s what our political leaders told us… and then they proceeded to dismantle our civil liberties, replacing due process, the Bill of Rights, and habeas corpus with black sites, torture, indefinite detention, and military tribunals for mere suspects (including American citizens), the vast majority of whom have turned out to be innocent… not that we’ve allowed them a shred of legal recourse.
(And it was actually seven months prior to 9/11 that the Bush administration began violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, illegally collecting 100% of Americans’ electronic communications, local and otherwise — despite the government’s claims, years later, once the program was revealed, that they were only spying on outside communications, an assertion that was revealed to be 100% false.)
So much for the “open society…”
The politicians also ended tolerance in America, conflating one faith, Islam, with terrorism, despite the fact that, per the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok, the primary domestic threat emanates from groups on the radical right filled with “anti-government” ideology (whatever that means) and plain old racism.
The Bush administration singled out Muslims in America, immediately detaining over 5,000 without justification, while dismissing home-grown terrorism and shielding Latin American terrorists (the CIA’s partners for decades) from the law. Research the name “Luis Posada-Carriles” for Exhibit A; he is the CIA asset who committed the first act of terrorism in the Western hemisphere involving a commercial airliner.
The Bush administration also began committing acts of terrorism and genocide in the world, with renewed fervor and unprecedented brazenness. Somewhere between 150,000 and over a million Iraqis have died as a result of Bush’s war.
The result of all this warmongering and opportunistic demagoguery: Today, many American communities, like dozens of fascist populations in history, have come to see ALL members of one demographic group as evil and particularly prone to terrorism. In the 21st Century, many Americans object to the presence of a mosque in their midst, not to mention an Islamic community center, advocating interfaith outreach, just a few blocks distant from Ground Zero.
So much for “tolerance…”
Incidentally, after the Bush administration finally dropped its opposition to its creation, the 9/11 Commission told us that the politicians had it all wrong: al-Qaeda had attacked us because of our support for Middle Eastern dictators and our backing for state terrorism, especially that perpetrated by Israel against its far weaker neighbors (the most militant factions of which have consistently sought peace).
Ten years later, with George W. Bush retired and Barack Obama in the White House, America has only achieved CONTINUITY and DESPAIR (so much for “Hope” and “Change”).
Regarding government secrecy, torture, official immunity, and the assault on civil liberties, President Obama has been the champion of war criminals like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, and Yoo, cementing their policies and expanding on them (it is now considered “legal” for the president to assassinate an American citizen, without a whisper of due process, far from any battlefield, for purely political reasons).
The worst of it all is that none of these policies has made America the least bit safer. Even with Osama bin Laden out of the picture, his strategy has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. America has responded to terrorism with terrorism… and genocide (see Iraq). America has answered 9/11 with a dramatic departure from our legal, cultural, and moral traditions. America now routinely applies the methods we once associated chiefly with dictators and fascists… and their methods DO NOT WORK.
- Torturing innocents and hiding detainees from the Red Cross (under Bush and Obama) has not made us any safer.
- Removing the judicial system and Congress from the global policing activities of the Executive Branch (under Bush and Obama) has not made us any safer.
- Using claims of Executive privilege and secrecy to hide government crimes and blunders from the citizenry while vilifying and persecuting journalists and whistleblowers (under Bush and Obama) has not made us any safer.
George W. Bush told us that America had to trade liberty for security, and tragically (and completely unnecessarily) Barack Obama has taken that message to heart.
What once seemed like dreadful and appalling aberrations from our core identity as a nation — torture, 100% surveillance of the populace, criminalization of unpopular speech/faith/association, and global, boundless war — have now become the new normal.
Pre-9/11 America is no more. We now apply brutal and previously unthinkable methods, historically associated with Nazis and despots, as routinely and ubiquitously as any such regime before us — despite the fact that none of them are truly efficacious; the frequency of terrorist acts and the fortunes of terrorist actors (theirs and ours) have ballooned all out of proportion.
We’ve stepped right into bin Laden’s trap and delivered a greater victory to al-Qaeda than he and Mr. Zawahiri had ever dreamed possible.
So much for “enlightenment…”