When this nation finds itself between two paths, republic or empire, we are slowly realizing that we have no moral compass to find our way home. Our nation, once a proud representative republic, has had leaders from all walks of life, from all of our major political parties, that have surfaced to guide America and protect her from the excesses that ambition and power can bring to a proud nation. We have managed to tread the waters of uncertainty and fear through threatening times; wars, economic instability, ambitious politicians and even foreign ideologies that have stood in opposition against the principles of what we stand for. Sometimes the road has been difficult and we have made many mistakes as a nation.
There have been times when we as a people have seemingly lost our way, succumbing to excess and greed. We have interfered with other nation’s right of self-determination when it was in our own interests to do so. We destroyed an entire culture that once lived in America, destroying their civilization. We have fought wars that were imperialistic in nature, only to realize later that this nation had no right to impose our will and beliefs on people in other lands that we barely understood. We have made many mistakes as we have traveled on our historical journey, and these mistakes have been recognized and debated in this open society that we have developed over the years since we declared our right to be independent and free.
Sometimes when we seemingly lost our way, it was a long time before we could admit that the path we chose was the wrong path. This is one of the most important facets of our culture. We as a people have been able to admit and understand when we have acted outside of our own moral values. We as a civilization have held this nation to a higher moral standard. This moral standard is embedded in our values and our culture. This morality has a document that illustrates our purpose; The Declaration of Independence, our moral code comes from our Constitution. When faced with enormous responsibility of guiding such a preeminent economic and military power in the world, this nation has always returned to the Constitution as a tool to guide us, not only in legal issues, but in moral issues when the road ahead seems to be unfathomable.
At this point in time, America seems to be lost. We engage in “faith-based principles” instead of the rule of law. No longer are the principles and the law, as stated in our constitution, being followed. We use torture, we are engaged in a war of aggression against a sovereign nation long after our goal in that war, in this case regime change, have been met. We have a government that openly defies our own laws as set forth in our constitution and we are spying on our own people without due process. We have heard charges that some of our elected representatives in Congress and that people in our State Department have been selling nuclear technology to the highest bidder. Sibel Edmonds, a former Turkish and Farsi interpreter employed by our government, has testified to Congress about these matters, and in return she was placed under a gag order and our own press has refused to cover the story. The story had to break in The London Times because our own press decided to censure itself. Our nation’s media seems disinterested in nuclear proliferation for profit, yet we threaten war with Iran for building nuclear reactors for energy as if this was the greatest threat mankind faces.
We are faced with a “thought crimes prevention bill” S-1959 that states the purpose of this Act:
'(1) Examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States, including United States connections to non-United States persons and networks, violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in prison, individual or 'lone wolf' violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence, and other faces of the phenomena of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence that the Commission considers important.
Is this an ambiguous purpose for this Act or am I being overly suspect? Who will make up this Commission and who will be found to promote “violent radicalization” because of their views? This law is very similar to the “Enabling Laws” that were introduced in Germany during the period of the Third Reich. This piece of legislation is much too open to interpretation and has no place in America. We already have laws pertaining to every conceivable act of violence; we don’t need a law to protect society from the people that might offer up radical solutions to major problems. Our own nation was founded by individuals that had leanings that at that time were believed to be “radical”. We have learned by our own lessons in history that the “radical” thoughts and actions of today may conceivably be thought the “voice of reason” tomorrow.
We are engaged in a presidential election that is beset by troubling facts about the way our elections are run. There are many states that use electronic voting that is susceptible to voting fraud by manipulating the way results of the vote can be fixed, with no paper trail to verify the true results. This has been an issue that many in Congress along with many journalists have decried as totally unacceptable. This is an issue that has many people in our country wondering if their vote will be counted. We have seen numerous cases of lost ballots, votes that don’t agree with the exit polling and other voting irregularities that are totally unconscionable in this day and age. Once the electorate feels that their vote may be meaningless, their faith in representative government is gone. This is an issue that must be swiftly and decidedly dealt with, even if it means that election results must be delayed until all votes are hand counted with a verification process that is inscrutable. The fact is that anything less could cause the results of an election to be unverifiable and could be the catalyst for a total breakdown in voter confidence that in some countries has led to revolution.
Our nation is facing a crisis in our political spectrum that is unprecedented. We have evolved a system of corporate influence in Washington that is unparalleled. Campaign finance reform has failed miserably and most candidates for federal office are indebted to corporate donations and money from lobbyists and special interest groups. We have become a nation that is represented not by its people, but by large moneyed interests. This has always been true to some degree since the “robber baron” days of old, but we have never reached the point where we are today. The difference between the two major political parties is negligible, with both parties taking campaign donations from the same corporate benefactors. This Presidential campaign is one that has “change” as its centerpiece. Is it unkind to ask how can there be change when the same entities influence both political parties? Who will be the benefactor of these corporate donations? Commonsense tells us that the people that have provided the funds for the campaign will reap the benefits of that support … so much for talk of change.
We are engaged in a war in Iraq that is costing us $970,000,000 a day. Our trade deficit is roughly $800 Billion dollars. Out national debt is above 9 Trillion dollars and it increases by $1.43 billion per day. Meanwhile the candidates mention that the sub-prime mortgages and bad investments are to blame for our economic problems. They don’t mention that we spend almost a trillion dollars a year on a protracted war in Iraq, money that we must borrow from China and Japan. We spend 51% of our discretionary budget on our military. No nation on the globe spends more than 6%. Maybe this could be a reason our economy is faltering?
America is fighting a global war on terrorism. Rephrasing that war and calling it a global war on terrorists might actually mean that we could succeed to some degree. Fighting “terror-ism” will be an ongoing process that has no end. This is akin to religious groups that battle sin, a lofty goal, but surely unattainable as long a sin exists. This war on terrorism has already taken among its first victims the writ of habeas corpus, the right to know what you are being charged with and the right to defend yourself of these charges in a jury of your peers in a swift and speedy trail. Today we have people who have not been charged with any crime that have been imprisoned in Guantanamo for years while our government decides their fate.
There exists in this nation a laundry list of various laws and directives that impede on civil liberties that otherwise sober and well-meaning people in ordinary times would never have considered. We have The Patriot Act that allows for searches of a persons premises without their knowledge if they are “suspected” of being a terrorist,, The Military Commissions Act which I talked about in the paragraph above that removes the writ of habeas corpus, The Warner Defense Bill (The revamped Insurrection Act) which does away with Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, and allows federalized National Guard Units (State Militias) to be used by the Federal Government for law enforcement over the objections of the Governors of the States in direct violation of the principles set forth in our Constitution, Presidential Directive 51 that gives the President authority over all three branches of government in the event of a “national emergency” declared by the president and now “The Homegrown Radicalization and Terrorist Act” that may be interpreted in a very broad sense to mean that if someone inspires another person to commit a violent act by their writing or speech they can be held accountable for another persons actions even though they may have never met that person.
This nation has subjected untold people to a process called “extraordinary rendition” in which an individual suspected of being a terrorist can be physically taken and put on an aircraft to be flown to a nation that uses torture to obtain information. Recently a Canadian citizen of Arab descent was taken from JFK Airport and flown to a third country, in this case Syria, to be beaten and held in a cage for months without his family being notified. He was released and it was labeled a case of “mistaken identity” without a formal apology from the United States. Maher Arar, the central figure in this case brought a lawsuit against the American Government. Our Federal Court system predictably sided with the government and Mr. Arar’s case was found to be without merit because the victim in this case was not an American citizen. This speaks volumes to those citizens of other nations that have plans to visit this country. This also speaks to all that are listening and those that are watching the decline of liberty in America when a foreign national can be kidnapped by American authorities and tortured under what some law experts claim as a “Presidential Fiat”.
This era in America’s history has seen other abuses. The Abu Graib prison scandal that took place in Iraq disclosed the use of torture and acts of humiliation against combatants and suspected insurgents. The military convicted lower enlisted members of the Army of crimes while not indicting the people (senior enlisted people and officers) that had the responsibility of overseeing the administration of the prison, in this case, the rights of not only the prisoners were beached, but the rights of our soldiers that were mismanaged by their superiors were also.
What direction is this nation heading? Why have we seen fit to abridge the most elemental aspects of civil liberties in this country? Why is this war so dangerous that we must put aside the most basic tenants of our republic? Is this nation under a threat so grievous and of such a magnitude that we must sacrifice our liberty for an illusion of security? These are questions that all of the candidates running for president should be asking. Is their silence on these subjects tacit approval to continue on the path that we appear to have chosen for our nation?
The only candidates that are left in this presidential race that question the wisdom and practices of this administration are Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Mike Gravel and Rep. Ron Paul. All of the other candidates have turned a blind eye to the miserable allegations of human rights abuses and the misuse of power that this administration has been part and parcel of. The most disturbing element of this entire sordid picture is that the American people themselves are not asking the questions that need to be asked. We seem to have surrendered our civil liberties and consciously avoided talking about the very issues that affect our moral leadership in the world. Is our media deciding to ignore these abuses of power and the loss of certain liberties because of fear of reprisal, or is it just not important enough to examine? Where is the voice of reason? Why aren’t Americans demanding answers from the people that seek the highest office in this land?
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