Robert Johnson, an American citizen, Naomi Wolf reports in her book "The End of America"( Chelsea Green), described the humiliation factor of being strip searched when he attempted to board an airplane: "I had to take off my pants. I had to take off my sneakers, then I had to take off my socks. I was treated like a criminal." This has now become a commonplace ordeal for countless numbers of Americans. Even at the height of World War Two, such invasions of personal rights would have been unthinkable.
Fear of government, unlike anything I have ever known in my lifetime, appears widespread. How do I know people are fearful? Because many readers call me "courageous" (which I definitely am not) for challenging the government, revealing that they truly do fear to speak out.
David Cole, a professor at Georgetown Law School, writes in The Nation that Congress last May reauthorized provisions of the misnamed "Patriot Act" that "permit the government to obtain 'roving' wiretaps without identifying the person or the phone to be tapped, (to)demand records from libraries and businesses without establishing any reason to believe the target is involved in criminal, much less terrorist, activity; and (to)use surveillance powers initially restricted to agents of foreign governments or terrorist organizations against 'lone wolves' not affiliated with any such group or government." This is an echo of the ECHELON system the U.S. and its British Commonwealth allies have employed since World War Two to eavesdrop on the entire planet, track dissenters, and steal business secrets.
Cole also writes Attorney General Eric Holder will now allow FBI agents "to rummage through citizens' trash, conduct searches of computer databases and repeatedly use surveillance squads to track people without any suspicion of individual wrongdoing or court approval." (Just like the body searches at the bus terminal.) The absence of court approval is significant in that a court is the only legal bulwark a citizen has against unbridled police power. And now that's gone. The peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered far worse at the hands of American-led military.
The fact is, when the Empire goes to war, the life of its individual citizen is devalued and degraded---not only on the battlefield, where it is often sacrificed for all the wrong reasons, but at home as well. It's happening here. The right to form unions freely is scrapped in defiance of the vast majority of workers who want one. The public treasury is looted by Congress to bail out the bankers over the 100-to-one protests of constituents. Foreign wars are waged over the wishes of the popular majority who want them ended.
As liberty after liberty is being circumscribed or eliminated, the common man and woman are being reduced to the common serf. Harold Laski, a former chairman of the British Labor Party, once noted, "We live under a system by which the many are exploited by the few, and war is the ultimate sanction of that exploitation." Imperialism---whether practiced by Spain in the 16 th century, England in the 18 th century, Soviet Russia, Imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany in the 20 th century, or America today---is a gangrene that expands tyranny at home with the equivalent velocity that it spreads war abroad. #
(Sherwood Ross is director of the Anti-War News Service. He formerly worked as a columnist for daily newspapers and wire services.)