In the wake of the 9-11 attacks, we've witnessed the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, which has authorized all sorts of new police intrusions into our lives, including intrusions that are initiated without even the need for a judges approval, we have seen the expansion of secret national security courts, arrest and detention of US citizens without charge and without recourse to the courts, we've seen officially sanctioned "disappearances" reminiscent of the worst abuses of Latin American fascist dictators, we've seen authorization from the White House of torture (even including the abuse of children, like a young boy held for over three years in Guantanamo who has been tortured and denied adequate medical care), and we've seen national leaders in both the White House and Congress equate dissent with lack of patriotism and even treason.
Now, perhaps with good reason, but with a shocking lack of anger or sadness, we have the chair of the September 11 Commission, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, predicting that if there is another act of terror on US territory, "the consequences would be catastrophic for our liberties."
I would not disagree with his grim prediction, but it should not pass without comment that this reflects rather poorly on the robustness of American democracy as it embarks on its third century of existence. It reflects rather poorly on us, the citizenry, too, who seem to both Kean and me to be ready to trade our shiny birthright of freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly, along with the right to a fair trial and a secure home, for the cheap dross of an empty police-state promise of security.
No terrorist, no matter how fanatic, and no matter how well equipped with high-tech weaponry, can destroy the world's most powerful nation. Even a dirty nuclear explosive device, or for that matter a stolen nuclear bomb, could do no more than what our own detached and incompetent president managed to do already in New Orleans, i.e. destroy a major American metropolis overnight. It would be a horrible thing to have lower Manhattan or the Chicago Loop blown up or made uninhabitable, but let's get a grip here. Losing a city does not mean losing a country. We've already demonstrated that.
Losing New Orleans, in fact, has arguably given the US economy a needed boost. Jobs are going begging along the Gulf Coast, construction companies and suppliers of building equipment and supplies are booming. Reconstruction, as anyone in Japan or Germany can tell you, is great business.
Are we as a nation really such a bunch of wimps?
Apparently, to judge by the national reaction to the attack on the World Trade Center, and the televised threats from one wacky turban-headed scion of a Saudi construction magnate and Bush family business partner, the answer is yes.
Make a threat or grab control of a couple of airplanes, and we Americans are ready to tear up our Bill of Rights and throw it in your face. Take that, you big bully!
Im still waiting for some national leader to stand up and say that American freedom is not that cheap, and that having survived the mortal threats of civil war, world war and depression, it will not be sacrificed in the name of fighting a motley bunch of terrorists.
So far, nobody's saying that, but whoever makes that pledge convincingly will get my vote.
Who the hell is Dave Lindorff firstname.lastname@example.org
Award-winning investigative reporter Dave Lindorff has been working as a journalist for 30 years. A regular columnist for CounterPunch (www.counterpunch.org), he also writes frequently for In These Times (www.InTheseTimes.org) and Salon magazine (www.salon.com), as well as for Businessweek, the Nation and Treasury&Risk Management Magazine. In the late 1970s, he ran the Daily News bureau covering Los Angeles County government, and in the mid-'90s, spent several years as a correspondent in Hong Kong and China for Businessweek. Over the years he has written for such publications as Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Village Voice, Forbes, The London Observer and the Australian National Times.
He is the author of three books--"This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the Disintegration of American Democracy" (Common Courage Press, 2004), "Marketplace Medicine: The Rise of the For Profit Hospital Chains" (Bantam, 1992)