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Tyranny is winning

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After the 1967 war in the Middle East the dark ghost of defeatism descended upon the heart of Arabs. Their governments declared a state of emergency. They suspended the constitutional rights of individuals and spent their money stockpiling weapons. The threat of Israel was the overriding concern in every country and people gave up their human rights and freedom because of national security. They never recovered from that loss. The Egyptian government today, like many other Arab governments, is still operating under a state of emergency. People gave up their freedom to the government thereby creating all these entrenched dictatorships. Guess what happened to all the weapons they bought and the great armies they built. They used them against their own people. Anyone who opposed the government became a traitor and a collaborator.

The same dark ghost is descending upon the heart of America. The Patriot Act pales in comparison with the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The new law which was passed by both houses of Congress on September 29th gives the Bush administration absolute power over the lives of its enemies. The law was opposed by most Democrats except for a few like Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan who is running for re-election this year and does not want to appear soft on national security.

The law authorizes the government to hold suspected enemies in detention indefinitely. It also allows the government to torture the detainee and then try him in a military court. The government continues to spy on its own people under the sanitized term of "warrantless wiretaps" program.

The suspected terrorist which is the intended target of this law is most likely a non-US citizen but the law will apply equally to a US citizen. Most of us are not concerned for the welfare of a person who is trying to kill us. This is the argument that made such a law sail so fast through the congress. The problem is that we are dealing with a huge bureaucracy called the government which is known for committing mistakes all the time.

A five-year old boy was featured on national news this week as a suspected terrorist. His name has been on the No-fly list for 4 years. Every time his parents went to the airport they ended up missing their flight because of hours of interrogation. The government promised to correct the mistake years ago.

Let's say you are a poor soul whose name is similar to a wanted person some where. They will tap your phone and if you speak a foreign language and make phone calls overseas then you will become a suspect. Somebody may decide to pick you up for interrogation. On a dark night they will break through your front door and arrest you while you sleep in your comfortable home with your wife and children. Your family is not allowed to visit you or to ask about you. You are not allowed to ask why you'd been arrested and you can not inquire as to the nature of the charges against you.

While you rot in a secret detention center the interrogators will wake you up at night and play loud music for 24 hours. They will deprive you from sleep and drown you in a bucket of water. If that is not enough to extract a confession they can put you in a freezer and throw water at you till you shiver and turn blue.

Eventually, you will confess and sign a statement to whatever they say. Then, you will be taken to a court where your tormentors can present your confession to a military tribunal and you will not be able to see or rebut the evidence against you. It is called secret evidence and the government will not allow you to see it because it compromises national security. Then, you will be sentenced to life in prison or execution based on the evidence that you will never see. This can happen to any American as a matter of law.

Does this scenario sound familiar? It is the typical operation of any despotic regime including most of the regimes in the Arab world. This is what Americans have surrendered to their government. So, in my opinion the terrorists are winning. We started out this war to spread freedom and to eradicate violence and tyranny. We have escalated the level of senseless violence in this world by invading Iraq and now we are importing tyranny from the Middle East.

America is supposed to be exporting its democratic values to the Middle East but instead we are importing dictatorship from there. The Military Commissions Act is a victory for dictatorship in the world and Arabs can take the credit for it. It is easy to wage war against a people whom you disagree with. It is very easy to drop bombs that destroy life but try building the life of one human being. That is the real jihad.

The Bush administration also shares in the credit for advancing the cause of dictatorship and tyranny. Its love for secrecy and intolerance was finally realized by this new law. In the name of national security it has a blank check to torture all it wants and to detain as many people as its heart's content.

If the Patriot Act assaulted civil rights the Military Commissions Act strangled the spirit of the US constitution. If terrorists hated our freedom, as Bush always claims, and they attacked this freedom on 9/11, then this new law accomplishes what the terrorists had always targeted. Our congress is handing victory to the terrorists on a silver platter.

Americans have lost so many lives and Arabs have lost more lives and they are all dying for freedom. Arabs want to be free from colonial powers, occupations and propped up puppet regimes. Americans want to be free to pursue a dignified livelihood without insecurity or fear. It is easy to let freedom thrive in this world because it is the air that every human being breathes. It just requires people who do not need to kill other people whom they disagree with.

Some day in the near future when we'd all become slaves of our own fears we will have a great shrine in Washington for Freedom. It will say: US Freedom, Born 1789 Died 2006.
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Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of "The War on Terror and Democracy"- available on He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and he can be reached at:
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