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This is worth reading

Columnist Bob Herbert had a piece on the Op-Ed page of yesterday's New York Times.  While this will speak most to the Americans on my flist,  everyone's encouraged to link to the post, or copy it into your own lj.  What Herbert has to say is important.  We should be listening.

The bolding is mine. 

America The Fearful

In the dark days of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt counseled Americans to avoid fear.  George W. Bush is his polar opposite.  The public's fear is this president's most potent political asset.  Perhaps his only asset.

Mr. Bush wants ordinary Americans to remain in a perpetual state of fear -- so terrified, in fact, that they will not object to the steady erosion of their rights and liberties, and will not notice the many ways in which their fear is being manipulated to feed an unconscionable expansion of presidential power.

If voters can be kept frightened enough of terrorism, they might even overlook the monumental incompetence of one of the worst administrations the nation has ever known.

Four marines drowned Thursday when their 60-ton tank rolled off a bridge and sank in a canal about 50 miles west of Baghdad.  Three American soldiers in Iraq were killed by roadside bombs the same day.  But those tragic and wholly unnecessary deaths were not the big news.  The big news was the latest leak of yet another presidential power grab:  the administration's collection of the telephone records of tens of millions of American citizens.

The Bush crowd, which gets together each morning to participate in a highly secret ritual of formalized ineptitude, is trying to get its creepy hands on all the telephone records of everybody in the entire country.  It supposedly wants these records, which contain crucial documentation of calls for Chinese takeout in Terre Haute, Ind., and birthday greetings to Grandma in Talladega, Ala., to help in the search for Osama bin Laden.

Hey, the president has made it clear that when Al Qaeda is calling, he wants to be listening, and you never know where that lead may turn up.

The problem (besides the fact that the president has been as effective hunting bin Laden as Dick Cheney was in hunting quail) is that in its fearmongering and power-grabbing the Bush administration has trampled all over the Constitution, the democratic process and the hallowed American tradition of government checks and balances.

Short of having them taken away from us, there is probably no way to fully appreciate the wonder and the glory of our rights and liberties here in the United States, including the right to privacy.

The Constitution and the elaborate system of checks and balances were meant to protect us against the possibility of a clownish gang of small men and women amassing excessive power and behaving like tyrants or kings.  But the normal safeguards have not been working sine the Bush crowd came to power, starting with the hijacked presidential election in 2000.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, all bets were off.  John Kennedy once said, "The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war."  But George W. Bush, employing an outrageous propaganda campaign ("Shock and awe," "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"), started an utterly pointless war in Iraq that he still doesn't know how to win or how to end.

If you listen to the Bush version of reality, the president is all powerful.  In that version, we are fighting a war against terrorism, which is a war that will never end.  And as long as we are at war (forever), there is no limit to the war-fighting powers the president can claim as commander in chief.

So we've kidnapped people and sent them off to be tortured in the extraordinary rendition program; and we've incarcerated people at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere without trial or even the right to know the charges against them; and we're allowing the C.I.A. to operate super-secret prisons where God-knows-what-all is going on; and we're listening in on the phone calls and reading the e-mail of innocent Americans without warrants; and on and on and on.

The Bushies will tell you that it is dangerous and even against the law to inquire into these nefarious activities.  We just have to trust the king.

Well, I give you fair warning.  This is a road map to totalitarianism.  Hallmarks of totalitarian regimes have always included an excessive reliance on secrecy, the deliberate stoking of fear in the general population, a preference for military rather than diplomatic solutions in foreign policy, the promotion of blind patriotism, the denial of human rights, the curtailment of the rule of law, hostility to a free press and the systematic invasion of the privacy of ordinary people.

There are not enough pretty words in all the world to cover up the damage that George W. Bush has done to his country.  If the United States could look at itself in a mirror, it would be both alarmed and ashamed at what it saw.

 

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
jenni_snake
May. 16th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
Now am I just hallucinating, or does the FBI or the CIA or something not already monitor phonecalls, and start recording them when key words turn up? Or did they stop that? I wouldn't think they would have.

And as I've said before, but will continue to repeat - it is not the absurdity of listening in to orders for takeout or wishing your grandmother happy birthday, it is that those seemingly innocuous conversations could turn into the basis for prosecution for things that are not unlawful. It's not unprecedented (McCarthy), and when it comes it will not be negotiable. What is virute today is vice tomorrow.

I wish I could offer some sort of solution, but I can't. Constant vigilance? Or maybe just don't be afraid of talking to people about it. Don't shy away from arguing with coworkers, with people on the bus (as much as that might be preaching to the choir) or with family and friends. Engage in debate and don't back down.
jenni_snake
May. 16th, 2006 04:47 pm (UTC)
ETA: There's only one quibble I have with the author of the article - this is not merely about giving up the right to privacy (which I assume loosely falls under the Ninth Ammendment to the Constitution?), this is essentially giving up the right to free association (or 'peaceable assembly' as I see you call it - I suppose the former term is the Canadian one) - and that is the First Ammendment - pretty high in order of importance, I would think.
oogata
May. 16th, 2006 05:05 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure about the CIA and FBI, but I've been told that ASIO already monitors phone calls for buzz words (mum works for the phone company so she seems a fairly reliable source).
jenni_snake
May. 16th, 2006 05:08 pm (UTC)
o_O;

This is good, though - keep sharing the first hand and insider knowledge. That's what blogs are all about.
aswanargent
May. 16th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
Not all phone calls. And they're still supposed to get a court order to do it (or at least it was that way in the pre-GWB days).

As for talking to people ... well, what does it tell you that I posted this about five hours ago, and you're the only one who's commented. I know that tracy_rowan and looneyluna also saw it, because they reposted and/or linked to it in their own ljs, and Dargie's gotten a couple of comments. But that's it. :-(((
jenni_snake
May. 16th, 2006 04:48 pm (UTC)
People at work?
oogata
May. 16th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC)
This article definately applies to people outside the United States - these sort of powers are being created and used by governments in different nations, of different political persuasions.

Some of the new "anti terror" measures in Australia are terrifying!
fadeawaynever
May. 16th, 2006 10:57 pm (UTC)
I agree whole-heartedly and have been trying to preach this for the longest time. Mind if I repost into my LJ?
aswanargent
May. 17th, 2006 08:56 am (UTC)
Not at all! The more people who see it, the better!

Btw, do you mind if I ask how you found the post?
fadeawaynever
May. 17th, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I agree!

Found it through looneyluna, I think. I thought this was posted to her journal, haha. I was too distracted by the article to really check.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )