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Monday, May 15, 2006

Land of the no-longer free, home of the not in the least bit brave
Posted by Jill | 8:09 AM
Since the 9/11/01 attacks, Americans have enjoyed pretending they are tough guys by slapping ribbon magnets on their SUVs, engaging in bantam rooster posturing over beers at the corner pub about turning the Middle East into glass, and bloviating over the airwaves (Ben Ferguson, I'm talking to you) about how patriotic the right is because we give lip service to supporting the troops.

Yet if you scratch the surface of the bellicose talk, you see a population that's been scared out of its wits since that day; a population that gives lie to the idea of the United States being the Home of the Brave.

This is a population that has allowed its government to play on its justified fears not just to prevent them from going on with their day-to-day lives but to get them to support policies so antithetical to what this country stands for that it is now completely disingenuous to even sing the national anthem.

Bob Herbert:

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.


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.


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.

In this Administration, we've hit the "octofecta".

When leaders of other countries talk the way the Bush Administration does, we call them "part of the axis of evil." When a president who was sitting at well under 45% approval before the 9/11 attacks put an entire country in thrall to the Manly Package of the president (until 70% of us finally realized that the Manly Package was nothing but sock stuffing), it was a magic "open sesame" to the doors of tyranny -- doors which this president and his henchmen gleefully opened.

It's interesting to note that in the city which saw the most horrific results of the 9/11 attacks and its environs, people ARE going about their business normally. And most of them still vote Democratic and a majority oppose Bush's war. And they don't want to give up their civil liberties. Why do you think this is? Is it because we watch less Fox News than elsewhere in the country? Is it because New York has always been a hotbed of leftist activity and nothing will change that? Or is it perhaps that we don't have the luxury of succumbing to fear.

It's easy to allow yourself the adrenaline rush of anxiety and obsess about your kids's school, or your local Piggly Wiggly, or the neighborhood Wal-Mart or shopping mall as a "soft target" when you may be fairly well-assured that it won't be. Perhaps it makes you feel like part of a club. It's easy to feel left out when people talk about a problem that is unlikely to ever affect you. But the truth of the matter is that despite the right's best efforts to make the people of Kansas feel that they too are part of the Terrorist Target Club, the reality is that the odds are pretty good that THEIR lives won't be affected significantly by terrorism.

This is all the more reason why Americans need to unite against the Administration's efforts to turn us into a Fourth Reich. Reverence for the freedoms America stands for is something we all have in common -- or should. Here in the New York area, where people watched the World Trade Center fall, where everyone knows someone who lost a loved one that day, where we kiss our spouses in the morning before seeing them off to work in the tunnels and subways that ARE likely targets and hope we'll see them again in the evening, we DO still revere those freedoms. And we AREN'T willing to trade our liberty for a temporary and illusory sense of security -- certainly not at the hands of this bunch of miscreants.
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