While catching up on the political news out of the US last week, I came across Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s press release in response to the ruling that declared the NSA wiretap program unconstitutional:
"Terrorists are the real threat to our Constitutional and democratic freedoms, not the law enforcement and intelligence tools used to keep America safe. We need to strengthen, not weaken, our ability to foil terrorist plots before they can do us harm. I encourage swift appeal by the government and quick reversal of this unfortunate decision."
It’s the party line of course, but put in such a direct way that it begs for rebuttal.
Terrorists are the real threat to our... freedoms...
Perhaps in the terrorists’ wildest dreams, they are, but in reality?
Do the terrorists have the capability to literally invade the US, overthrow the government and establish their own regime?
If they did they’d have done it already.
So short of overthrowing the government, how can the terrorists threaten America’s freedoms?
By getting Americans to do it for them.
It’s not so much the searches at the airport and the surveillance at public events; that unfortunately is necessary.
It’s the way in which the current administration is using the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks to attempt to control the psychology of the country, with the goal of holding on to power and justifying the Iraq war.
In the process, Bill Frist’s “Constitutional and democratic freedoms” are being trampled to bits.
There is the dispute about the treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (Geneva Convention, yes or no?), the indefinite detention of others in the US (Jose Padilla), the warrantless wiretaps, and likely countless other examples that I’m either not aware of or have forgotten. There is also the flagrant disregard for court rulings that try to reign in this behaviour, and the signing statements that pretty much undo any law the President doesn’t like. The deliberate (in my opinion) outing of a CIA agent would fall into this category as well.
Did the terrorists do all that?
The administration contends that their measures are working because there has not been another attack on the US.
Of course there hasn’t been another attack. What more could another attack accomplish? How much more fearful, paranoid and emotionally devastated could the country be?
If the Bush administration has prevented one it was not by wiretaps but by giving the terrorists everything they could hope for in damaging American society.
The attacks were real. They were dramatic, terrifying, and tragic.
But now it’s time to let it heal, five years on.
The open wound that is 9/11 is preventing America from focusing on problems that are desperate for attention; for instance, what about the state of the Gulf Coast? Hurricane Katrina did more physical (property) damage over a greater geographical area than the terrorists, but doesn’t seem to have the same kind of gut-wrenching effect for those not immediately involved.
It’s also convenient to overlook the FEMA debacle when asserting that only this administration can protect the country. That argument is no longer in any way believable.
So when Bill Frist tries to tell the country exactly whom to fear, he falls terribly short in contrast to another famous statesman, one whose message in another challenging time was constructive, not destructive:
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address in 1933, said the following, which has never seemed more appropriate:
"This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."