This is a perfect example of why I still have a good deal of respect for John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute despite some serious disagreements on a few issues (like his support for John Freshwater). He is one of the few conservatives who is serious about constitutional limits on executive power and on enforcing the Bill of Rights, as evidenced by his participation in the American Freedom Agenda organization and by a new essay he has about the dangerous path taken by our government since 9/11. He writes:
Long before the bodies buried under the rubble were recovered, the Bush administration was hard at work hatching plans that would push America down a path of destruction marked by ill-fated foreign policies, corporate primacy, a draconian security regime and an emerging surveillance state. With no clear plan except to oust the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda affiliates, Bush haphazardly invaded Afghanistan. The rush to invade Afghanistan, a country that most Americans knew nothing about, would signify the beginning of the longest war in American history.
It would not be long before the Bush administration turned its sights on Iraq (in fact, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill alleged that discussions about occupying Iraq began as early as January and February 2001). Congress marched in lockstep with Bush and his cronies and approved the Iraq War overwhelmingly. Despite the fact that Saddam Hussein had no connection to the 9/11 attacks and Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction, the American war machine went into overdrive in an effort to incite American allies and the United Nations to wage war against Iraq.
Meanwhile, just a month after the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the nefarious USA Patriot Act, which gutted the Bill of Rights. The Patriot Act gave the President unprecedented and unconstitutional powers to spy on, monitor and police American citizens. A clever title, public fear, and congressional ineptitude made the Patriot Act a shoo-in. And it was passed without debate and without our so-called representatives even having read the legislation. In this way, through so-called democratic measures, America began a terrible antidemocratic decade.
A new but dangerous era was dawning in America, bringing with it death and destruction for American soldiers and Iraqi and Afghani civilians. It would be an era of corporate domination at the expense of social services and working class citizens. It would be an era of pat-downs, SWAT team raids, unlawful imprisonment and torture. Yet blinded by hatred, choked with fear and grief, Americans closed their eyes to the emerging threat posed by their own government.
Desperate for certainty in a world that was anything but, most Americans fell in line with the president’s leadership, leaving those who questioned the president’s authority to be subdued and labeled unpatriotic. The media, having long since abdicated its role as a watchdog, quickly became the mouthpiece of the war machine.
Under cover of its “war on terrorism” and in blatant violation of constitutional and international law, the Bush Administration opened the door to a host of shadowy dealings involving extraordinary renditions, unlawful imprisonment and torture. Meanwhile, the U.S. established penal colonies in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq where prisoners not charged with any crime nor brought before any court could be kept in isolation, save for the attentions of certain depraved and sociopathic members of the intelligence agencies and armed forces who delighted in subjecting their detainees to all manner of torture. These atrocities further damaged America’s already tarnished reputation and deepened anti-American sentiment worldwide.
Ten years after 9/11, we have failed miserably in our attempts to bring about justice for our countrymen who died that day. Even Osama bin Laden’s demise offers little consolation when compared to the injustices we have been forced to endure by our own government. Moreover, by eschewing international law and the core values contained within the Bill of Rights, America has, in many regards, become the enemy of freedom.
Indeed, whatever success America has had in routing out terrorists over the past decade has been overshadowed by the new society in which we live. Suspicion, fear and ignorance are the new norms. We have made enemies of one another. We allow government agents to pat-down our children when we want to ride in an airplane. We stand by when transit authorities shut off cell phone service in order to disrupt protests. The news fails to report the thousands of SWAT team raids that take place every year, endangering and sometimes murdering people for victimless crimes.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.