January 7, 2006

President Spy

From the point of view of public morale, the US response to the 11 September airliner attacks was probably the worst choice of the many that President Bush could have made. Why not instead try to persuade the American people that the best response was to demonstrate that those atrocities would not change the American way of life?

It appears that it suited the foreign policy agenda, though, to undertake an unwinnable war on an abstract enemy without any definition of "success" that could be used as a decision point to cease hostilities. Broad powers were accepted in haste by a panicked Senate and Congress, and those powers can effectively be used against anyone who is perceived to be dangerous.

We now learn that under Bush's "control" the NSA has felt free to ride a coach and horses through what few protections were left to American citizens by the PATRIOT act. The Electronic Freedom Foundation asks the question: "what good is legislative reform if the Administration considers itself above the law?"

Of course the Guantanamo Bay imprisonments have already made it clear that Bush is prepared to redefine the parameters of acceptability to gain his own ends. Along with his repeatedly revealed contempt for domestic law, he feels that international law is insufficient to cope with terrorists. This reveals a disdain for the rule of law that casts doubt on Bush's suitability as the leader of the free world, should further doubt be necessary.

The tally of American dead "supporting operation Iraqi Freedom" continues to rise, and is now higher than the number killed by the 9/11 attacks. If America were invaded and occupied in the same way that Iraq has been the resistance to the invaders would be immense. Yet the power of the media and its collusion with the administration is such that the average American still believes that freedom is something that can be imposed by invasion and coercion. How much better it would be if America looked to its laurels and put its own house in order, thereby lucidly demonstrating the advantages of freedom and democracy in a practical way.

If democracy means that the security services can breach citizens' constitutional freedoms with impunity, how is it better than an arbitrary dictatorship?

1 comment:

Catherine said...

The difference is that this dictatorship is voluntary. We could shake it off anytime, if we felt like it. Apparently, we don't feel like it.

That's the narrow definition of "democracy", of course - majority rule - rather than the broader one, where democracy is assumed to include inalienable individual rights, minority protections, etc.

Perhaps the power to change the government will be gradually eased out of our hands - advanced gerrymandering is a little of that, but it can only go so far - or perhaps they won't bother.

What scares me is what exactly "voluntary" means when we are so easily manipulated. Some combination of a disrespect for wisdom - an ideology that says all detailed thinking is corrupt, and only emotions are pure - and a huge class of expert professional opinion-creators make "the will of the people" a terribly malleable thing.