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Archive for February, 2015

Originally published in the Rutland Herald and the Barre Times-Argus

 

If one looks back carefully at the post-9/11 period here in America, all related governmental activities are claimed to have been undertaken in the name of increasing the safety of the American people.

For its part, the press, probably because of the ceaseless demands of a 24 hour service, has been on top of any story that smacked of danger, terrorism or counterterrorism, to the point where terrorism was clearly their priority topic.

After 9/11, our lives were touched, not necessarily positively, by legislation on immigration, deportations, tourism and border security. Then, think of the NSA, warrantless wiretaps and covert intrusions into our lives. In addition, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act has turned air travel into a nightmare for passengers and cost us additional billions of dollars.

And consider the Patriot Act, which many believe has unnecessarily complicated the Federal response to terrorism and created counterproductive duplications and levels of authority.

In 15 years, over 250 governmental agencies were created or reorganized. Over 1200 government agencies and just under 2,000 private companies are now involved in counterterrorism.

And on the military side, estimates are that our military invasions in the Middle East have cost us multiple trillions of dollars. Apparently any money spent on counterterrorism is well-spent!

But then we are continually reminded that these post-9/11 defenses have prevented all serious terrorist attacks against us.

Yet, we have paid heavily in other ways. We have lived in an ongoing climate of fear and concern about future terrorism attacks here at home. If you don’t believe this, just look at the US press coverage of the terrorist attack on the publication “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris. It is, to say the least, pervasive.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer exclaimed excitedly, “What a story this is”! For its part, just about every conceivable element of the Federal government is exhorting us to “be vigilant!”

A charitable soul would say that all the legislation passed, all the money spent, all the press coverage has been designed to somehow make us more safe. But it has also made us more afraid and more malleable, which is the goal of the terrorists. Nothing could possibly have made them more happy!

There is an alternate theory available that also fits all the facts of the past 15 years. That is that it has been a conscious aim of US Government, an aim augmented almost inadvertently by the US press, to keep Americans on edge about the imminent threat of terrorism.

When fear is a dominant factor in peoples’ lives, people change. They are more tolerant of policies they would normally never accept. They will put up with the loss of basic Constitutional and human rights for any sort of increased sense of personal security. In a “fearful” society, the people are more docile, more ready to accept a diminution of their rights.

What makes it all the more worrisome is that the Paris attack has brought a chorus of voices from our legislators which, if nothing else, have energized our press and their fellow politicians into fits of coverage.

In this context, it might be well for Americans to remember the judicious advice of Benjamin Franklin who admonished pre-revolutionary Americans that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” (Franklin for the Pennsylvania Assembly in its Reply to the Governor -11 Nov. 1755)

So, there is a move afoot, either spontaneous or, more likely, quietly encouraged by government and energetically pursued by the press, to persuade us that terrorist disaster is just around the corner. One of our august Senators just suggested that attacks like Paris could come as often as weekly!

Just what does our government mean when it encourages our “vigilance?” Are we to profile people we take to be Muslims? If so, what do they really look like? Are we to report to the authorities activities that we as uninformed and inexpert individuals decide are dangerous or suspicious by people we think might be Muslims? Should we keep an eye on the Mosques?

But then, if we are truly interested in the whys and wherefores of Middle East terrorism, and if we do not fear the truth, we might even take the time to ask ourselves honestly why the situation exists as it does.   What roles have our Middle East polices and our military invasions played in the Muslim view of and policies toward America? If we can’t do that as a nation, we will forever be vulnerable to the kind of fear that now grips the West.

 

 

 

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