Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Response to Berwick Realist: It's Our Freedom that's at Stake

Although I wonder if he’s kidding, “Berwick Realist” (BR) repeats himself often enough that—although only anonymously—(s)he apparently wants to be taken seriously. The upshot of BR’s remarks is that, whatever the critic’s nay-saying, we’ve suffered no loss of civil liberty under the Bush administration, and that those who think so stand among the deluded “liberals,” “socialists,” and “America-haters.”

It’s easy to show that this is drivel. As writer Naomi Wolf documents in painful detail in The End of America, our Constitutional liberties have never in our history seen so systematic and brutal an assault as they have under the authoritarian “security-industrial complex” of the Bush regime. For those unconvinced, I recommend her discussions of the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the harassment of journalists, the control of the media through monopolizing conglomerates like FOX, unwarranted spying on private citizens, the explicit flouting of the Geneva Conventions, not-so-secret foreign prisons—and torture (p. 52-68).

The erosion of our first amendment rights is clear: the actual torture of anyone is the threat to torture—anyone, and if we think we’re safe because we’re good citizens, we’re simply being naïve. As Wolf shows, “enemy combatant” knows no national boundaries; freedom of speech critical of the government died with the Patriot Act.

But perhaps BR is a victim of the spin to which our language has been subjected in recent years in the interest of concealing the truth, creating an inhuman enemy, or diluting the facts so thoroughly that we just don’t get, for example, that phrases like “axis of evil,” “Islamofascism,”and “war on terror” are intended to keep us paralyzed by the fear of some coming Armageddon.

Don’t we get it that the spin-masters who create bigger-than-life-evil-super-power nemeses for us are making whopping big bucks off the manufacture of a culture of war-mongering—all at our expense? Are we so occupied with American Idol that we just don’t care that our kids are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for nothing but the profits spun out of “Rumfeld-stiltskin” hype? THINK: is the reporting of facts unfavorable to the government treason? Rupert Murdock thinks so. Are critics “enemies of the people”? Ask Sean Hannity. Does “war-footing” justify the complete suspension of the rights of people deemed “enemy combatants”? Ask Bill O’Reilly. Are professors who challenge their students to critically evaluate their government’s actions a danger to civil order? Ask David Horowitz.

This isn’t to say, of course, that we don’t have enemies or that there aren’t real issues to confront. Indeed, I can think of nothing more threatening to global stability than religious extremism. The theocrats within our borders who’d dictate what our children can read, what counts as science, whom we can love, what women ought to aspire to, and who can represent God are the ideological soul mates of the Jihadists.

Wouldn’t it be ironic—and tragic—were we to forfeit our democracy in the very course of defending it from those enemies? This is what we’re doing, whether BR gets it or not. While we reel between the “Renew America” evangelicals and the corporate pirates of the Bush administration, our infrastructure erodes, millions go without health care, our environment deteriorates, and our civil liberties languish; yet we dump trillions into a war for a fuel that’s literally going the way of the dinosaur. We can’t afford BR’s blinders. If we give up the liberty for which our country stands, we will have nothing left at the end of this misbegotten war but spin—and it can’t possibly pay the debt on the lives lost to it.

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