The land of the no longer free
When George W Bush spoke about the necessity of “protecting the homeland of our country”, he probably thought that the homeland was literally just that – a land that one calls home. And while most people focused on the fact that the then US president had once again made a grammatical blunder, many saw a hidden danger in his statement – not only because of the Big Brother-type security changes ahead, but also because of the very nature of the word “homeland”.
Merriam-Webster defines “homeland” as “a state or area set aside to be a state for a people of a particular national, cultural, or racial origin.” Now, that really doesn’t apply to one of the youngest countries in the world, which has no shared cultural or racial origin. Dig a little deeper and many linguists will tell you of the word’s decidedly Teutonic origin. A blend of two proto-Germanic words “kham” (home) and “landan” (land), a homeland does not unite people by ideas or beliefs. It ties them firmly to the land. It is a concept that has little to do with patriotism – despite the fact the words do share common Greek roots – and, ironically, it was used ad nauseam by the US government in the post-9/11 world. Ironic because it’s patriotism that is more applicable to the concept of the United States as a nation – one where people of all cultures and backgrounds come together for shared ideas, opportunities and beliefs. And one of the key ideas that most people chose to make the US their home was one much propagated by President Ronald Reagan. The idea of freedom.
Reagan once said that “above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is as formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.” But 20 years after Reagan was sworn in, the terrorist attacks of September 11th happened – and George W Bush decided that there are weapons more appropriate than freedom.
Because freedom – that greatly advertised American concept – was effectively taken away from the people, with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Under the new Patriot Act, The Federal Bureau of Investigation began probing almost every second of every life in the country and when people wanted to leave the country, the Transport Security Administration probed them. The Big German-sounding Brother was fully established, the people living in the ‘land of the free’ under surveillance at all times.
The Patriot Act is probably one of the most controversial pieces of legislature in American history. An acronym that, for all the old and new security bureaus, Provides Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism. But the tools included in the bill weren’t – and still aren’t –considered appropriate by many. Wiretaps and electronic surveillance were legalized. Arrests were made on a daily basis. When the number of those detained reached 1200, officials stopped counting. Personal records no longer remained personal – and that was only the domestic beginning.
What followed – and still continues today – may be labeled by politicians as a ‘war on terror’ or ‘defense of their people’, but really it is just shy of a full-scale military offensive on multiple countries.
While the Department of Homeland Security watched over the land of the no-longer-free, the Central Intelligence Agency, together with the Department of Defense, took the war on terror overseas. The result? Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and multiple ‘black sites’ across Europe, where prisoners and suspected terrorists were tortured, abused and killed. Since 9/11, more than 600 men have been brought to Guantanamo Bay prison alone – and only one has so far been charged.
Many will argue that this is in fact proof of the Patriot Act’s success. But there is a logical issue. The act’s objective is to prevent attacks on America by bringing terrorists under state control – not to investigate or prosecute past cases. Therefore, any evaluation of the Patriot Act requires the disproving of a negative. If there have been no further Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, it may mean that the act has done its job. But if there are no attacks, how does one prove they were “prevented” by the Patriot Act?
Numerous statements by US politicians have strived to provide some believable data. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, an avid supporter of the act, dismissed doubts and claims of freedom violations as “hysteria” and claimed no less that “3000 foot soldiers of terror have been incapacitated” since the act’s implementation. No matter that no group or person had independent access to basic information about these alleged terrorists and their alleged plots.
Officially, 1200 special interest detainees were held and investigated under the Patriot Act. The Justice Department examined more than 700 of them, and none was ever linked to any terrorist group or plot. Nevertheless, upon his resignation in 2004, Ashcroft’s letter stated that “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.” This should have meant the end of the Patriot Act, for it included a “sunset” provision, to expire in December 2005. Seven years later, it’s still in place and regularly being enforced…not necessarily for a war against terror.
Statistics show that the so-called sneak-and-peak, a search warrant that can be executed without prior warning, is mostly used for drug-related crimes. Between 2006 and 2009, 1618 delayed-search warrants were issued for drugs, 122 for fraud – and only 15 (!) for terrorism.
All this is being done in the name of protection of American soil and citizens. Of protecting their most valued asset, freedom. George W Bush claimed that the war on terror was necessary “for the freedom of the homeland”. But instead of inspiring faith, he only intensified the fear residing within every American citizen since 9/11, for his words sounded a lot like those of another historic leader.’
"What we have to fight for…is the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may be able to fulfil the mission assigned to it by the Creator." – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf.
Katerina Azarova, RT