America Betrayed By Bush & Co.

Wednesday, 12 January 2005 By monsveneris
Home of the brave? Land of the free?

By blindly pursuing its scarcely sane unilateralist agenda the Bush clique have not only turned the USA into a global pariah but have subverted America's Constitution and the sacred principles of democracy upon which it was founded. Striking Similarity Between McCarthyism and George Bush's USA Patriot Act
by Leslie Liddell

The United States is said to be a free country. Its constitution has amendments (Bill of Rights) which, among other things, uphold free speech, the right of people to assemble peacefully, the right to be secure in your person, house, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to a speedy and fair trial by an impartial jury if you are accused of a crime.

It also states that "all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people". This is the received and perceived truth that many people who live both inside and outside of the US adhere to.

However, during the period from about 1947-1957, McCarthyism, given its name from Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, maintained that communists had infiltrated the US State Department.

Repressive measures against people labeled as communists were rife. Many Americans had their civil liberties and rights undermined.

Professor Ellen Schrecker, a well-known historian and expert on McCarthyism, has written extensively on the era. She says that through "part myth and part reality, the notion that domestic communists threatened national security... based on a primarily ideological conception of the nature of the communist movement... came... the government's attempt to mobilize public opinion for the Cold War".

During this repressive period, about 150 people were imprisoned, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were put to death. Most of the major punishments were of an economic nature, however.

Schrecker notes: "People lost their jobs. The official manifestations of McCarthyism... the public hearings, FBI investigations, and criminal prosecutions... would not have been as effective had they not been reinforced by the private sector." Targeted people were blacklisted, which meant that they were unable to find employment.

This economic punishment extended to universities, colleges, the media, labor and the entertainment industry.

In all sectors of society, the state got civil society to do its dirty work by firing and blacklisting people. It is estimated that 10,000 people may have lost their jobs during McCarthyism.

The legacy of this period of political repression in the US was extensive. "There were social reforms which were never adopted, some diplomatic initiatives which were never pursued, workers were not organized into unions, some books were not written and some movies were never made."

In addition, the American left was negatively affected and the public space for alternatives to the status quo disappeared. The nation's cultural and intellectual life suffered.

Finally, Schrecker maintains that the anti-democratic practices associated with McCarthyism continued through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s: "McCarthyism alone did not cause these outrages; but the assault on democracy that began during the 1940s and 1950s with the collaboration of private institutions and public agencies in suppressing the alleged threat of domestic communism was an important early contribution."

More recently, legislative proposals in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were introduced - less than a week after the attacks.

President George Bush signed the final bill, the United States Patriot Act, into law on October 26, 2001. It was introduced with great haste and passed with little debate and without a House, Senate or conference report.

As a result, it lacks background legislative history that often retrospectively provides necessary statutory interpretation. It also doesn't provide for the system of checks and balances that traditionally safeguards civil liberties in the face of such legislation.

The USA Patriot Act introduced a number of legislative changes which significantly increased the surveillance and investigative powers of law enforcement agencies in the US.

The implications for online internet privacy are considerable. For example, the act increases the ability of law enforcement agencies to authorize the installation of pen registers and trap and trace devices, and to authorize the installation of such devices to record all computer routing, addressing and signaling of information.

The act also extends the government's ability to gain access to personal financial information and student information without any suspicion of wrongdoing, simply by certifying that the information likely to be obtained is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Many of the foundations of American democracy are violated by the Patriot Act.

It also defines "domestic terrorism" so broadly that political organizations could be subjected to the seizure of property for engaging in civil disobedience, for example.

Non-citizens can be imprisoned without charges, simply on the attorney-general's injunction, without showing a court that they are dangerous or a flight risk.

Once again, the violations against the basic constitutional rights of Americans are being carried out in the name of national security and in the defense of waging a war. During McCarthyism, it was the Cold War. This time, it is the war on terror.

Liddell is national co-ordinator of the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust.

© 2005 Cape Times

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