Democratic Underground

Protection From Whom?
November 30, 2001
by Tommy Ates

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The vast new powers the federal investigators were granted in the Counterterrorism Bill and the autonomy U.S. Special Forces have been given in Afghanistan raise red flags on the issues of civil liberties and the democratic process.

In the new anti-terror bill, non-citizens, regardless of classification, can now be held indefinitely and with some federal warrants, the charges do not have to be disclosed.

Since when do we to have to defend our country using Nazi Gestapo techniques? Are our intelligence agencies that inept? Of course, none will admit to being so; but how can the government guarantee that "due process of law" will be upheld when this bill undercuts many provisions provided of citizens and non-citizens alike? We need checks and balances, not investigative power run amok.

Apparently, the policy of security jihad also extends to the military as U.S. Special Forces have been given free rein to attack and kill Taliban and al-Qaeda targets at will - without government permission. How will they treat Afghan teenage warlords? (They do exist.) Considering that about 80% of Afghanistan's population is under 18 years old and is active in the military, I wonder if our government has statistics on how many children they're killing? Doubtful, since we have such trouble confirming anything the Northern Alliance says as true.

I am not saying we shouldn't go after al-Qaeda. But if, the name of "intelligence," we have to mow down everyone who doesn't recognize us immediately as a friend in the field, than one must wonder about the substance of our efforts. To do the simple "kill them all" technique (in essence, culling any opposition) is a bad idea which almost always backfires, as those groups on the receiving end of our punishing guerrilla strikes will see our foreign policy of a "peaceful, democratic coalition" for what is: a trite ploy for nabbing Osama bin Laden, or worse, a means getting oil from Baku, Azerbaijan, via pipeline.

Most of all, no one should be able to kill randomly, hold someone virtually hostage, or not provide information which is considered by the American people as part of our "free, inalienable rights." For the U.S. to succeed in this war of justice, we must have a just war. That means, for once, doing right by the detainees and the Afghanis that we abandoned in the '80s after fighting the Soviets, not, as our military honchos and the right have, excusing civilian deaths on the terror mongers and the Taliban's denial of women's rights.

If our U.S. military cared so much, then where were these people when the Taliban were taking power? Obviously, they didn't care about their welfare then and I'm not sure the powers that be do now. Cut the propaganda crap! If we don't straighten up our act in this war, a quagmire is sure to follow with the power vacuum left by the Taliban's fall.

Besides, the American people have another issue to think about, war's aftermath. Did we act with valor and honor with our second foray in Afghanistan, or was it "business as usual" - death, destruction, then, desertion?

What will we say to the innocent detainee victims as the federal government 'quietly' releases them? What will we tell the Afghan people as civil war goes on, thousands dying, all in the name of justice? Did they really die to make the world a better place? Will we have a memorial or telethon to honor their contribution to liberty or do they count at all?

Simply put, I am not comfortable with our freehanded and reckless way power is handled and who is deserving of our justice, or our wrath.

Also, with all this emphasis on patriotism streaming through the airwaves, why isn't the American mainstream media covering these issues? Must it only be foreign news outlets like the BBC, showing the confusion and the destruction of this largely covert war? Why can't we represent? Is it too dangerous to speak out? Dissent breeds moderation and change; we must do it to be Americans. And this quality should also extend to our media. As for me, right now, I can't believe I am afraid of my own government.