"Phantoms of Lost Liberty" Still Haunting Post-9/11 America

By:  Jack Kenny
09/11/2012
       
"Phantoms of Lost Liberty" Still Haunting Post-9/11 America

 In announcing the global war on terrorism in his speech to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, President George W. Bush put the world on notice: "Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." After Congress passed the PATRIOT Act, Attorney General John Ashcroft was dismissive, even contemptuous, of concerns being raised over civil liberties violations, describing those complaints as "fear mongering." To "those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty," Ashcroft delivered the following message:

"He who is not with me is against me; he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." Jesus

"Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." George W. Bush

In announcing the global war on terrorism in his speech to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, President George W. Bush put the world on notice: "Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." Bush, who claims to be a born-again Christian and who had named Jesus Christ as his favorite "philosopher," might have noticed the similarity between his words and those of Jesus in the New Testament: "He who is not with me is against me; he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad" (Mathew 12:30) In declaring a war that "will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated, Bush appeared to be holding himself and his nation up as the world's new Savior. Many of his speeches following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, bore Messianic overtones. "We will rid the world of evildoers," the president promised. The war against terrorism soon became the crusade for a "global democratic revolution."The candidate who had spoken of a "more humble" role for America in the world became the president whose "Bush Doctrine" sought to justify the waging of preventive war in response to perceived threats anywhere in the world. And the rest of the world must take a stand for or against us. "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists."

America's role as the Superstate with the mission of making the world safe from terrorism would change our domestic politics as well. Congress would rush through passage of the USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools to resist Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act, giving the federal government broad new surveillance and search-and-seizure powers. Conservative Republicans who had made a career of opposing — at least rhetorically — big government bureaucracies hastened to pass legislation creating the new Department of Homeland Security, combining 22 agencies and departments into a massive new cabinet-level department with more than 200,000 employees. Federal agents with National Security Letters were empowered to search, without court-issued warrants, library records, book purchases, Internet communications and other records revealing what Americans are reading, thinking about, and saying to one another. Those who claimed that constitutional rights were being violated were dismissed as fanatics — or worse.

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Photo of remains of south tower of World Trade Center after September 11, 2001 attacks

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