America's New Freedoms
After watching a portion of one of President Bush's latest speeches, I suffered from a surfeit of freedom. In almost every speech since 9/11, we are told that the terrorists hate us because of our "Freedom." In fact, President Bush has given us some new freedoms Americans to call our own. As these new "freedoms" didn't exist even two years ago and therefore can't be found in any of our schools' Civics texts, it is important that they be acknowledged as part of what makes our country what it is today. I have tried to place them into this lengthy, but far from comprehensive list.
New American freedoms include:
The freedom to be detained without charge:
Hundreds, if not thousands (the Justice Dept. won't even tell us how many) of innocent Arabs are now free to sit in cells in America, without even being charged with a crime.
The freedom to be tortured:
Many of those are free to reside in cells under 24/7 bright lights with music blaring, in an effort to present them with both "sleep deprivation" and "sensory overload." From Time magazine: "A captive might be subjected to extreme heat or cold, deprived of light or dark, made to squat in painful positions, questioned and fed at irregular intervals, kept awake for hours on end. Most important is confinement in isolation, divorced from all that is familiar."
The freedom to be constantly interrogated:
From the Independent: "Privately, the Americans admit that torture, or something very like it, is going on at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where they are holding an unknown number of suspected terrorists. Al-Qa'ida and Taliban prisoners are kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles. They are bound in awkward, painful positions. They are deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights. They are sometimes beaten on capture, and painkillers are withheld. The interrogators call these "stress and duress" techniques, which one former US intelligence officer has dubbed "torture-lite". More covertly, other terrorist suspects have been "rendered" into the hands of various foreign intelligence services known to have less fastidious records on the use of torture.
The freedom to be left entirely alone:
Amnesty International USA reported that about one-third of all children in the custody of U.S. immigration authorities spend at least some time in jail-like facilities designed to hold young offenders, where they may be subjected to shackling, strip searches, solitary confinement, and verbal abuse from guards and other detainees. The Amnesty report also cited cases in which child detainees have been transferred to adult facilities on the basis of a dental exam. "The next morning, they told me I was going a better place, but they were lying," said one girl identified as Fantis S., a former child detainee from West Africa, who spoke at Wednesday's press conference. "They chained and handcuffed me and took me to the adult prison in York, Pennsylvania. There, they strip-searched me, made me put on an orange jump suit and cut off all my hair, just like a criminal." In fact, Fantis was 16 years old at the time, as reflected in the documentation she carried with her when she was detained.
The freedom of information:
The names of those prisoners can't be obtained, even by our nation's news media or human rights groups using our Freedom of Information Act, as long as the Justice Dept.:
1) proves to the satisfaction of a court that the detainee is the perpetrator of a crime.
2) proves to a court that the detainee is a member of Al Queda.
3) proves to a court that the detainee has given material support to Al Queda.
4) Says no!
If you chose anything other than #4, you are so pre-9/11!
The freedom to assassinate:
The U.S.government has granted the freedom to assassinate to our CIA and military personnel oversees. Thus far, the attempts to assassinate Saddam have led to other people's death, but as they were Arabs anyway, we don't consider the assassinations to be troubling.
The freedom to retaliate against even helpful "volunteers". . . if they're Arabs in America:
From the NY Times:
"More than 13,000 of the Arab and Muslim men who came forward earlier this year to register with immigration authorities -- roughly 16 percent of the total -- may now face deportation, government officials say. Only a handful have been linked to terrorism. But of the 82,000 men older than 16 who registered, more than 13,000 have been found to be living in this country illegally, officials say. Many Arabs who voluntarily come forward to provide info and help our government foil future terrorist attacks are summarily deported for minor immigration violations"
The freedom to change the rules of justice in America:
Again, from the NY Times:
"Administration officials said the decision to imprison the student, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, in a brig in South Carolina on Monday, less than a month before he was scheduled to go on trial in a federal court in Illinois, was intended in part to try to cull more information from him about possible links to Al Qaeda. That avenue would probably have been foreclosed if Mr. Marri's case had gone to trial next month."
The freedom to snoop and freedom to arrest pesky librarians:
The Government is now free to force librarians to submit lists of all reading materials any American has requested, even if that American has been charged with nothing. Under the new law, the warrant is obtained through a secret court. After the information is gathered, a gag order is imposed on the librarian, meaning he or she cannot tell anyone, including the patron being investigated and superior employees, anything about the search.
The government is also now free to demand an innocent American's personal medical records and tap his or her phone, with the same minimal judicial oversight.
The freedom to remove worker's rights:
The Government is now seeking the freedom to end collective bargaining for most of the government employees and force workers to work overtime at straight time rates.
From the NY Times:
"More than 8 million professionals would lose their overtime pay under a Bush administration proposal to change the types of jobs that must receive more money for extra work, says a study by a union-supported think tank."
The freedom to suffer without prescribed medication:
From the NY Times:
The Senate rejected a Democratic effort today to make a new Medicare drug benefit more generous by closing a substantial gap in coverage for elderly people with high drug costs.
The freedom from global treaties:
One of President Bush's first acts was to pull back from President Clinton's backing of the Kyoto Treaty on the environment. We all know how we breached UN treaties and the Geneva Convention accords with our First Strike invasion of Iraq.
And, finally, freedom from knowledge:
The most recent proof of this freedom is the Bush Administration's forcing of an editing out of a finding by its own scientists on global warming.
From the NY Times report:
"The draft of a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures, with changes sought by the White House, was given to the New York Times on Wednesday by a former EPA official, along with earlier drafts and an internal memo in which some agency officials protested the changes."