Authorities tell us that the world changed on September 11. As a result, university professors must watch what they say in class or be turned in to the “speech” police. Elected officials must censor themselves or be censured by the media. Citizens now report behavior of suspicious-looking people to the police. Laws now exist that erode our civil liberties. Americans now accept these infringements as necessary to win America’s New War.
America, the world’s only superpower, is stifled in its ability to defend human rights and democracy abroad because it has failed the fundamental test at home. Our combination of money and military might, and our willingness to use them, did not make us a superpower. We are the most powerful nation on the face of the planet because we have combined raw power with American ideals such as dignity, freedom, justice, and peace. These ideas and ideals are admired around the world and are more important, in my view, to our position of global strength than our ability to shoot a missile down a chimney. We might be feared because of our military, but we are loved because of our ideals.
Sadly, we have put American goodwill at risk around the world because of an imbalance in our foreign policy that is palpable to even the most disinterested observer. In 1994, after an act of terrorism killed two sitting presidents, the Clinton Administration purposely failed to prevent the genocide of one million Rwandans in order to install favorable regimes in the region. In 1999 Madeleine Albright OK’d a Sierra Leone peace plan that positioned Foday Sankoh as Chairman of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, a position that placed him answerable only to the President despite the fact that his terrorist organization raped little girls and chopped off their hands as it financed its way to power with illegal diamond sales. Jonas Savimbi, recently killed on the battlefield, helped the US protect the minority rule of racists in South Africa and his organization continues to rampage across southern Africa in Angola, Namibia, parts of Congo-Kinshasha, and Rwanda without restriction, financed by illegal diamond sales. The continued plunder of Africa’s rich resources without penalty and sadly with the knowledge and support of powerful people in the US, serves as the foundation of the particular terrorism that victimizes Africans.
And now, as Africans grapple with the fundamental right to control their own resources and despite United Nations reports making no such links, Bush Administration experts seem prepared to link African diamonds with anti-US terrorism, thus “necessitating” tightened US control over Africa’s resources.
And so, with no concern at all for the effects on others of US-supported terrorism, the US, with its bombs and military, embarks on a worldwide crusade against terrorism that Bush says likely will last as many as twenty years. The list of target countries is long with Afghanistan, Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, the Philippines, and Iraq offering the starters. But what of the fact that Henry Kissinger and the current new US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, both once lobbied Washington, DC on behalf of a US oil company, Unocal, and a softer policy toward the Taliban?
Whose war is this really?
In November 2000, Republicans stole from America our most precious right of all: the right to free and fair elections. In an organized manner, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his Secretary of State Katherine Harris created a list of convicted felons–57, 700 to be exact–to “scrub” from the state’s voter rolls. The names were created from Florida records and from lists provided by 11 other states, the largest list coming from Texas. We now know that most of the people on that list were innocent of crimes. The list was a phony. And worse, the majority of these rightful voters were people of color and likely Democratic voters. Of the thousands who ultimately lost their vote through this scrub of voters, 80% are African-American. Had they voted, the course of history would have changed: Harris declared Bush the victor by only 537 votes. President Carter has said that the Carter Center would not certify the US 2000 Presidential elections had they had been asked to do so.
Consequently, an Administration of questionable legitimacy has been given unprecedented power to fight America’s new war against terrorism.
Before September 11, two million Americans found themselves behind bars: 80% of them people of color. Millions of Americans are sleeping on the streets of American cities. All over America, unarmed black men are targeted by rogue police officers, who shoot first and ask questions later. While 52% of all black men feel they have been victims of racial profiling, the Supreme Court declines to hear an important case on racial profiling. The Bush Administration totally “disses” the World Conference Against Racism and the people around the world who care about eliminating racism. In February 2001, The United States Commission on National Security, including Newt Gingrich, recommended that the National Homeland Security Agency be established with a hefty price tag. Most people chuckled at the suggestion.
After September 11, we have OK’d the targeting and profiling of certain groups of people in America while not arresting in any way the racial profiling and discrimination that existed prior to September 11. Mass arrests, detention without charge, military tribunals, and infringements on due process rights are now realities in America. Even more alarming are the calls in some circles to allow the use of torture and other brutal methods in pursuit of “justice.” Sadly, US administration of justice will be conducted by an Administration incapable of it. Interestingly, prominent officials explain to us that September 11 happened because we are free. And “they” hate us because we are free.
Moreover, persons close to this Administration are poised to make huge profits off America’s new war. Former President Bush sits on the board of the Carlyle Group. The Los Angeles Times reports that on a single day last month, Carlyle earned $237 million selling shares in United Defense Industries, the Army’s fifth-largest contractor. The stock offering was well timed: Carlyle officials say they decided to take the company public only after the Sept. 11 attacks. The stock sale cashed in on increased congressional support for hefty defense spending, including one of United Defense’s cornerstone weapon programs.
Now is the time for our elected officials to be held accountable. Now is the time for the media to be held accountable. Why aren’t the hard questions being asked. We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, delivered one such warning. Those engaged in unusual stock trades immediately before September 11 knew enough to make millions of dollars from United and American airlines, certain insurance and brokerage firms’ stocks. What did this Administration know, and when did it know it about the events of September 11? Who else knew and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered?
September 11 erased the line between “over there” and “over here.” The American people can longer afford to be detached from the world, as our actions abroad will have a direct impact on our lives at home. In Washington, DC, decisions affecting home and abroad are made and too many of us leave the responsibility of protecting our freedoms to other people whose interests are not our own. From Durban to Kabul to Atlanta to Washington, what our government does in our name is important. It is now also clear that our future, our security, and our rights depend on our vigilance.
Cynthia McKinney represents the fifth congressional congressional district of Georgia. She can be reached at: email@example.com