The USA Today: Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Freedom

"If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They'll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government." - Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. President (1953-1961)

"Take a deep breath and jump."

Seldom before have Americans been more divided than after the re-election of President Bush. The image of the USA throughout the rest of the world is likewise in tatters. The solidarity and compassion shown America by the world community in the wake of the September 11th attacks have all but vanished, with few exceptions. Where The West once stood behind the USA in unity, now consternation, bewilderment, and rage prevail. It is two wars, among other things, which are at fault here: wars which, under the guise of false pretenses, the most powerful nation in the world chomped at the bit to prosecute.

Bloody Oil

The war in Afghanistan was ostensibly America's response to 9/11. The Taliban regime, which was protecting al-Qaeda, was supposed to have been taken out, and the head of Osama bin Laden laid at the feet of President Bush. But the fact is that on July 11, 2001, senior officials in the U.S. State Department held a meeting in Berlin with secret service operatives from Russia and Pakistan, and informed them about an offensive action by the U.S. military in Afghanistan scheduled for October 2001 - two months prior to September 11th! There was no "war on terror" at the time to justify this invasion plan, but instead the desire to replace the Taliban regime with a government that would be "more sensitive to the needs of American oil interests."

In the 1990's, the Taliban had signed an agreement with Unocal Oil Company, which envisioned the construction of an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. Although the Taliban gladly accepted American money (on May 8, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed to pay the mullahs US $ 43 million) they consistently opposed plans for the new pipeline. But after having barely served one day in office, Afghanistan's newly-elected President Karzai, a former executive at an American oil firm, gave the green light to the pipeline construction.

The war in Iraq was not prosecuted because of alleged weapons of mass destruction, or because Saddam had (as yet unproven) connections to al-Qaeda. The world has since come to realize this. Paul O'Neill, the Treasury Secretary fired by President Bush, charged in his book, The Price of Loyalty, that - just 10 days into the Bush administration - the neo-conservative cabal that runs foreign policy in the Bush White House was already planning to wage war against Iraq, essentially looking for any excuse it could find to launch the invasion and grab Iraq's massive oil reserves.

This is exactly what happened. Before relinquishing power to the Iraqis in June, 2004, American Civil Administrator Paul Bremer enacted what has become known as the "100 Bremer orders," which are intended to guarantee the liquidation of the Iraqi domestic economy: 200 state-owned corporations must be privatized, and may be owned up to 100% by foreign (read: American) interests. State-run banks may be owned up to 50% by foreign investors. Foreign companies can siphon off all profits from Iraq, but do not have to invest in the country. In other words: modern robber barons.

The extent to which the Bush clan, made rich from the oil industry, mixes national politics with the special interests of certain business circles can be seen not only in the multi-billion dollar contracts awarded outside of the public bidding process to Halliburton, Vice President Cheney's former employer. Since the release of Michael Moore's documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11, the whole world learned of the once close business relationships between the Bush family and the Saudi Bin-Laden clan. And how Bush Senior was directly profiting from the war through the Carlyle Group.

The title of Moore's successful documentary film evokes the sci-fi classic Fahrenheit 451 by American author Ray Bradbury, published in 1953. This novel is first and foremost a social critique, warning against the dangers of suppressing free thinking through censorship: Bradbury creates a totalitarian state of the future, where the fire department is not putting out fires, but instead burning books. In Bradbury's world, reading is forbidden.

The "Patriotic" Police State

It's not hard to make the leap from Bradbury's fictional world to the reality of today's America. Incidents which are equally ominous have been taking place with increasing frequency in the USA ever since 9/11: Somebody's friend with an Arabic name was arrested and disappeared for weeks, but was never charged. Somebody else knows of a teacher who taught the Constitution in her classroom and was censured. A student shared his political views in a classroom and was visited by the FBI. A person was detained for reading an airport novel that featured a gun on its cover.

The Patriot Act, that infamous, 350-page tome of legislation that was railroaded through Congress only 45 days after September 11th, makes it all possible. Practically no Senator or Representative ever read it.

The Patriot Act II made the noose even tighter. Patriot Act II, in section 403, expands the definition of "weapons of mass destruction" to include any activity that affects US interstate commerce or US this broad definition, getting involved with Greenpeace could be reinterpreted as a terrorist plot...

As Congressman Ron Paul wrote in a newspaper column from August 2004: "Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens' lives. Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference."

If President Bush deems opponents protesting his war "unpatriotic," he should take to heart what his predecessor Dwight D. Eisenhower once said: "Without exhaustive debate, even heated debate, of ideas and programs, free government would weaken and wither. But if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that every individual or party that takes issue with our own convictions is necessarily wicked or treasonous, then, indeed, we are approaching the end of freedom's road."

That is precisely what more and more Americans want to prevent. By the end of 2004, 364 counties and municipalities (among them Philadelphia) in 28 states, plus four entire states, representing 50 million Americans, have passed resolutions criticizing the Patriot Act or forbidding local law enforcement from cooperating with the Bush administration's attack on the Bill of Rights.

Nonetheless, President Bush was re-elected - much to the dismay of the vast majority of the rest of the world. 85% of the British would have shipped Bush back to Texas, and on its cover page, the Swiss newsmagazine Facts encapsulated the mindset of "The Old World" after November 3, 2004 with the words: "Europe's Nightmare."

Fear Corrodes the Soul

Many Americans cannot understand this. Because they truly live in a very different world. In a world full of fear. In the November 5, 2004 edition of the German magazine Der Spiegel , Jody Biehl said about her compatriots: "It looks as if the only thing Americans want nowadays is to be afraid. They suckle on fear like a mother's teat, cling to religion and look for sanctuary in superstitions. They want to hear that Osama bin Laden's hiding behind the bushes, just waiting to pounce on them, and that Iran will be the next Iraq."

The fear striking the hearts of the once greatest nation on earth didn't just materialize from thin air.

The USA has the highest rate of gun-related crime. America's infatuation with weapons is not to blame here, as even documentary filmmaker Michael Moore had to acknowledge in his film Bowling for Columbine. Though the Canadians possess more firearms per capita, Canada's crime levels are actually much lower. In contrast to Americans, they feel much safer - because they do not watch American television. Moore comes to the conclusion that the media in the U.S., bent on lurid depictions of graphic violence, flood the American public with a daily cocktail, unmatched anywhere else in the world, that unleashes fear and paranoia. And a person in the grips of fear will be all the quicker to grab for a weapon.

This lurking fear comes in very handy for Bush and his "war on terror." Because fearing for your life makes you reach out for protection. With its - usually ambiguous - terror alerts ("Code Red," "Code Orange," and the like), the U.S. government is playing on the fears of an already insecure population, even during its election campaigning. Bin Laden's video message about "bloody terror on US territory to overshadow September 11th" was fittingly made public only four days prior to the presidential election.

Der Spiegel author Jody Biehl gets straight to the point: "Bush's administration - and the American media - have been pushing this fear as if they were stuffing a Thanksgiving turkey. There is nothing like it in Europe - although Europe itself has been touched by terrorist bombing attacks and kidnappings."

We Europeans are taken aback by the one-sidedness, often bordering on manipulation, of the U.S. media. Murdoch's TV news show, the government's lapdog Fox News, is the best example. The average American is not aware of a lot of important things going on in the world because he just isn't told. Katherine Graham, former editor of The Washington Post, now deceased, once remarked: "We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows."

The risk of an uninformed public being kept in the dark is welcomed by President Bush with open arms. Indeed, shortly before the election, 40% of Americans polled still believed that there was a proven connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Every third person was furthermore convinced that Saddam Hussein had personally planned the September 11th attacks. A survey conducted by the University of Maryland among Bush supporters just before the election indicated almost three-fourths believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The Word of God in Bush's Ears

While the dissemination of information from the U.S. press corps may be lacking, at least communications between the American President and the Almighty have apparently not been hampered. On June 26, 2003, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz attributes these words to George Bush: "God told me to strike at al-Qaeda and I struck them, and then He told me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East."

George Bush was also re-elected because 70 million fundamentalist Christians gave him their votes. Like them, he is a "born-again Christian." Why shouldn't they trust a president who, four months before the election, announces to a gathering of Amish farmers: "I believe that God speaks through me!"

With that sentiment, George Bush finds himself in good company, among the countless Islamic fundamentalists holding inflammatory speeches against "decadent America." And so once again, the world finds itself teetering on the brink of the "clash of cultures" much invoked by the internationalists.

George Bush, a converted, former alcoholic, was able to hoist his father into the Executive chair because he had Christian fundamentalists from America's bible belt in his back pocket. And now he has done the same for himself, this time without the help of the Supreme Court. These devout Christians believe in George Bush's divine mission. Unfortunately, they also cling to the misguided belief in Armageddon: the apocalyptic destruction of the world which presages the second coming of Jesus Christ. And the firestorm of Armageddon must be ignited in Israel - of course, after Salomon's Temple is restored to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where it will replace the al-Akhsa mosque.

This explains why these Christians support the state of Israel without reservation. Which is in turn shamelessly exploited by war-mongering, Zionist chicken hawks in the in Bush administration (Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith etc.), same as the virtually omnipotent pro-Israel lobby in the USA. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader did not mince words when, at a Washington election event on June 29, 2004, he said, "The days when the chief Israeli puppeteer [Ariel Sharon] comes to the United States and meets with the puppet in the White House and then proceeds to Capitol Hill, where he meets with hundreds of other puppets, should be replaced. The Washington puppet show should be replaced."

It's no wonder that the Zionist Anti-Defamation League publicly branded Nader a sick anti-Semite. Anyone who criticizes Israel, according to the rationale, can be nothing other than a Jew-hater.

The "most powerful man in the world" projected a much more statesmanlike demeanor one month beforehand, even when in doing so, he put the cart before the horse: In May, 2004, President Bush was unrestrained in his praise of the most powerful Zionist lobbying group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) when he declared it to be "serving the cause of America."

Nation of Nations

"Serve": a key word of this new age, in which America will and also should play a leading roll. The richness of America's heritage is second to none - it carries the whole world inside. People came to this country from all four corners of the earth, their hearts full of hope for a new, free life. Lady Liberty, that vision of freedom at the entrance to New York's harbor, once shone bright upon an entire continent. She is still there, torch in hand, even if many of her wayward children have lost sight of that common vision.

America is a nation of nations, unique and great. A nation that is prepared to trod on the ideals of freedom with both feet - no matter what mellifluent words flow from the tongues of its leaders. And yet the American soul has enough power to shed this alien influence, because the heart of the average American is open, and good - despite all the fear instilled in him, and despite his natural naïveté.

Paradoxically, this goodness can also be seen in the validation of President Bush for the Oval Office: People voted based on moral values, not platitudes. They long for morality and believe that a down-to-earth George Bush is its better embodiment than the intellectual urbanite John Kerry. The President's assertion that he wants to ban same sex marriages strengthened the convictions of conservatives in this regard. Not a bad sign, in principle.

It is precisely because the common vision of America is threatened to be lost that We, the People of the Rest of the World, must look to the good in the American people, and not equate it with the current administration. We must encourage America to develop, once and for all, its true, inner potential - which will bring us one mighty step further toward the brotherhood of all people! The words of President John F. Kennedy still ring true, generation after generation: "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country…My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what TOGETHER we can do for the freedom of man!"